Weaning your baby can seem both exciting and daunting. When is the best time to start and how will you know they are ready? What equipment should you be using? (You get the idea.) It is easy to get confused with conflicting advice from books, health visitors, doctors and family. So I have put together my top ten tips for weaning, to try to help make things a little clearer.
1. Make sure your baby is ready
Guidelines and health professionals say that you shouldn’t wean your baby until they are six months old. This is because their digestive systems are still developing and there is a higher chance they may develop allergies. Your Granny will tell you to put some baby rice or porridge in their milk feeds from about three months. I would say go with YOUR instincts. You are the best judge of what your baby needs as all babies are different. However, there are signs to look out for readiness. If your baby is under six months and showing none of the signs listed, don’t start weaning them. Your baby needs to be ready otherwise it will make the whole process harder. Signs your baby may be ready are:
- Being able to hold their head up unsupported and controlling movements.
- Waking up through the night for an extra feed (if they previously slept through).
- Attempting to put things into their mouth.
- Chewing on their fingers or fists.
2. Choose ONE source of reliable information
With so many resources out there it can become overwhelming. The internet, books, leaflets etc all provide information on weaning. I recommend picking one source of information that you trust and sticking to that. You will soon learn over time what is going to work best for you and your baby. I used the Annabel Karmel “Weaning” book. This was my bible for both children.
3. Be prepared
You can either go over board here and get all the “gear”, or just get the basics. All I needed was a highchair, the right sized rubber spoons, a couple of bowls, a “sippy” cup, pots for freezing and a hand blender. Oh and bibs. Although these became optional second time around.
Also meal planning and batch cooking are great ways to stay organised with meal times. It also helped me avoid giving the same meal everyday and added some variety. (I do try!)
4. Start off basic
Your baby’s first tastes won’t fill them up and shouldn’t be replacing milk feeds. Pureed vegetables and fruit is a great place to start. It is more about your baby getting used to the idea of eating. Try sitting them in a highchair or baby seat, let them hold a spoon and try giving them just a small amount. Our first foods we gave were pureed carrot and sweet potato. If you are trying baby led weaning then I recommend giving your baby soft fruit or steamed vegetables, cut into manageable sized portions. A favourite in our house was sliced avocado. I left the skin on so they had something to hold onto!
5. Stay patient
Easier said then done, I know, but if you stay patient and calm so will your baby. It will take time and sometimes it can be disheartening that the meal you spent ages preparing has just ended up on the floor. But you and your baby will soon get the hang of how much to serve, what they like/dislike and tricks for getting the food in.
6. Move onto the next stage when you think your baby is ready
Weaning can be broken into three age stages.
Stage one: around six months. (Or four months plus).
Stage two: six to nine months.
Stage three: ten to twelve months.
Use these as guidelines to what and when you should be feeding your baby. As they move up each stage, the texture of the food changes as lumps are introduced.
7. Keep a food diary
If you are worried your child may have an allergy try keeping a food diary. This is also helpful to do anyway so you know what you have already tried, what went down well and what didn’t! Note down any reactions as this makes it easier to pinpoint problem foods.
8. Make meal times fun and sociable
Meal times shouldn’t be stressful or a task. Try to sit your baby at the table to eat when you eat. Share your meal times together and talk to your baby while they are eating. This makes everything (slightly) less stressful and also prepares your baby for when you may want to eat out somewhere. They can then concentrate on their meal rather than being distracted by TV etc.
9. Always have wipes to hand
10. Prepare for mess!
It is a messy business and you will feel like you are constantly washing the floor. But babies learn by making a mess as they are exploring their foods different tastes and textures. It should (in theory) make them less fussy eaters. So try to look at it that way as you are on your hands and knees picking up every last, little bit of lunch.
As I started writing this post, so many other pieces of information came to me. But I don’t want to bombard you. It can be a minefield but as with anything to do with babies, we are all learning. Take each day at a time and you will have a champion eater in no time. If not, they may just want to eat fish fingers and pasta everyday. Like a certain young man I know…