Is your baby coming up to weaning age? What you need to know!

You have just about got in to a routine with your baby but before you know it the next big phase is lurking around the corner and soon you will need to introduce your baby to food.

For some this can be incredibly exciting but for others it can also be terrifying. There is so much conflicting information about weaning – the how and the when – it is no wonder that many of you end up getting confused.

Here are the really important things on weaning you need to know and the answers to the most commonly asked questions. weaning

1. What age should I start weaning?

The weaning age was changed from four months to six months over 10 years ago after a detailed study by the WHO (World Health Organisation) found that this was the optimum time to start weaning and introducing food.

For those who were brought up in the 70s, 80s and 90s you would have been given pureed food, rusks in your milk and baby rice from as early as 12 weeks old and yet you all seem to have developed ok!?

Well actually, this may not be the case as many from this era have suffered from eczema, asthma, food intolerances and IBS! And this is what the study found, that introducing food early did have an impact on the immune system and so together with many other reasons it was agreed that the best age to start weaning is at six months.

As with all things baby related, we must take in to account the fact that every baby is different. So if your baby is showing all the right signs for wanting to start taking solids then it does not matter if this happens two or three weeks before they turn six months – or two or three weeks later for that matter if they are showing no interest at all. I would not however recommend starting before five months unless you have been advised to do so for medical reasons.

Signs that your baby is ready to start on solids:

  • They are able to sit up unaided and hold their head up
  • They try to grab food from you and are showing an interest in food
  • They can hold a spoon

 

2. What is the difference between baby led weaning, spoon feeding and mixed feeding?

Baby boy eating food portrait

Baby led weaning means allowing your baby to feed themselves whole finger foods or foods that will stick to a spoon right from the start. Puree feeding means mashing up food and you spoon feeding your baby before moving on to finger foods at a later stage. Mixed feeding means doing a bit of both.

I am a supporter of baby led weaning, having weaned both my children this way and seen the many benefits it brings. As a Nutritionist I prefer this method because it promotes a healthier relationship with food and reduces the risk of obesity and fussy eating. I also love the fact that the baby can enjoy the same food as the rest of the family and take part in family meals.

Baby led weaning has become really popular in recent years; mainly because by changing the weaning age to six months your baby is now capable of feeding themselves and spoon-feeding is not really necessary. Many babies will prove this by refusing to be spoon fed from the outset.

It is entirely up to you which method you choose as you need to be confident with your choice. Introducing a baby to food is a huge responsibility and one that can predetermine their future health. Whilst writing this post there was yet another big story in the news about the rise in the incidences of cancer, with one in two people expected to be diagnosed in their lifetime. The biggest and most important way to safeguard yourself and your children’s health is by eating a well-balanced and nutritious diet.

I believe that the benefits that go with baby led weaning will give your baby the best dietary start. If you want to know more about baby led weaning, as well as get answers to some of your questions about choking risk and getting enough nutrients, you may be interested in attending my Happy Little Eaters weaning course or reading my book Baby Led Weaning Step by Step which is available to buy on Amazon or my website www.spring-nutrition.co.uk.

If you decide to do puree feeding initially, do try to include some finger foods at seven months, as your baby’s gag reflex with be moving to the back of their mouth and this can make introducing lumps and solid food a lot harder if you leave it too late.

For those doing a mixture of both, if your baby tries to grab the spoon when you are feeding them, let them take control and try to do it themselves. If you are feeding a more liquid food then help them keep the spoon level but still allow them to hold the spoon.

3. What Equipment Do I Need?

baby show baby pic

What you don’t need is a lot of fancy, expensive weaning kits and gadgets! You will however need an easy to clean high chair. The one that I (and many of the parents I work with) find the best is the IKEA one; it’s inexpensive and has the right sitting position for most babies with an easy to reach tray. When choosing spoons, go for the shorter self feeding ones rather than the long ones as these are better designed for your baby’s hand size and shape. Get a bib that covers the arms, they will get messy with food. And finally you will need a beaker for water. Always choose a free flowing type as a valve at this age can affect their oral development. I recommend getting an open topped Doidy cup; they are brilliant for development and ideal for babies who are used to the breast.

4. Illness and Teething!

If your baby is ill or is teething it will affect their intake of food. This is not usually anything to worry about as they will tend to make up the shortfall with additional milk feeds, however, it is worth remembering that it can take some babies a few weeks to regain their appetite after an illness.

5. What foods can I give initially and are there any I should exclude?

Munchkin Images 2011 114

It is very important to limit salt in a baby’s diet so for this reason you must exclude any ready meals, processed foods, sauces and stock. Salt is added to lots of food such as bread so be aware and check the labels. Your baby can only handle 1g of salt per day (1/3rd of a teaspoon) and a slice of bread can contain 0.5g!

Honey must be avoided until a baby is one year old. Also avoid swordfish due to mercury levels and be careful with stones in fruit, bones in fish and food canned in brine.

The best first foods to try are fruits and vegetables although you need to make sure you also include a source of protein and carbohydrates.

This is a great link giving 14 first foods. 14 brilliant finger foods for baby-led weaning

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