If your baby is ready to start weaning or introducing solids then it should be an exciting time as your baby is reaching another milestone. You want to know the best first weaning foods so your not stressing about what to feed them, how much to feed them and worrying about allergens.
This blog dives into when to know if your ready to start weaning, what equipment you need, first weaning foods and how to introduce them. It also tells you which foods to avoid along with some tips to get your baby off to a great start.
What is weaning
Weaning is also known as introducing solids or starting solids. It is a time when your baby is ready to have more nutrition and the introduction of a wider variety of foods other than just milk.
This is also known as complementary feeding so we are complimenting the milk in their diet, whether this is breastfeeding or formula milk.
Am I ready to start weaning?
The advice to start weaning is 6 months however some mothers feel their babies are ready for more than just milk earlier than this. There are a number of signs to look for which will indicate if your baby is ready for weaning.
Signs baby is ready for weaning
There are three signs:
- Baby can sit up unaided
- They can swallow foods
- They have some hand- eye coordination so they can pick up food or a spoon and put it in their mouths.
There are some other signs that you may think mean your baby is ready but it doesn’t mean you should start – these include;
- Waking in the night thinking they are hungry.
- Wanting extra milk feeds
- Chewing their fists
What equipment do I need to start weaning?
You only need some basic equipment to start you off. You will definitely need the following:
- High chair with or without tray
- Books or something to act as a footrest if there is no footrest
- Plastic spoons, bowl, plate and cup
- Wipes or cloth
Then it can also be nice to have a mess mat to cover the floor.
You can also get different types of bibs which are useful such as ones with scoops at the bottom to collect food.
Trays or bowls with suction so that they stick to the table.
When to start weaning
It is recommended starting solids or weaning at 6 months of age ideally and not before. (1)
Unless they are at high risk of any food allergy then there is evidence to suggest that they should start weaning before 6 months but not before 4 months and they are developmentally ready (2)
Why wait until 6 months to introduce solids?
By the time your baby is 6 mths old they are likely to be developed enough to be able to cope with solid foods, move it around their mouths and swallow it.
Breast milk or infant formula provides the right nutrition until they reach 6 month of age. After 6 months they need more nutrition from solid foods such as iron, zinc and other nutrients. Even if they aren’t developmentally ready it would stil be advisable to start them off eating solids (weaning).
Can I give my 4 month old baby food?
It is not advisable to start your baby on solid foods at 4 months old except in certain circumstances, like if they are at risk of allergies. Research has shown that babies who are at risk of food allergies are better off introducing allergens around 4 months to help prevent these food allergies developing (2)
First weaning foods
It is preferable to start with foods in a certain order to ensure they are developing taste preferences for vegetables first rather than just sweeter foods and they are getting the right nutrition.
How do I start weaning?
- Start when your not rushed for time and your both relaxed.
- Make sure they are sitting upright in a highchair with a tray and their feet are supported so they are sat securely. If there is no foot rest then something like some books or box would work too.
- Offer them a little food before their usual milk feed so they are hungry but not too hungry.
- Only need to start with small amounts so they get used to touching and putting new foods into their mouths. Small amounts are only small spoonfuls or a few pieces – not 3 meals.
- Go at your babies pace and let them decide when they have had enough. For example if they start turning their head away or push it away then its best to try again another day. Your role as a parent is to be led by them as to how much they want to eat, so be led by your baby.
- Let them hold, touch and get used to new foods. So you could have some soft finger foods as well as some puree to start.
- You can also introduce a cup with a little water at mealtimes.
- Keep distractions to a minimum so that they are getting to enjoy eating and beginning to experience it as a social time.
What baby food should I Introduce first
You may be wondering whether to start with purees or do baby led weaning, which is more finger foods. Or do a combination of both. There is no right or wrong answer just which is preferable to you and your baby.
If you would like more information to help you decide. I have a blog called: Spoon fed or baby led – which should i choose for my baby? which will answer your concerns and help you choose.
What are the best first weaning foods
In any case whatever you decide, the best first weaning foods to start with are vegetables first and ones that are not the naturally sweet. So by introducing the more bitter ones first they are not getting used to sweeter foods. Begin with ones like broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, green beans, courgette.
Make sure they are soft cooked vegetables to begin with either pureeds, mashed or as long finger size strips so they are easier to chew and digest to begin with.
When using finger foods think about them being firm enough to hold but soft enough to break up with squished fingers, with the exception of meat.
Introduce a new vegetable each day for at least one week up to two.
After a week or two you can start introducing sweeter vegetables and fruit as well as other types of foods. Remembering that food needs to be soft to be begin with while they get used to moving food around their mouths and breaks up more easily in the mouth.
After they have had vegetables and fruits in the diet you can start to introduce other foods such as fish, meats, eggs, cheese, bread, pasta etc.
First tastes of new foods are about babies getting used to new tastes and textures. They need to explore them and accepting them as they develop a wider range of foods into their diets.
Best first weaning foods to avoid
- Anything hard and crunchy for example like raw veggies, crackers, whole nuts
- Slippery foods that make it hard to hold
- Added sugar including honey and salt
- Undercooked eggs
- Unpasteurized dairy products such as cheese, milk and yoghurt
- Low fat products
- Cows milk before the age of 1 as a drink. Can be used in mixing and add to cereals but not as a main drink.
- Rice milk should be avoided because of its levels of arsenic
How to introduce allergens
Introducing allergens is often the scariest part of weaning for parents. Beginning the journey of weaning and not knowing if your child may have a reaction to a food or not.
You can start to introduce allergenic foods (6 mths +) but its best to start with vegetables first. Then introduce fruit for a week or so before introducing these foods. Also its best to do them one at a time so if there is a reaction then it is clear what it is.
Foods only have to be given in small amounts to start with and if tolerated then they can stay in your babies diet.
If you would like to know exactly how to introduce allergenic foods then I have a mini guide called: How to introduce allergens to your baby.. It will reassure you that your giving the right amounts with a diary template to record what your introducing.
Stages of weaning
There are four stages of weaning. If your baby can move through them in a seamless way, it will make it easier to get used to different textures and flavours.
What are the four stages of weaning?
These four stages are:
- Stage 1 weaning – ready, steady veggies, mashed and pureed (6 – 7 mths)
- Stage 2 weaning – more textures and tastes with soft lumps (7 – 9 months)
- Stage 3 weaning – more variety and chopped foods (9 – 12 months)
- Stage 4 weaning – family foods (12 months +)
All stages of weaning are important. Its important that you progress through them at the right times so they get used to new foods and textures. This will make them ready to start on family foods around the age of 1.
Its important to start weaning no later than 6 months. Whether this is in the form of purees, finger foods or a combination of both.
Introducing vegetables first will give greater chances of your child carrying on enjoying vegetables later on in life. Then you can progress to other foods.
By making mealtimes relaxed and enjoyable, letting them explore foods and new tastes it will make weaning more successful.
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