Your guide to stress-free weaning

As your baby begins to develop and grow, you might start wondering when is a good time to switch from a milk-based diet to solid foods. Then comes all the questions on exactly what is okay to give to baby... Child nutritionist Sam Perkins, a Nurturing Mums consultant & expert, has created a guide to walk you through weaning including when to start and the foods are and aren't okay.

I run weaning workshops for groups of parents who are often confused, to say the least!  The biggest question is always ‘When do I start weaning my baby?’

should I start weaning at 4 months or 6 months?

The Government and World Health Organisation recommend that we wait until around 6 months to introduce solids to our babies. Up until 6 months of age, your baby does not need anything else apart from breast milk or formula milk from a nutritional point of view.   After this time, a baby’s iron stores do start to deplete and milk is no longer enough. In practice lots of us do start weaning earlier than 6 months but there are lots of advantages in waiting.  

If you are thinking of starting the weaning process before 6 months, do chat to your Health visitor about it first but the most important thing to remember is to make sure your baby’s milk intake does not go down – any solids are purely a bonus at this stage. And start with puree of fruit or puree of vegetables, adding in other foods including some finger foods at 6 months.

advantages of weaning at around 6 months

  • Weaning may be less stressful as progression is often quicker.
  • There is no need to sterilise feeding utensils.  Bottles used for formula milk should still be sterilised.
  • Your baby can eat most family food.  There are very few foods that cannot be given to a baby of this age
  • There is no need to just give pureed foods. Babies of 6 months can hold food and have the coordination to eat finger foods. It is still fine to start with puree if you prefer but also add in some finger foods too.

traditional weaning: In the past, when most babies started solids at around 4 months, it was necessary to begin spoon feeding with smooth purees. It has always been the case that from 6 months of age finger foods were encouraged.

baby led weaning (BLW): The principle of Baby led weaning (as advised by Gill Rapley) is to let your baby decide when to start eating solids, and to feed themselves from the beginning.  As BLW is led by your baby they need to be able to feed themselves and are therefore be around 6 months old.  Puree is unnecessary and the baby eats your normal family foods with the rest of the family.

my advice: Whenever you start your baby eating solids it is important to encourage lots of textures including finger foods from 6 months.  I believe it is perfectly ok to spoon feed as long as you offer finger foods alongside.  The important factor is not to be led by any book but to be led by YOUR baby.  Some babies hate to be fed with a spoon and some are reluctant to try finger foods – both are totally normal. 

which foods can not be given to a 6 month old baby?

Foods which should not be given to babies of this age include:

• Honey – due to the rare presence of bacteria which can produce toxins. Avoid honey until the age of 1

• Very salty foods and adding salt in cooking

• Very sugary foods or sugary drinks

• Avoid giving babies hard pieces of fruit or vegetables as they could choke on them. Soft pieces are fine eg cooked carrot, sliced pear or banana. Avoid cutting food into circles to decrease the risk of choking, and cut grapes length-ways

• Whole nuts – due to the risk of choking.

Above all, remember that weaning your baby is about more than just nutrition.  It is important to help coordination, fine motor skills and independence in addition to developing social skills.   All babies are different and some are keener than others to start solids so be patient and go at your baby’s pace.Y our baby is growing up fast- enjoy each step!

I run private weaning workshops for groups in your home or mine. And I have also produced a downloadable video of the workshop. You can watch the trailer and buy the video at www.happyeaters.co.uk/videos/ 

You can find out more about Sam Perkins, introducing food to your little one, combatting fussy eaters, consultations and kids cooking classes over on her website Happy Eaters.

For more information on how to wean your baby, nutrition, sleep advice & all baby related topics, you can join a Nurturing Mums postnatal course today.

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