Home / Family Articles / Weaning your baby onto solid food

Weaning your baby onto solid food

Loading 

Written by:

Being a parent of a young baby is like navigating a series of predictable milestones, with a whole bunch of randomness thrown in for good measure. After spending the first few months with your baby trying to master milk feeding and establishing a good schedule, nature then hurls a curved ball at you by demanding that solid food be introduced into your baby’s diet. So what is the best way to start? As with virtually every other parenting issue there are no rights and wrongs, and parental instinct is invaluable.

Timing

Official, expert-led guidelines now recommend that weaning should not begin until after your baby is six months old. This change from previous advice, which suggested anytime between four and six months was a good starting point, has confused many parents.

The thinking behind it is research that strongly suggests:

• Your baby’s digestive system and kidneys may be too immature to cope
• It can increase the risk of allergies and infections
• It can limit the nutrients received by breastfed babies

It seems to make sense to wait until your baby is six months, at which age he will also be more able to sit up in a high chair easily.
However, some parents believe their babies are ready sooner. If your child is able to sit up unaided, can reach and grab things, and steer them to his mouth, and has lost the tongue-thrust reflex that automatically rejects any object being inserted into the mouth, then he may indeed be ready.

If you do go ahead early, be aware that all the experts agree that in addition to certain foods to be avoided in the first year, babies under six months should also not be fed:

• Food containing gluten
• Eggs
• Fish and Shellfish
• Citrus Fruits
• Anything made with cow’s milk

All foods should be pureed, and spoons and dishes sterilised.

Baby-Led vs. Spoon-Led Weaning

weaning your babyHaving decided to start weaning the next hurdle is how to go about it. There are two main approaches you can take:

Baby-led – this approach is currently very popular. You present your baby small portions of food which he can pick up, and let him experiment, touch, play, and eat, if he chooses. There will be lots of mess, but fans of this approach believe that leaving your baby to explore food at his own pace will ultimately cultivate in him a far healthier relationship with food.

Spoon-Led – the more traditional approach. You offer your baby pureed/mashed food by spoon, and graduate to lumpier consistencies when you feel your baby is ready. This approach gives more control to the parent, and makes feeding generally quicker and less messy. Supporters of this approach feel that it provides greater chance of your baby at least trying a range of flavours, instead of being allowed to pick and choose.

Many parents adopt a blend of the two approaches. Doing what you feel is right for both you and your baby is ultimately the way to go. Some babies intensely dislike the spoon, others may have an aversion to getting too messy. Watch your baby, and listen to your instincts.

First Foods

Good first food choices are gently cooked fruits and vegetables. The sweeter varieties are, naturally, more popular with little munchers. They include: carrots, parsnips, potatoes, and banana, melon, avocado and pear. Plain baby rice is also a good place to start, as it introduces texture without the shock of flavour, but is bland and not generally a favourite.

For spoon-feeding, cooking the foods until soft and then blending to a puree or mash is ideal. For baby-led weaners cooking the food until extremely soft, and then chopping it into fist-sized batons that are easy for your baby to grab is the way to go.

Early on it is not so much about the amount your baby consumes but more about introducing textures and flavours. Your baby will still initially be receiving the majority of his nutrients from milk, so if only a fraction of the weaning foods make it into his mouth there is no need to be concerned. It is a fascinating stage for your baby – consider the pleasure you get as an adult from tasting a new food. That is the joy you are now able to share with your baby, and it is sure to be one he will ultimately come to enjoy, even if every mouthful is not quite what he expected!

Share

Comments

About Cally Worden

About Cally Worden

Seasoned freelance writer Cally Worden lives with her family and dog in a quiet corner of rural France. A love of the outdoors, and a fascination with her children's ability to view life with fresh eyes provide the inspiration for much of her work. Cally writes regularly for various websites and UK print publications on subjects as diverse as parenting, travel, lifestyle, and business, and anything that makes her smile.

Website: Cally Worden

View all posts by