Top Tips for Baby Weaning
Ready, steady, wean…
Current guidelines recommend that you do not begin to wean your baby before six months old. You will continue to breastfeed or give your baby formula until he reaches one year old at which point you can introduce full fat milk as an alternative to formula. Some babies may start to show an interest in food earlier than six months but you should discuss any plans to wean early, with your GP or Health Visitor.
Is your baby really ready?
By five months old, some babies are watching ever move you make as you tuck into your favourite sandwich or dish up the evening meal. If this is the case, you may want to consider when you will start to introduce your baby to solid foods. Other babies show little or no interest in food and will happily continue on their milk feeds until six months when you will start to introduce food as a matter of course.
When your baby starts to approach weaning age, keep a close eye on her interest in food. Baby led weaning is a great way to allow your baby to lead the process so that you she becomes familiar with the foods that you eat and that she will soon be eating as she gets older. If your baby shows little interest in baby led weaning, you can consider starting out with purees to create some interest. Again, this may not be an instant hit and research shows that it can take around thirty attempts for a baby or young child to accept a new food.
What should my baby eat?
Your baby needs a healthy, well balanced diet to ensure that all of his nutritional needs are being met. Every family will make different choices based on cultural, ethnic or religious preferences. Perhaps your family prefers organic food versus those commercially produced foods that may have been treated with pesticides for example. Cost is another factor so you should give some thought to the process and how you plan on feeding your child. You may want to lay out a plan for the weeks and months ahead detailing how you will introduce different foods and when.
A word of food allergies
Initially, you want to establish that your baby doesn’t have any food allergies. Certain foods such as strawberries can create a mild reaction in some babies and there is advice and guidance available from your Health Visitor to guide you on when and how to introduce certain foods that may cause an allergic reaction. Regardless of whether there are any allergies in your family or not, keep this in mind and have a plan of action on hand in case you need to act quickly.
Where to start?
Again, this is a decision that you can make based on current advice from your Health Visitor or GP. Currently, it is advised to start weaning with soft fingers of vegetables if baby led or purees if you’re trying to encourage your baby’s interest. You may also try a little baby rice either mixed in with the vegetable puree or as porridge on its own.
What about food preparation?
Will you make your own baby food or will you use the plethora of options available in shops. Baby led weaning helps to promote finger food or ‘real food’ reducing the need for making up pureed foods. You may wish to invest in a food grinder so that family meals are easily converted into baby food so that you’re not making additional meals for the family and baby. Just remember to portion out some of the food before adding salt or other seasonings. You may not need to ever buy readymade food if you plan well ahead. That said, it can be useful to keep a couple of jars or pouches in your changing bag so that you have emergency food to hand should you be out later than expected.
Have a plan and stick to it
We all want our babies to eat healthy meals and have a balanced diet. You will want to encourage these habits by having a weaning plan that is based on the best current evidence around weaning and takes your baby’s age, stage and family meals into account. You can help to minimise the risk of power struggles over feeding by helping your baby to be in charge of her eating early on.
That is no easy option! Your baby has very little in the way of co-ordination to start and to consider that you may have mess free meal times would be misguided at best! Be prepared to keep your kitchen, high chair and feeding areas clean and hygienic for food preparation purposes but also be prepared to spend a lot of time on your hand and knees picking up bits of food that will constantly be finding their way down to the floor.
Research shows that the sooner babies are in charge of their food, the better off they are. This does not only relate to finger foods such as soft boiled veg that is easy to chew and swallow but also being able to get to grips with the mechanics of handling a spoon. This will come in time but start by encouraging your baby to have a spoon while you feed her, she will quickly gain in confidence and will attempt to join you in the feeding process.
Taking a finger food approach will help your baby to try different textures, drawing them to pick foods by colour, shape or size. You can try fingers of soft sweet potato, avocados, carrots, cheese and bananas. You could also try him on some soft frozen peas that have been allowed to thaw out. Build his fine motor skills by encouraging him with small foods such as cereals that are small and round or easy to grip.
You can also start to instil good hand hygiene practices early on. Give you baby a damp wash cloth and show him how to wipe his face. You can encourage this through games and peeka-boo type activities. Make the whole meal time process fun but structured. Ignore the mess initially, your baby will become more confident in his ability to keep his food on his plate as time goes by, eliminate as many barriers to his successful feeding as possible by limiting the pressure such as saying ‘no’ when he throws food to the floor. Focus on one element at a time. Throwing is a natural part of developing gross motor skills!
Research indicates that babies who enjoy the process of learning to feed themselves early on from a selection of finger foods and other foods, are more likely to have a wider range of foods that they enjoy. Meal times will be less stressful and family meals together at the table will be more relaxed, encouraging ongoing healthy eating habits.
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