Weaning; when, what and how?

Guest Blog post by dietician Ruth Harvey from Pod&Pea Nutrition

When is baby ready to wean?

In the UK, the recommendations are to wean around 6 months.  However, there are key developmental signs of readiness to wean and some babies may be ready before they are exactly 6 months.  The signs are:

  1. Baby can be easily supported in a sitting position and can hold their head steady.
  2. Able to coordinate hand to mouth, thereby being able to look at food and bring it up to their mouths unassisted.
  3. Have lost the tongue-thrust reflex.  This is when they stick the tongue out, thereby pushing all the food straight back out without swallowing any.

If your baby is showing more than one of the above signs and are at least 17 weeks old then you might wish to start weaning.  If baby is already 6 months and you’re not sure they are ready, talk to your health visitor or other health professional.

Premature babies may need different considerations, so please talk to your health visitor or midwife.

 

What first foods should you offer?

Gone are the days when baby rice is immediately reached for.  Evidence is building that you should start weaning with vegetables, the green, more bitter ones being best.  By starting with these you are introducing baby to new flavours more quickly and more often and increasing their likelihood to accept these foods.

The first 2 weeks it is good to offer a variety of individual vegetables and fruits and then you can progress onto combining flavours and trying other foods such as meat, beans, pulses, rice, and oats.

From 6 months baby can be exposed to all foods including those most likely to cause allergies including: fish, peanuts, egg, dairy, and wheat.  Introduce these foods one at a time, preferably earlier in the day in small amounts and monitor for skin or gut symptoms.  If your baby has bad eczema or an existing allergy please seek further advice about introducing allergenic foods.

Once your baby is managing two or three meals a day, be sure to include sources of iron at least once a day in their diet.  Meals should include a source of protein, carbohydrate, vegetables and healthy fats.

 

What texture?

If baby is under 6 months you should start with pureed foods and not introduce finger foods until they turn 6 months.

From 6 months you can offer pureed foods in combination with finger foods or just finger foods (commonly referred to as baby led weaning).  If starting with purees at 6 months, you can quickly progress to more lumpy/mashed foods once they are managing the purees well.  It is important not to delay the introduction of different textures, as this is an important time for them to develop their oral motor skills.

 

Responsive feeding

Your baby will likely show a preference for either foods from a spoon or finger foods.  Be led by them.  Whether you are offering finger foods or food from a spoon allow baby to feed themselves.  You can load the spoon for them and let them move it to their mouth.  Listen to their cues and don’t try to continue offering foods or tempting them to eat when they are communicating that they have had enough.  Babies will start to play, wriggle, rub their eyes, throw food, moan or cry when they have had enough.  Don’t worry if they haven’t eaten much, weaning is all about exposure and giving them the opportunity to try new foods, so if they aren’t hungry try again at the next mealtime.

For lots more information, tips and meal ideas about weaning Pod&Pea Nutrition offers group and private weaning workshops check out www.podandpeanutrition.org for dates and details.

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