Weaning! Keep calm and carry on, with myself and Registered Nutritionist Emma West...
Updated: Jan 31
My Registered Nutritionist and Pre- and Post Natal Exercise specialist, Emma West joins me for another blog post, this time we are talking all about weaning! Emma shares her professional advice, and I throw in a few tips learned from my decade working as a nanny in London!
Let's get started! When do we start?!
"Once your baby is around 6 months old they need solid foods as well as breast milk or formula to meet their needs. Weaning teaches your baby how to chew and swallow solid foods and how to move solid food around their mouth.
Make sure food is introduced in a calm and relaxed environment, where you don’t feel rushed and baby isn’t tired, there is nothing worse than trying to get a grizzly baby to eat food! Eating is a completely new skill for your baby which can take time for them to get used to, or in some cases no time at all. Never force your baby to eat, just like when feeding them breast or formula - learn your baby's cues for when they are hungry and when they have had enough. Every baby has a different appetite, so go at your baby’s pace.
Don’t be worried if they reject a new food, it can take up to 10 tries or more for your baby to get used to a new food, new flavour or texture – it can also help if they see you eating the food. It is also completely normal for babies to eat more or less on certain days. The key is to try and be patient, it takes time for babies to figure out what they like and dislike so keep offering a variety of foods, including foods that they have previously rejected."
"Getting started: Helpful tips for parents"
"Make sure your baby is sitting upright and strapped in their highchair so they are able to swallow properly."
"Use bowls or plates which have suction cups on the bottom- to hopefully stop them ending up on the floor!"
"Use plastic cutlery and encourage baby to sip water from a cup (normally an open or free flow cup) with their meals. This helps them get used to drinking out of a cup instead of a bottle."
"Put a plastic mat, sheet or even newspaper under their high chair to make cleaning up easier. Also use easy to clean bibs!"
"Use ice cube trays to make batches of food, these are handy for freezing and helping to portion foods out."
"What are signs that my baby is ready?"
"There are 3 clear signs which should appear once your baby is around 6 months old:
Being able to stay in a sitting position and holding their head steady.
Have coordination between their eyes, hands and mouth. So, they are able to pick food up and put it in their mouth.
Being able to swallow food instead of spiting it out.
If baby chews their fists, wants extra milk or wakes up in the night more the usual – these don’t necessarily mean your baby is ready for solid food. They could be signs of teething, learning or a growth spurt and are typical signs of babies development. Its best to look for a combination of the three main signs over a period of time, not just a one off."
"What should I feed my baby?
From six months and alongside breast or formula milk, your baby only needs a small amount of food once a day. You can start with fruit and vegetables, either blended together or singular. You can blend, soft cook, mash or serve as finger food: broccoli, apple, pear, parsnips, carrot or sweet potato etc. You could also try baby rice mixed with your babies milk.
Make sure you include vegetables that aren’t as sweet to help baby get used to a variety of flavours and textures which can help prevent them from being fussy eaters as they get older. Remove any pips, stones or hard skin from fruit and ensure they are cut up into finger food or small bits. Always remember that babies don’t need sugar or salt added to their food or the cooking water, so choose foods with no added sugar. For dairy, full fat unsweetened or plain yoghurts are a good choice. Full fat cows, goat or sheeps milk can be used in cooking or mixed in with food but shouldn’t be given as a drink until 12 months old as this could fill baby up.
Any food that could trigger an allergic reaction should be introduced one at a time in small amounts so you can spot if there is a reaction. Such foods include cows milk, eggs, foods that contain gluten, nuts and peanuts (crushed or grounded), soya, shellfish and fish.
Always make sure food is cooked thoroughly before serving!"
"Smooth or lumpy?"
"It is important to give your baby a variety of textures, once they are six to seven months old, such as smooth textures as well as lumpy ones. It might take baby a while to get used to a lumpy texture, so keep offering them. Always stay with baby whilst eating to make sure they swallow the food safely. Finger foods are also a great idea - such as soft carrot or parsnip sticks. Babies enjoy feeling the food in their hands (our other senses are important for eating too!) and can help develop hand-eye coordination."
"Baby Led Weaning"
"Baby led weaning means you only offer your baby finger foods and letting them feed themselves instead of using a spoon. Some parents prefer baby led weaning and other prefer a combination of both. But there is no right or wrong way, it is what is best for you and your baby. The most important thing is baby is trying a variety of different foods and textures and getting all the nutrients they need."
Emma's key point to take home:
"Be patient and listen to baby when they are hungry and when they have had enough!"
A final though from me on the stressful, anxiety-inducing process that weaning can become, especially for new mummies! Remember to look after yourself, to make sure that you are getting three nutritious meals a day yourself (and plenty of snacks and cups of tea!), and if you are struggling, do not be afraid to reach out and ask for help from a friend, family member, neighbour, or somebody like me!
Weaning can be a very stressful time if things do not appear to be going smoothly, and I have worked with many first (and second!) time mums who have put themselves through the wringer because they think they are failing their baby, if their baby just keeps clamping their mouth shut tight! Sometimes all you need to do is take a break, take some time to yourself, and relax a little bit, and things will feel a lot better afterwards. Don't forget - your baby will only eat when they are ready, and when they feel like it!
I offer lots of support for parents going through this potentially trick phase. This February I will be running a weaning-themed free online parenting surgery, which means that you can get in touch by email at any time during Feb for some free, personal advice, and I am also currently running a pop-up coaching session called "Eating is Easy" via Zoom for parents who are struggling with feeding and mealtimes. This is a one-to-one session lasting 2 hours, it costs £80, and includes a free copy of my Positive Mealtimes pack, and one month follow-up support via WhatsApp. You do not have to be an existing coaching client to book a pop-up coaching session, these sessions are open to all parents! I will run different pop-up sessions and surgeries throughout the year on common parenting hurdles, so sign up to my mailing list to keep up to date with all upcoming events! And don't forget, I offer a free 30 minute consultation to all new potential coaching clients, so why not get in touch if you fancy a chat!
My Spring Newsletter will be coming soon, full of lots of positive, holistic, and sustainable ways to enjoy the joys of Spring. While you are here, why not read my interview about Step Parenting with the Step-In-Mum Veronika Durham, my Better Sleep and Bedtimes post with guest Sleep Consultant Alexandra Collingbourne, and check out my other posts with the lovely Emma West, about Pre-and Post-Natal Exercise, and Pre- and Post-Natal Nutrition!
Check out my other posts for more info and advice on screen time, buying pre-loved children's clothing, decluttering before your new baby, and thinking about whether or not your family could foster a child. Visit the rest of my website to find out more about my parenting coaching services, child development, child behaviour, and positive parenting! Get in touch for more information on any of the topics mentioned here or elsewhere on my site, I would love to hear from you!