Thanks for your question, about weaning, which is the process of introducing your baby to solid foods.
Baby led weaning is an approach you can take when undertaking the weaning process. The idea behind it is that baby led weaning, like breastfeeding, allows babies to learn appetite control, so to put it simply they eat when they’re hungry and stop when they’re full. This may help reduce the chance of obesity later in life. Baby led weaning (BLW) involves offering babies a range of foods and allowing them to explore and select their foods and self feed as soon as they are ready. It can be seen as a natural extension from breast feeding, but bottle fed babies can BLW too.
When you start weaning bear in mind that babies will continue to get most of their nutrients from milk so there is no rush to introduce large amounts. The advice at present is to start weaning at 6 months however this is not set in stone as some babies become very hungry and will no longer settle on just milk so need to start a little sooner.
Knowing when you baby is ready is important. Every baby is an individual, but there are some signs which, together, show that your baby is ready for some solid foods alongside breast milk or formula.
They can hold a sitting position and their head is steady.
They co-ordinate their eyes, hand and mouth so that they can look at the food, pick it up and put it in their mouth all by themselves.
They can swallow food. Babies who are not ready will push their food back out.
How to get started:
Begin by sitting your baby in a high chair or next to the table ( be careful they cannot push the chair over using their feet) and put out a small portion of food, let your baby enjoy touching and holding the food.
Allow your baby to feed themself, using their fingers, as soon as they show an interest.
Don’t force your baby, wait until the next time if they are not interested this time.
If you are using a spoon, wait for your baby to open their mouth before you offer the food. Your baby may like to hold a spoon too.
Start by offering just a few pieces or teaspoons of food, once a day.
Cool hot food and test it before giving it to your baby.
Don’t add salt, sugar or stock cubes to your baby’s food or cooking water.
Always stay with your baby when they are eating in case they start to choke.
With BLW the baby is going to feed themself, as a guide, the best finger foods are foods that can be cut up into pieces that are big enough for your baby to hold in their fist, and stick out of the top of it.
Great first foods are partially cooked fruit and vegetables like parsnip, potato, yam, sweet potato, carrot, apple or pear, all cooled before eating, or soft fruit like peach, melon, soft ripe banana or avocado. If you are offering baby rice or baby cereal mix it with your baby’s usual milk until it is scoopable and can be held in their fingers. Keep feeding your baby breast milk or infant formula as well. This is not the stage to swop to whole cows’ milk as a drink this happens much later on when your baby is more than a year old, this is because of fat content and iron, however you can use cow’s milk in cooking.
After a few weeks you can start to introduce cooked sticks/slices/chunks of broccoli, sweet potato, potato, courgette, butternut squash etc, as well as raw slices/chunks of banana, avocado, peaches, pears, melon, cucumber etc. Try cooked rice, citrus fruits, strawberries and kiwi fruit, cooked pasta, with or without sauce, cubes or fingers of bread/toast (watch out for this sticking to the roof of the mouth if they cram a lot in). Breadsticks work well but do check for salt content, cheese – cut into sticks or grated, pieces of cooked fish or meat, yogurt/fromage frais (check for sugar content), low sugar/salt breakfast cereal, chopped hard boiled egg and cooked pulses.
The aim is to gradually move your baby onto eating what the rest of the family is minus salt and lot of spices
When to introduce cups Cups:
From around six months offer sips of water with meals. Using an open cup or a free flow cup without a valve will help your baby learn to sip and is better for your baby’s teeth.
Do hope this helps, weaning is a wonderful adventure.
Jill Wheatcroft is a Lecturer in Child Health and is co-founder and Director of Training at Riverside Cares. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org://ww.riversidecares.co.uk
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