As part of our Happy Baby Corner series, we’re sharing some top tips for successful weaning.
Introducing solid foods is an important step in your baby’s development. It can be an exciting milestone but for many mums it also brings with it some anxieties and worries - am I giving him the correct foods? Will she choke? What if he won’t eat? Is she eating too much? Should I still give him milk?
“I was terrified” admits Vanessa, mum to George, now aged two. “I was convinced he would choke.
“I tried baby-led weaning at first but it freaked me out so I spoon-fed for a while but then quickly realised how much easier baby-led weaning was! The best thing that happened was when I was really busy and he just got on with it – I realised I didn’t have to worry after all!”
The World Health Organisation recommends the introduction of solid foods at around six months old, alongside continued breastfeeding or formula milk.
Why should I wait?
Milk will provide your baby with everything they need for the first six months.
By six months old your baby’s gut is mature and ready to take solid foods without the increased risk of allergy or disease. Developmentally your baby will be able to sit up, have good head control, be able to take things into their mouth, chew and swallow – all of which will reduce the risk of choking.
By this age they can also eat most of the foods you would eat, providing there is no added salt and sugar - and no honey.
Weaning before six months has been linked with allergies, diabetes and digestive disorders such as Crohn’s disease and irritable bowel syndrome. If you’re breastfeeding, weaning too early also reduces the amount of breastmilk your baby will receive – breastmilk continues to protect your baby for as long as you breastfeed.
Signs you’re ready to start weaning
Your baby is ready for solid foods if they can sit up, hold their head steady and coordinate their hand eye and mouth coordination. They should be able to look at the food, pick it up and put it in their mouth by themselves. They should also be able to swallow their food.
It is very rare for all of these to appear together before a baby is six months old.
Waking in the night, chewing fists, watching you eat and wanting extra milk feeds are not signs that your baby is ready for food. These are normal developmental changes or can sometimes indicate they need a little more milk.
Ready, steady wean!
From six months old, first foods can include soft cooked vegetables such as parsnip, carrot and sweet potato as well as soft fresh fruit such as banana, avocado and peach. You can give these as finger foods or mashed up and fed with a spoon.
A small amount of cow’s milk can be mixed with food but should not be the main drink until your baby is one year old. Until then, continue with first baby milk, either breastmilk or formula or both.
Remember, there’s no rush to mush! Relax, let your baby set the pace and enjoy new foods together.
Speak to staff at your local Children’s Centre for more information on weaning including details of their weaning sessions. Visit www.surestart.notts.nhs.uk for details of your nearest centre.