Finding the best foods for your little ones can be extra work that you don’t need. Here are some simple ideas that can help you along the way…
All babies are different – some may be ready for solid foods earlier than others, and some will take to weaning more quickly. Department of Health recommendations are to start weaning around the age of 6 months, but never before 17 weeks. Look for signs that your baby is ready to wean. They should be able to sit up and hold their head steady, and put an object, like a spoon, into their mouth accurately. Even then, if they push food back out with their tongue, wait a week and try again. Check with your health visitor if you are offering your baby food before they turn 6 months of age (but after 17 weeks).
Ready, steady, go!
Little by little
When you begin weaning, offer food at a time when your little one is not too tired or hungry – in the middle of, or just after, a daytime milk feed is a good idea.
Baby knows best
Most babies know when they’ve had enough to eat. If your little one doesn’t seem to want any more, don’t force the issue. You’ll know they have had enough when they clamp their mouth shut, push away the bowl or spoon, or turn their head away.
Smoothly does it
Smooth purées give the best texture for tiny tummies. Veggies and hard fruits (such as apples) will need to be peeled, chopped, then steamed or boiled until soft before you blend them; soft fruits (such as bananas) can be blended straight away.
Try to eat with your little one as much as you can so they can learn to copy you. Show them how yummy you think veggies are!
Veg it, Switch it, Repeat it
Introducing single veg tastes followed by pure veg blends early on in weaning gets tiny tastebuds used to savoury flavours. Get your little ones loving a variety of tastes with a rainbow of veggies. It can take up to eight tries for your little one to enjoy a new food. So keep trying!
First weeks of weaning
Here is a handy little planner for the first few weeks of weaning. But remember, this is just a guide: follow your baby’s lead and be led by his or her appetite.
Once a day: Try 1-2 spoonfuls of purée just after your baby’s lunchtime milk weeks of (or whenever suits you and your baby best).
Once or twice a day: Your baby can now slurp up to about 5 spoonfuls of purée at each meal.
Twice a day: Offer up to 10 spoonfuls at each meal – a feast!
Two or three times a day: 10 or more spoonfuls will tingle tiny taste buds at breakfast, lunch and dinner – let your baby tell you when they have had enough.
What to give your baby
If you do start weaning before your baby turns 6 months, start by offering a variety of pure veg, then begin to introduce fruit and cereals after a couple of weeks.
Once your baby is 6 months old and ready to wean, he or she can begin to enjoy puréed vegetables and fruit and cereals.
From 6 months of age, little ones can eat foods that contain allergens, such as cereals containing gluten (e.g. wheat or oats), yoghurt, cheese, fish or soya. Chat with your health visitor if you have allergies in the family. When you are ready, you can also offer protein foods, such as meat and pulses, as these provide an important source of iron for the little ones.
Remember, all little ones are different and may take to weaning differently – always be led by your baby’s appetite
Keep up the milk
Try 1-2 spoonfuls of purée just after your baby’s lunchtime milk (or whenever suits you and your baby best). Your baby can now slurp up to about 5 spoonfuls of purée at each meal. 10 or more spoonfuls will tingle tiny taste buds at breakfast, lunch and dinner – let your baby tell you when he or she has had enough. Offer up to 10 spoonfuls at each meal – a feast!
As the first steps in weaning are just about taste, it’s really important that babies keep to their usual routine and amounts when it comes to milk feeds – they still need all the goodness in breast milk or formula to keep them healthy.