We hear from many parents who are facing the weaning phase that they are unsure of where to start or are confused over the process. Weaning your child should be as pleasurable as any parenting experience. So we have joined up with Nichola Ludlam-Raine @mummynutrition to get expert answers to your questions!
Weaning - The Process Involved & When To Get Started?
The Weaning Process
Weaning is the process of gradually introducing food as a baby develops and moves from breast milk or formula-based nutrition to a solid food diet. The main purpose of weaning is to introduce them to the new tastes and textures a solid food diet consists of.
When To Start The Weaning Process?
Mothers in Australia are encouraged to breastfeed their babies exclusively for the first six months, this is an important stage for both mother and baby as breast milk is part of a baby's defence against infections or diseases. The breastfeeding stage is good for mothers too, but if this is not possible then other formula milk options are readily available.
When Is The Right Time To Wean?
The weaning process should begin when your baby is approximately six months old. Your baby needs to be able to remain steady for a few seconds, either secured in a high chair or sitting on the floor. They must be able to bring things to their mouth and no longer have a tongue-thrust reflex that makes them spit food out instead of swallowing it.
To assess your baby’s tongue-thrust reflex, gently place a spoon or a clean finger onto your baby’s lower lip. If your baby reacts by pushing your finger out the way with their tongue, this is a sign they may not be quite ready to start the weaning process.
How To Start The Weaning Process?
Choosing the best foods to offer your baby
Initially at around six months mashed or pureed fruit and vegetables should be the first foods you try. When your baby is approximately 7 months old you can include foods with more texture and a few lumps. Soft finger foods can be tried at this stage too; fruits like Kiwi, Pineapple and Banana are perfect. Vegetables like Broccoli, avocado, peppers and parsnips are ideal and should be cut into suitable sizes and cooked and cooled to a suitable temperature before giving them to your baby.
A baby’s sweet taste buds mature faster than those that taste bitter or sour flavours, so you may find your baby will naturally accept sweet fruit flavours more readily than vegetables offering a more sour or bitter flavour. A full range of taste bud development can be encouraged by including green vegetables like kale, Broccoli or spinach alongside sweeter fruits and vegetables.
The Next Steps
Once you have given your baby a good range of fruit and vegetables and they are over 6 months old Foods like Porridge, toast without crusts or mashed potato can be included in the diet. It is important to include protein and iron-rich foods, great sources to try first are things like lentils and eggs. As time progresses offer slow-cooked beef, turkey, boneless fish or dark chicken. Offer foods one at a time in small portions and keep an eye out for signs of any allergies they may have.
Dairy foods like Full fat, unsweetened, pasteurised yoghurts are a good choice here with full-fat pasteurised milk being great for cooking as well as on cereals or to thin or mash up foods, but you should refrain from giving your baby cow’s milk as a drink until your child reaches their first birthday.
It is ideal to teach your baby to sip a drink at this time, offer your baby a small free-flowing cup containing a small amount of water, weight is an issue, so only include approximately 50ml of water. If your child is under 6 months the water should be boiled and cooled before serving.
Do not be disheartened if at first, your baby rejects new foods. It may take a few attempts before your baby accepts the new foods. This is especially true of the more bitter vegetables, but perseverance will usually see your baby accepting and enjoying these new foods.
Supplements-Does My Baby Need Them?
Breast Feeding babies
For babies who are breastfed a supplement containing 8.5 to 10mcg of vitamin D should be given daily. Baby-specific vitamin drops are an easy and convenient way of achieving this.
For baby’s over six months old, baby-specific vitamin drops containing vitamins A, C and D should be given daily.
Baby Formula already contains the various nutrients your baby requires, they only require additional supplements if they are consuming less than 500ml of formula per day. Once they naturally are consuming less than 500ml per day, vitamin drops should be given daily until they reach the age of 5.
Foods To Avoid During Weaning
Avoid Choking Hazards
Being aware of the risks choking poses to your baby is important. Foods like whole grapes, whole nuts or popcorn and small, hard or raw vegetables or fruits should all be avoided to reduce these risks. These foods can be included but they should be grated first to remove the risk.
Honey should not be given to babies before their first birthday. Although very unlikely, the need to avoid honey stems from the small chance it could contain the 𝘣𝘰𝘵𝘶𝘭𝘪𝘴𝘮 bacteria which causes food poisoning and can make your baby very ill.
Adding sugar or salt to any foods you prepare for your baby is not recommended. If you are sharing meals with your baby, separate their portion first before seasoning your meal. There is no nutritional benefit for your baby from sugary foods, so things like biscuits and cakes should initially be avoided. Foods that are high in salt should be limited too, salt can be found in many foods including bacon, ham, bread and cheeses.
NICS -Top 10 Tips
- Be patient - Do not be in a rush to start, generally the advice is to wait until your baby is approximately 6 months old and they are able to sit steadily and control their own head movement whilst bringing the food to their mouth. They must be willing to swallow the food and not still deploying a tongue thrust in response to their lips being touched, but instead are willing to swallow foods.
- Make sure your baby is comfortable and used to being in a high chair before you start the weaning process. Sitting them securely in their chair with a few toys or their baby bowl and spoon will help familiarise and relax them before you start weaning. Starting your baby in this way as early as 5 months can mean they are less distracted and able to concentrate on their new foods.
- Vegetables should be the first foods you try, introduce them as a puree thinned with your baby’s normal milk and progress to serving them as soft finger foods. Progress by slowly and individually introducing fruits, porridge, potatoes, lentils, yoghurts and finally well cooked eggs, meat and fish.
- Introduce potentially allergenic foods to your baby individually. Foods like cow’s milk, soya, eggs, fish, wheat and nuts or nut butters should be served in very small amounts initially. The Start 4 Life website is a great resource for information on foods and allergies during weaning.
- To ensure your baby is well fed and has a spread of energy and nutrients available throughout the day you should aim to feed your baby 3 meals per day by the time they are 7 months old. Aim to include a dairy food or alternative during breakfast, with the lunch and evening meals including a good protein and iron source like Lentils, fish, beans or well-cooked meat.
- Avoid whole grapes, nuts, or foods that might choke your baby like small pieces of hard or raw fruit and vegetables. Before your baby’s first birthday, you should avoid feeding them honey. Additionally, avoid adding salt or sugar to their diet.
During each meal offer your baby a small cup of water, boiled and cooled for those babies under 6 months old.
- Relax and enjoy the weaning process, it goes very quickly, especially in a relaxed and calm environment where your baby is willing to try the new and exciting foods on offer.
- Nutritional supplements are important. - This is especially true for breastfed babies and those who are drinking less than 500ml of formula per day. A liquid supplement that provides vitamins A, C and D should be given daily to babies over 6 months. With just vitamin D for younger babies. Breastfeeding mums should take a 10ug/day vitamin D supplement themselves.
- Cook Baby food batches - Keeping the time required to prepare a baby’s food under control can be helped greatly by batch cooking and freezing your baby’s foods. Make sure the food is thoroughly reheated and cooled to a suitable temperature before giving it to your baby. Using the Babycook from Beaba to steam, blend and defrost your baby’s food is a timesaving and convenient solution. The jars give you a perfect portion that can be frozen and simply reheated as required.