I have been meaning to write a post about weaning for ages, as I have been asked by so many of my clients, so here it is.
With all aspects of parenting, I try to avoid becoming too militant about following any particular style or fad. So when it comes to weaning, I like to make it as simple and stress-free as possible. I know that fans of Baby-Led Weaning will say that BLW it is the best way to wean so that you end up with a child who will feed themselves and not become a fussy eater, but I will always find an exception to every rule. Needless to say, I have come across numerous babies who haven’t taken to Baby-Led Weaning or have ended up as fussy as a child weaned with a spoon. I also come across babies who refuse to be fed with a spoon.
So here is my guide to Easy-Going Weaning:
Weaning should be a fun, stress-free experience. If you worry about it too much, it won’t be! Remember that all babies will eat eventually, and some will take longer to wean than others.
Most babies are ready to start trying solid food between 18 and 26 weeks (4-6 months). You’ll know your baby is ready when he/she can’t take their eyes off your food, reaches out to you when you’re eating and puts everything in their mouth. You can wait until 6 months to wean, if you want, but many babies are ready before this, so look out for the signs and get started when you think YOUR baby is ready!
Don’t get stuck on the finer details. Weaning is about introducing new flavours and textures to your baby, so that by the time they are around 12 months old, they are eating 3 good-size meals a day, and can cut their milk back to just a couple of feeds a day. By this time, their body needs more solid food than milk as their digestive has matured and milk won’t sustain them for as long any more.
If you offer something and your baby rejects it, don’t give up! It could take up to 20 tastes for them to become accustomed to a new flavour. Of course, be aware of allergies, and avoid things that your baby has a bad or worrying reaction to.
Offer 1 meal a day, an hour before or after a milk feed so your baby is a little hungry but not starving.
Start with runny, smooth things with a subtle flavour. AND START SWEET! Your baby was born with a sweet tooth, so it is fine to wean with sweet things to start with and bring in the savoury as they get used to new textures.
Baby rice or porridge made with your usual milk
Pureed carrot, pear, apple, squash, sweet potato, pea, mango, peach
If your baby is close to 6 months you can also offer soft pieces of steamed fruit or vegetables
After a few weeks offer 2 meals a day for a week or so, then add a third meal. (It doesn’t have to be the same 2 meals every day.)
Start adding savoury flavours to the sweet stuff, gradually increasing the ratio of savoury to sweet.
Mix in courgette, parsnip, cauliflower, swede, potato, aubergine, spinach
Offer more finger food. You may find that with finger food in their hand, your baby won’t take anything from a spoon, so wait until you have finished with the spoon feeding before handing over the finger food. But if your baby shows no interest in finger food once they have a full tummy, offer some of the finger food first or with the spoon food.
Around 7-8 months move toward mashing instead of pureeing and add some protein.
Start with some mild fish, chicken, lentils and pulses. These can be blitzed gently in a food processor to make a good lumpy mixture with any of the fruit and vegetable above.
You should be able to increase portion size by now, and maybe think about dropping the mid-morning milk feed if your baby is taking a big breakfast.
Keep offering lots of finger food!
By now you shouldn’t need to use a food processor or hand blender for most things. You may still need to if you are introducing red meat – it might be easiest to cook the meat and then blitz it to make it more manageable for your baby, but don’t be afraid to offer lumps of meat to suck and chew on too.
Try making one-pot dishes like spaghetti bolognese, shepherds pie, slow-cooked stews, mild curries, jacket potatoes with fillings, fish pie, omelette with vegetables
Rice pudding, crumbles, yogurts, cakes and muffins can be made healthily with minimal sugar if you make them yourself
Meal portions should be approximately one fist-sized portion of each food group per meal (your baby’s fist). Carry this rule on throughout their life. If you have a hungry baby, add a bit more protein, instead of filling up with carbs!
Feed your baby what you’re eating! You will probably want to season less, and chop up small, but by now there is no reason why your baby can’t eat most things!
See – weaning is pretty simple!!!