Weaning advice

The lowdown on weaning

Weaning marks a new stage in your baby’s development, but whilst some parents find it exciting, others find it daunting. If you are about to start weaning, have a read of nutritionist Stephanie’s top tips…

Weaning is the shift from milk, as your baby’s main source of nutrition, to solid foods. It begins around 4-6 months of age, when your baby’s nutritional needs start to exceed that of milk, and ends when your baby obtains all her calories from food and drinks and is eating regular meals. By gradually decreasing your baby’s milk intake and increasing her solids she gets used to chewing, swallowing and digesting foods and starts to experience a variety of new tastes and textures that will support her continued growth and development. Your Health Visitor can advise when your baby is ready to be weaned.

When it comes to those first feeds, remember…

  • Choose a time when your baby is at her best – not when she is due a nap or overly hungry otherwise you will both get frustrated. It might help to give her a little milk first so she is not starving but still has an appetite for more food.
  • Don’t start a feed when you are under time pressures – the first feeds are not something you should or can rush. Let your baby have time to explore and learn about the new flavours and textures she is experiencing.
  • Babies are a lot more sensitive to the temperature of food than adults so stir any heated food well to avoid hot spots, and check the temperature before giving it to them – it should be warm but not hot. Place a little on the inside of your wrist to check – if it feels hot to you then it is too hot. Some weaning spoons change colour if the food is too hot.
  • Yes, it is going to get messy! Babies learn about foods when they squish and squash it, so try not to tell them off. Just stock up on bibs!
  • Do not add salt or sugar to baby foods – they do not need it and it may make them sick.
  • You might want to cook extra of the meal and use an ice-cube tray to freeze little portions. This way you won’t have to prepare meals from scratch every time.

What to feed and when

Always speak to your Health Visitor or GP for the latest weaning advice. The current recommendations are:

4-6 months Wean your baby between 17 weeks and 6 months on baby rice, puréed vegetables and fruit whilst still breast-feeding (or formula if you are unable to breastfeed). Introduce one food at a time every 3 or more days and keep a food diary of what they have eaten – this will help you to identify any foods your baby may react to. Reactions to foods can be instant or over a few days and may vary from difficulty breathing or vomiting to diarrhoea or skin flare-ups. If you are concerned about your baby do not hesitate to call 999 or NHS Direct on 111.

6-12 months After 6 months, you can start to get creative and introduce more variety to your baby’s meals, although you should still give your baby one new food at a time to keep a look out for any food reactions. Now’s a good time to stock up on small pots and food prep equipment. By gradually adding a few small and soft lumps you will encourage her to start to chew, which triggers the release of digestive juices and supports digestion. 6-12 month old babies have an increased need for protein, vitamins B1, B3, B6, B12, D and iron, zinc and magnesium so try to include some of the following foods:

Nutrient Sources
Protein Meat, fish, poultry, dairy, pulses, peas, beans
B vitamins Whole grains (brown rice, pasta, quinoa, millet), poultry, eggs, broccoli, bananas, avocado, spinach, peas, yoghurt, sardines, lentils, potatoes
Vitamin D* Eggs, fortified cereals, oily fish
Zinc White fish, poultry, meat, yoghurt, peas, oats
Iron Red meat, lentils, liver, beans, dried fruit, whole grains, fortified breakfast cereals, dark green leafy vegetables (e.g. spinach, kale, watercress)
Magnesium Dark green vegetables, brown rice, beans, lentils, bananas, avocado.

* The NHS states all babies and young children aged six months to four years old should be given a daily vitamin D supplement of 400IU (vitamin D3 is better absorbed than D2). If they are receiving more than 500ml formula/day then they do not need to be supplemented, until they are having less than 500ml of formula/day. If you are breastfeeding speak to your health visitor.

To baby-led wean or not?

There has been a rise in baby-led weaning (BLW) over spoon-feeding. BLW is when you give your baby a variety of finger foods right from the start for her to explore and eat. This way she has more control over what and how much she eats, which some believe may support healthier eating patterns later in life. However, many parents worry about the increased risk of choking with BLW. If you are baby-led weaning your baby before 6 months of age you will need to opt for soft, melt-in-the-mouth finger foods to avoid gagging. It is up to you what approach you take – ask your Health Visitor for advice and have a read of the NHS’s view on BLW versus spoon-feeding. Remember that every child is different so go with what feels right for you and your baby.

For more nutrition info please visit Nourish to Flourish. Speak to your GP or Health Visitor for weaning support and guidance. The recommendations above do not replace professional medical advice. Neither Stephanie Ridley nor Kiddicare accept legal responsibility for any injury or illness sustained while following the advice given.

Don’t miss Stephanie’s previous posts: Energy-boosting tips for tired mums and Top tips for healthy eating in pregnancy.