Weaning is the gradual process of transitioning an infant from a solely milk-based diet to solid foods. This process is important for the baby’s overall health and development, as it helps them learn how to eat new foods and meet their nutritional needs as they grow. However, knowing when and how to start weaning can be overwhelming for parents, especially for first-time parents. This blog will provide a comprehensive overview of weaning, including when to start, how to start, and what foods to introduce.
When to start weaning:
The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends exclusive breastfeeding or appropriate alternative for the first six months of a baby’s life. However, it’s important to note that every baby is different, and some babies may be ready to start weaning before or after six months. Signs that your baby is ready to start weaning include:
- Being able to sit in supported sitting on their own, particularly able to hold their neck and head.
- Coordinate their eyes, hands and mouth so they can look at their food, pick it up and put it in their mouth
- Ability to chew and swallow food
- Loss of tongue-thrust reflex (the reflex that pushes food out of the mouth)
It’s important to wait until your baby shows these signs of readiness before starting to wean. Starting too early can increase the risk of allergies and digestive problems, while starting too late can lead to nutritional deficiencies.
How to start weaning:
The weaning process should be gradual, starting with small amounts of solid foods and gradually increasing the amount and variety of foods. Here are some tips for starting the weaning process:
- To begin weaning, you have the option of introducing single vegetables and fruits in blended, mashed, or soft-cooked stick forms, such as parsnip, broccoli, potato, yam, sweet potato, carrot, apple, or pear.Remember to let the cooked food cool down before offering it to your little one.
- You may also try offering baby rice mixed with your baby’s regular milk. Start with single-grain cereals mixed with breast milk or formula. Rice cereal is a common first food, but you can also use oatmeal or barley cereal.
- Introduce protein-rich foods, such as pureed meats, beans, and tofu, around 7-8 months of age.
- Introduce finger foods, such as soft cooked vegetables and fruits, well-cooked pasta, and small pieces of cheese, when you feel baby is ready. Make sure to cut the food into small pieces that are easy for your baby to pick up and chew and not be a chocking risk.
- Gradually increase the amount and variety of foods as your baby gets older and their appetite increases.
What foods to introduce:
When introducing solid foods, it’s important to offer a variety of foods to ensure your baby gets all the nutrients they need. Here are some foods to include in your baby’s diet:
- Iron-fortified cereals: These cereals are a good source of iron, which is important for your baby’s growth and development.
- Fruits and vegetables: These provide important vitamins and minerals, as well as fiber, which is important for digestion.
- Protein-rich foods: Meat, poultry, fish, beans, and tofu are all good sources of protein, which is important for muscle and tissue growth.
- Dairy: Plain yogurt and cheese as sources of calcium and other important nutrients.
- Water: Once your baby starts eating solid foods, it’s important to offer water in addition to breast milk or formula to prevent dehydration and constipation.
Weaning is an important milestone in a baby’s development, and it’s important to approach it in a gradual and patient way. By waiting until your baby shows signs of readiness, starting with small amounts of solid foods, and offering a variety of nutritious foods, you can help your baby develop healthy eating habits that will last a lifetime. If you would like to know more about weaning please get in touch as we offer one:one consolations and weaning support as well as our Guide to weaning coming soon!
- NHS Startforlife – https://www.nhs.uk/start4life/weaning
- WHO complimentary feeding – https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/infant-and-young-child-feeding
- First Steps Nutrition – Eating well: the first year A guide to introducing solids and eating well up to baby’s first birthday
- Caroline Walker Trust – Eating well the first year of life.