Feeding a growing and increasingly hungry baby can be one of the biggest challenges parents face every day, especially when trying to provide healthy meals quickly. To help make weaning that little less daunting we spoke to Nichola Ludlam-Raine, Registered Dietitian and Mummy Blogger at MummyNutrition.co (@mummynutrition on Instagram) and here is what she had to say…
What is weaning?
Weaning is the gradual introduction of foods to a breast milk or infant formula fed baby and involves exposing them to a variety of different tastes and textures.
During the initial stages of weaning, the focus shouldn’t be on how much your baby is eating, but rather getting them used to food and the idea of eating, as they will still be getting most of their nutrients from milk. As your baby eats more though, the proportion of energy from food will become more than that from milk.
When should you start weaning?
Weaning should start when your baby is around six months old, provided they can hold themselves steady in a high-chair (or for a few seconds when sat on the floor), are able to bring objects to their mouth, and have lost their tongue-thrust reflex. This can be tested by placing a clean finger or baby spoon onto their lower lip; if they reactively stick their tongue out, then they are not yet ready to be weaned.
How do you to start weaning?
From around six months of age your baby can be offered foods of a pureed or mashed consistency, progressing to foods with some lumps at around 7 months, as well as soft finger foods; for example cooked pieces of broccoli, parsnips, peppers, courgette and avocado, as well as banana, kiwi and pineapple. Starting with green vegetables such as broccoli, kale and spinach can be helpful in order to encourage your baby’s bitter and sour taste buds to develop. Their sweet taste buds are already mature, meaning they will naturally accept sweeter foods such as fruit more readily.
To make things easier (and save on washing up!) you could use a product like the Beaba Babycook NEO, which is a 4-in-1 baby food maker that will steam cook, blend, defrost and reheat. It’s ideal for steaming and pureeing foods such as fruits, vegetables, beans, meat and fish, all whilst retaining valuable vitamins and minerals that can be lost during the cooking process. It’s really easy to use, plus you can set it to four different constancies depending on where you are in your weaning journey, from super-smooth, lightly mixed, small lumps or big chunks!
Following vegetables and fruit, you should offer your baby foods such as porridge as well as mashed potato and soft bread sticks, in addition to soft pieces of foods rich in iron and protein, for example; slow cooked beef, dark chicken, turkey, fish (with no bones), eggs and lentils. Full fat, unsweetened and pasteurised yoghurts may also be offered however full fat cow’s milk shouldn’t be offered as a drink until your baby is 12 months old; it can however be used in cooking, on cereal or to mash up food. Baby rice can be useful to thicken purees if they come out too runny.
Initially babies need only to be offered food once a day, but you should build up to three times a day to mimic your own three meal a day meal pattern by 7 months of age. By the time babies are around 12 months old they should be eating at least three small portions of healthy family meals plus 3 small snacks in between. If foods are rejected, and the bitter vegetables will be, at least initially, keep offering the food as it may take several attempts for your baby to eat and enjoy it.
Regarding fluid, it’s good practice to offer a small amount (no more than 50ml at a time so the cup doesn’t become too heavy) of water with a meal from a free-flowing cup to teach your baby how to sip. If your baby is under 6 months old the water should be cool-boiled. Breast-fed babies should continue to be offered regular breastfeeds but you may want to encourage a routine in order for weaning to progress. Formula fed babies should be offered around 500-600ml of infant formula across 3-4 feeds.
Green Beans & Peach Weaning Recipe
This recipe from Beaba’s Your Baby’s First Food cook book is ideal for babies aged from 6-months; after you’ve tried them with green beans and peaches on their own.
Ingredients: 1 handful of green beans & 1 peach
Method: Trim the green beans, wash them and drain. Peel the peach, remove the pit, and cut the flesh into small dice. Put the green beans and peach into the steamer basket, fill the reservoir to level 2, and cook for 10 minutes. When cooked, put the green beans and peach into the blender and blend to a smooth consistency.
Nichola Ludlam-Raine (née Whitehead)
Specialist Registered Dietitian
BSc (hons) PG Dip MSc RD
http://nicsnutrition.com / @nicsnutrition