So you’ve probably just mastered breastfeeding or figuring out a bit of a routine with your bottle feeding journey and now it’s time to throw another spanner in the works. Weaning. I’m going to try and give you a bit of a low down on the whole shebang, from my personal experiences as well as throwing in some info that’s straight from the NHS as to what you should and shouldn’t be doing from a health perspective. I wrote this when Tayo was seven months old so we are a few months further down the weaning process now and it’s going well.
Now I said weaning was like throwing a spanner in the works but actually, as long as you stay calm and relaxed about the whole thing you can have so much fun. You might hear words such as baby led, purees and sippy cups thrown around and feel like you have no idea what any of those things mean and that’s ok. None of us do until we’ve been through the process and in fact even once you’re out the other side there will be lots of things you’ve perhaps not heard of.I thought it might be best to split the post into sections to help make everything a bit clearer.
When To Start
‘Well you were having baby rice at 6 weeks!’ Yep, little old me, being spoon fed at just 6 weeks old. No wonder I had rolls for days! Everyone from your Mum to your Nan to your best friend’s sister’s cousin will have an opinion on when you should start weaning your baby… It can make it all a bit overwhelming.
Todays advice is to wait until 6 months before you start weaning your baby as they get all the nutrition they need from breast or formula milk until that point. Things start to change in your baby at around 6 months, for example, their iron stores start to lessen and so that’s one of the reasons why we’re encouraged to start introducing them to solids at that point.
I’d heard it all but I started weaning Leo just as he turned 5 months and Tayo was just over 5 months. I felt they were ready, I went with my gut. I think it’s easy to be mislead by ‘signs’ that you’re baby is ready to start on solids. For example, chewing on fists. Tayo had really started to do this but I believe that was more to do with his teeth moving around than him wanting to actually eat. I based my decisions to start more on his fascination with food; watching every mouthfull as we ate at the dinner table, grabbing for my plate etc. He’d started to show a genuine interest. We’re also advised by the NHS not to be fooled into thinking that waking at night or wanting more milk means your baby needs solid food… These changes could be down to growth spurts or a number of things but that need for more milk doesn’t necessarily mean the baby is fully ready to start actually eating.
It’s really important to make sure your baby can hold it’s head comfortably. To start with you will only be offering a few spoons a day and so they don’t need to be able to sit for an hour but they do need to be comfortable.
What And When
We’ve put together a little pinnable guide for you that you can print off and stick to your fridge so it’s easy for you to remember what is safe for your baby to eat and when it’s safe to start eating it (we’ve also provided a check list too so you can tick off when they’ve tried certain things and what they liked or disliked). The NHS says there’s no proof that introducing foods too early can cause an allergic reaction so it’s just advised that these things get introduced in really small amounts and never before 6 months – those are things such as peanuts, wheat, gluten, dairy, fish and shellfish). Although we are advised to start weaning at 6 months we know some parents choose to start earlier which is why we have included foods that are safe for your babies prior to the 6 month mark.
From my personal experienece there are two real approaches to weaning and that is baby led and spoon fed. Baby led is pretty much self explanitry, the baby leads the way into their weaning journey. It involves lots of finger foods (so veggies cut up to finger size pieces for them to grab at and hold) and mashed up foods they can eat using their hands, potatoes, bananas, avacados etc. You can read all about Ferns experience with baby led weaning here.
Spoon fed babies often start with a very puree’d mix of fruits and vegetables that gradually gets more lumpy over time so they can explore new textures.
With Leo and Tayo I did a mixture of both methods. And they both seem to really enjoy either way. Tayo opens his mouth so wide when he sees his porridge coming! It really makes me smile and equally when I make him some sweet potato chips he squishes them in his hands and sucks it all off. It’s such a fascinating time for them. You might find if you’ve taken the spoon feeding approach and your baby just isn’t interested they might prefer to hold the food themselves so it’s worth a try if you’re starting to feel stressed about how much they are or aren’t eating.
It’s really important that your baby still continues to receive breast or formula milk during their weaning stage up until 12 months so I always offer a bottle before any solids to ensure Tayo is getting the hydration he needs. But I also introduced a sippy cup with his first meal. He is fascinated by the whole thing. He loves holding it but hasn’t quite yet figured out how to tip it back. You will be amazed at how quickly they learn to suck and swallow from something totally different to what they’ve been used to for 6 months. You might also feel like most of your day now involves feeding your baby. Tayo’s day typically now goes something like this:
9-10am – breakfast
11-12 – bottle
12-1 – lunch
2-3 – bottle
3-4 – dinner
Now that looks like a LOT on paper. But soon I anticipate he will start to drop a bottle because he is increasing his solids consumption. It’s all a real balancing act and figuring out how much milk he needs per feed vs how much solid food he needs. But for now, it basically looks like that. He takes anywhere between 5 and 7 oz at his bottle feeds and he’s having the equivalent of 2-3 ice cube sized feeds per session. That’s all very average because some meal times he might have 3 sweet potato wedges and only actually eat the flesh of one in total so then his milk intake might be a bit higher. But basically, I’m giving him something every few hours. I don’t think there’s any set rules for this and how you do it, I certainly haven’t found any so I’m literally going with my Mama gut. I’d love to hear about how much your babes have throughout the day.
Food Is Just For Fun
Our little humans are learning so much at this time in their lives and so it’s important not to put too much pressure on either yourself or your little one when it comes to weaning. Within the team we’ve all had varying journeys with weaning, some of our littles just weren’t ready until about 8 months and showed no interest at all and some took to it like a duck to water. My advice is just to go with the flow. Obviously if you have concerns over your babies weight gain you should seek advice from your Health Visitor. For me, weaning was one of those things where I went with my gut. Ultimately we know our babies better than anyone so I started to wean when I felt the boys were really ready. And you will hear that food is just for fun during the first 12 months so you should try and do just that. Strip your baby off, chuck a load of exploratory food on their high chair and let them enjoy themselves. They might not eat a single thing but they will have had loads of fun, an amazing sensory experience and you will have some excellent pictures for their photo album.
When did you start your weaning your littles? If you have more than one did you start at the same time or did you take different approaches? What does your daily eating schedule look like?