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With National Weaning Week coming up, we've compiled a list of the best tried and tested tips on how to wean your child. Weaning your little one can feel daunting, but it's a really exciting journey too, and we want to make sure you've got all the info you need to enjoy the ride!
Whether your baby is approaching 6 months and you're ready to start introducing solid foods, or you're already trying and having some trouble, we've got a list of handy tips from mums and experts that will help you figure out what works for you and your baby.
Give Them Lots of Affection
When offering your baby their first taste of food, you might find it helpful to hold them on your lap as if you were going to breastfeed. This will make your baby feel loved and secure and encourage them to eat. When you breastfeed, babies are held close, and this can sometimes be something they miss when you're feeding them other foods.
Prepare for Mess, a LOT of Mess
Make sure you start feeding your little one on an easy to clean floor, you'll be amazed at how messy they can get! Invest in a food-catching bib, which will become the unsung hero of dinner times. If you can't find a floor that wipes clean, you can lay down a plastic mat under your baby's feeding area to make the cleaning up a lot easier. Enter this National Weaning Week competition to win a cute flamingo-themed food-catching bib with bib-sleeves!
Milk is Still Great
If your baby refuses to eat, don't panic! This is totally normal, and lots of parents experience a struggle with the first few times. Remember, breast milk or formula will give your baby all the nutrition they need until they're 12 months, so you have a little bit of time for them to warm to the idea.
To start, first, make sure you pick foods that are really easy for your baby to digest. We like mixing baby rice with a little bit of breast or bottle milk so that your baby recognises the taste, which will help your baby to get used to the taste of other foods. Over time you can reduce the amount of rice and mix in some fruits and vegetables.
Don't try to wean on an empty stomach! Babies will be much happier trying new foods when they're not too hungry, so try giving them a little bit of milk an hour before you want to try feeding them.
Your baby picks up on your signals, and if dinner time is making you stressed out, your baby is bound to be feeling that too. So put on some calming music, dim the lights and take some deep breaths, and you'll soon be feeling zen. It's important not to stress out while your baby is exploring eating, because you want them to associate food times with everyone being happy.
How Do I Know When They're Ready?
You'll know that your baby is ready to start trying some solid foods when they can sit up without any support, weigh over 13 pounds, and closes their mouth around a spoon. Another sign your baby is ready for their first solids, is when they lose their tongue-thrust reflex, which is the reflex that pushes any solids out of their mouth.
and they start to become interested in the food other people are eating. When your baby is trying to grab food from you when you have a snack, they're usually ready to start weaning.
What Should I Feed My Baby?
If your baby is between 4 to 6 months, it might be time to start trying solid food, as long as they're showing the signs that they're ready. If your baby is under 6 months old, it's recommended that you avoid eggs, fish and shellfish, foods containing gluten and soft or unpasteurised cheeses to minimise the risk of developing any allergies.
Under six months of age, you can feed your little one a combination of breast/formula milk and pureed fruits and vegetables and pureed meats and iron-fortified cereals like oats and barley. First, try 1 teaspoon of pureed food, and increase to a tablespoon of fruit or veg and 3 or 4 tablespoons of cereal twice a day if your baby is responding well.
When babies are over six months of age, you can start feeding them pureed legumes, iron-fortified cereals like oats and barley and pureed tofu as well as breast or formula milk. You can feed babies up to around 2 or 3 tablespoons of fruit or veg at first, and 3 to 9 tablespoons of cereal over 3 sittings a day. Lots of parents and doctors still recommend avoiding the allergy-prone foods mentioned above at this age, but we recommend you read up on it first and decide what you think is right.
Once your little one is between 8 and 12 months old if they start moving their jaw in a chewing motion, putting things in their mouth lots and can pick things up with their thumb and forefinger, they're probably ready to try eating some finger foods. Start off with small amounts of scrambled eggs, well-cooked pasta, teething crackers, small pieces of meat and boneless fish and well-cooked beans. You can also start introducing soft pasteurised cheese, unsweetened yoghurt and cottage cheese at this age. When you start feeding your baby finger foods, it may look like they're eating less, but don't worry if they only eat 1 small meal a day, just make up the difference with breast or formula milk, and try to offer a balanced array of different foods in each meal.
The Baby-Led Method
Baby-led weaning means allowing your baby to feed themselves from the very beginning. This can be a great way to bypass months of spoon-feeding purees, and teaches your child to self-regulate when they're hungry or full from a very young age.
If you want to try this method, start with single-ingredient finger foods like banana, avocado or boiled sweet potato so you can pinpoint any allergies. To help babies get used to each different food, introduce each food slowly, which will give them a few days to familiarise themselves with the taste, before you move onto something new. Also be sure to always be with your baby when they're eating, and keep them upright to keep them safe. Check out this handy guide from National Weaning Week for what to do if your child is choking - it's always important to be prepared just in case.
Contrary to popular belief, you don't have to go all-in with baby-led weaning, and can mix and match it with traditional weaning where you do the feeding too.
If you're still feeling perplexed by the mysteries of weaning, National Weaning Week are offering some great workshops to help you feel more comfortable and start the process with ease!
Emily has lived in London for ten years, and still loves discovering new places to explore in the capital with her two little brothers. She loves all things lifestyle and fashion, she is a fashion designer and artist, as well as working with arts charities to facilitate workshops and outreach on crafts, fashion, and design for children with special needs and children with difficult home lives who might otherwise not have access, from toddlers to teenagers. Emily is also a trained life coach and loves talking and writing about general wellness, mindfulness and healthy relationships.