What to do before you start weaning
Get ready to introduce your baby to their first solid foods
Giving your baby their first solid food is an exciting milestone, but there are suddenly so many questions. ‘What’s the best way to feed my baby?’ ‘What stuff do I need?’ ‘Is it safe?’ Relax! Our expert guide is here to hold your hand as you get started.
Introducing solids to your baby – when to wean?
Before you load the first spoon, note that experts recommend holding off until your baby is six months old and their digestive system is sufficiently developed to cope with solid foods. Talk to your health visitor or GP if you’re not sure whether your baby is ready – or if you think they need to start weaning sooner.
You’ll know your baby is ready when:
• They can sit up
• They can hold their head up
• They can co-ordinate their hands and mouth
• They take an avid interest in your dinner!
Giving your baby solid food – how do you wean?
Before you decide what kit you need, have a think about how you plan to wean. There are three techniques you can try:
Whether it’s homemade or ready-made, purée on a spoon is the traditional way to feed your baby solid food. Many parents prefer this method as it’s easy to tell how much your baby has eaten.
The traditional way to make a purée is to steam or boil fruit or veg until soft, then stick it in a blender. But as variety is key to successful weaning, you might want to mix it up, alternating ready-made with home-made. And you can be confident that your pouch or jar packs a healthy nutritional punch. "Any ready-made baby food has to comply with strict nutritional legislation with no added salt or artificial flavouring," says Boots Parenting Club nutritionist Vicky Pennington. From five months onwards, look out for Stage 1 jars and pouches. And remember that home-made is only baby friendly if you don’t add salt or sugar.
Giving your baby a selection of finger foods and allowing them to feed themselves is increasingly popular. But watch out – life gets messy! If you go for this method, make sure your baby can sit upright and pick up pieces of food, and you’ll need to keep a constant eye on them.
Great nibbles to start with are:
• Steamed and cooled carrots
• Steamed and cooled broccoli florets
• Steamed and cooled asparagus spears
• Bread fingers
• Strips of cooked and cooled chicken
• Strips of pepper and cucumber
It’s understandable to be scared about the risks of choking with baby-led weaning but research has found that babies who feed themselves are no more at risk than those weaned with a spoon – just don’t give your baby foods like whole grapes or chunky pieces of apple. Thin strips of soft food are best as they can hold them at one end and munch away merrily!
Combining methods of weaning
In reality, most parents prefer to combine some spoon feeding with some baby-led weaning – for the best of both worlds. That way, you know your baby has enough to eat, but they are also learning essential hand-to-mouth skills. Baby-led weaning is also very sociable as your baby can sit at the table with the family, feeding themselves while you eat.
What items do you need before introducing solids?
Spoons, bowls and containers
If you’re spoon feeding, stock up on soft plastic spoons and bowls (those bowls with suckers on the base are fab, as they stay put!). Plastic pots or flexible ice cube trays are also handy for freezing portions of purée, so you can batch cook.
You can mash food with a fork (make sure it’s lump free when you’re starting out) but a blender will give a smoother consistency.
Bibs (and lots of them!)
Weaning is a messy business for all involved, so you’ll also need lots of bibs – wipe-clean plastic ones and sleeved ones are particularly useful. Oh, and never wear your favourite top when feeding!
A suitable highchair
The highchair is one bit of baby kit you’ll have to live with for a while, so it’s worth taking time to consider your options. There are loads of funky designs out there but don’t get swayed by style over substance! Your chair needs to be:
• Easy to clean – some are wipe clean; others have removable covers for easier washing
• Foldable and storable if you’re short of space
• Comfy (so your little diner will be happy to sit in it for longer)
• Adjustable (make sure you can adjust the height as they grow)
• Secure (don’t forget to check it has a five-point safety harness)
Introducing solids & your baby's milk intake
Your baby will take a while to get used to solids so keep up their normal milk feeds until they’ve got the hang of it. It’s also good to offer them a few sips of water while they’re eating so they get used to something other than milk.
Experts advise moving from a bottle to a beaker at six months: drink flows faster through a spout than a teat, which is better for your baby’s dental health. You could try a bottle with handles first, then, once your child is used to holding it, progress to a beaker with a sealed lid, soft spout and easy-grip handle.