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For the first six months of life your baby has been getting all of the nutrients and energy he/she needs from breast milk or formula milk. After six months, you should begin to make the transition from liquids to solids and there are some fantastic weaning range products to make the change in feeding that little bit easier.
When to start weaning your baby
The current Department of Health guidelines suggest six months is the optimum time to begin weaning. After six months, baby requires more nutrients, vitamins, minerals and calories that milk alone can’t supply. Waiting until six months to start weaning will also reduce the risk of baby developing allergies or adverse reactions to food.
Around this stage in their life baby will also lose the ‘extrusion reflex’ (or ‘tongue-thrust reflex’). This reflex previously aided breast or bottle feeding as the tongue moved forwards when the lips and tongue were touched. Feeding your baby solids while this reflex is still present will result in baby pushing the food out with his/her tongue and can be mistaken as disliking the food they’re given. If your baby is doing this with solid food it is a good indicator they are not ready for it.
You can tell if your baby is ready for solids if he/she:
Holds their head up and sits still with support – feeding from a spoon will require baby to maintain a strong upright position and a little support may be required at first. Feeding seats are ideal as they can grow with the child starting with a reclined position that supports baby in a comfortable cradle. Once baby is confidently sitting upright, a highchair or booster seat can be used.
Chews – Once your baby can move food from the front of their mouth to the back and make chewing motions they’ll stop drooling as much and may begin to develop a few teeth.
Reaches a healthy weight – After six months, if baby has doubled their birth weight they’re ready for solids.
Wants to know what you’re eating – Being curious about the food you’re eating is a good sign of being ready for solids. Your baby may reach out to your food to try and move it from the plate to their mouth.
Starting to wean your baby
You should continue to give your baby breast milk or formula even when introducing solids to their diet. Milk still contains vital nutrients that are easy for baby to digest and should continue as a source of food until they reach one year old.
Begin a feed with milk or formula and once they are close to being full try one or two spoons of milk/formula mixed with an iron-rich dry infant rice cereal. Use a soft ergonomically designed spoon with a soft tip to aid feeding, eating and protect baby’s gums.
And don’t forget a bib to minimise the mess!
Try this new feeding regime just once a day at first (any time will do, it doesn’t have to be morning) and finish the meal with more milk or formula. Over the coming days, increase the amount and once they are regularly eating two or three spoonfuls you can try making the cereal mixture thicker by adding less milk. As the food becomes thicker, baby will develop a stronger chewing and swallowing motion.
Weaning your baby with other foods
The taste of milk and cereal will soon become bland so introduce other food types such as carrots, potatoes, apples and pears. Fruit and vegetables can be puréed using a blender or mill. Feed your baby just one food stuff at a time so you can identify if they suffer any adverse reactions (a rare problem with cereals, fruit and veg). Add baby rice if the food is tolerated but avoid preparing foods with additional flavours such as salt or sugar – your baby cannot cope with these.
Natural puréed foods can be prepared in advanced and stored in the freezer to make life a little easier for mum or dad. Weaning pots provide safe plastic containers for storing food or milk in the freezer and are useful for at home or when travelling. Just microwave the food in the pot as and when required but make sure it isn’t too hot before feeding your baby.
When your baby is experienced in eating solids (around 7-9 months) you can begin to offer finger foods. Soft chunky lumps of banana, melon, bread, carrots, potatoes and pasta are easily chewed and digested. To make it easier for baby to hold, and to reduce the chances of choking, use a safe feeder.
A healthy diet for weaning your baby
As your baby develops a taste for different foods (and any adverse food reactions have been identified and removed from their diet) you can increase portion sizes. A drink should be given during and after feeding. Breast milk or formula milk, water (that has been boiled and left to cool) or a diluted down fruit juice can be given with the meal. Use a training cup that has a spill-proof spout and two handles so it can be easily managed by your baby as he/she makes the transition from a bottle.
As solids are introduced, baby will demand less milk and you can begin to reduce the amount you give or the frequency in which you give it. However, remember to continue giving your baby breast milk or formula during a feed until they reach one year.
Between six and nine months you’ll be feeding your baby more regularly than you feed yourself but the types of food baby will come to eat should be similar to yours and therefore be from the four major food groups.
- Fruit and Vegetables
- Bread, Cereals & Potatoes
- Milk and Dairy
- Meat, Fish and alternatives
A typical meal for your baby could include:
- Puréed Meat or white fish
- Green Vegetables (mashed or minced)
- Pasta shapes
- Potatoes (mashed)
- Pieces of banana, apple or pear
Sandwiches made from soft bread, some lightly toasted bread or a rice cake can be given as a ‘finger food’. As your baby reaches one year old, solid food will make up the bulk of their diet with breast milk or formula as the balance.
Make sure that food is stored, handled and prepared hygienically by using sterilising equipment to prevent infections from bacteria.
Foods to avoid when weaning
In the first six to eight months, there are a few foods that you should avoid giving your baby as they’ve been known to cause adverse reactions (tummy upset, allergies etc.).
Foods you should avoid are:
- Cow’s Milk
- Egg based products (i.e. custard)
- Foods with gluten
- Soft Cheese
- Unpasteurised Cheese
- Citrus Fruit
- Exotic Fruit
If you are unsure about weaning your baby and what foods you should and shouldn’t give your little one speak to your health advisor.