WHAT IS BABY WEANING?

Once your little one reaches six months your baby will need some ‘solid’ food in their diet to give them the additional nutrients needed in order to thrive. Here we explain how to introduce first foods. Remember, up until now your baby has only ever had milk, so the taste and texture of any food you give him/ her will be a totally (new experience for him/her. He/She may not like it at first and spit it straight back at you, or he/she may love it and immediately demand more – both reactions are quite normal.

START BABY WEANING SLOWLY

Weaning  your baby should be done gradually, starting with a teaspoon or two, once a day. These first solids are not a main source of nourishment and your baby should continue with normal milk feeds. Your baby will cope better if the food is smooth, so give puréed or mashed, cooked fruit and vegetables, or baby rice mixed with breast or formula milk. Offer the food half way through a milk feed so that your baby isn’t too hungry or too full to want to try it. At first, you should offer no more than one or two new tastes every few days. Once your baby is happy with these, you can introduce new foods and eventually start mixing different foods together. Don’t try to force your baby to eat something that he/she obviously dislikes, wait for a week or two and then try the food again.

FOODS TO INCLUDE WHEN WEANING

The first foods you give your baby should be bland and smooth. Baby rice is a good first food, or you could try root vegetables like potato or carrot, and fruit such as banana and cooked apple or pear.

Once weaning is established, your baby should be having foods such as the ones listed below, from the following groups each day.

Starchy foods - Bread, cereals, rice, and potatoes

Dairy products - Cheese, yoghurt and full-fat fromage frais. Cows’ milk shouldn’t be given as a drink until after one year, but can be used in cooking

Meat and fish - Lean meat, poultry and white fish – or vegetarian alternatives such as beans, pulses and grains. Shellfish isn’t suitable for babies

Vegetables - Root vegetables, beans and cauliflower

Fruit - Apples, plums, apricots, pears, and bananas.

Citrus and berry fruits like strawberries should be introduced with caution as they can cause sensitivities in some children.  Foods from this group should be introduced into your baby’s diet, gradually, ideally one at a time so if your child does have an intolerance to them, then the specific food that triggered the sensitivity can be easily identified.

FOODS TO AVOID WHEN WEANING BABY

Salt - Don’t add salt to your baby’s food – it can overload her immature kidneys – and avoid processed foods that haven’t been made specifically for babies

Sugar - Too much sugar can encourage a ‘sweet tooth’ and lead to tooth decay, so don’t add sugar to your baby’s food, and avoid high-sugar foods

Honey - Occasionally, honey contains a type of bacteria that can cause infant botulism, so it shouldn’t be offered before one yearEgg whites. These shouldn't be given before eight months. Egg yolks can be given earlier but must be thoroughly cooked to avoid any risk of salmonella.

Tea, coffee and soft drinks - These are not suitable for babies and should be avoided

Nuts - Foods containing nuts can be introduced once your baby is six months old. But you should keep a careful check for any reaction to the food. Whole nuts should not be given under five years because of the risk of choking.

ALLERGIES TO BE AWARE OF

If there is a family history of food allergy, eczema, asthma or hayfever, or your baby has eczema, your baby is at higher risk of food allergies. The most common food allergies in babies are to cow's milk, eggs and peanuts. If there is a risk of food allergy ask for advice from your health visitor or GP before you start weaning.

EQUIPMENT TO CONSIDER FOR BABY WEANING

First foods need to be puréed – this can be done using a blender or liquidiser, although a sieve and spoon will achieve similar results. Once your baby has learnt to chew, he will be able to cope with lumpier foods, which can be mashed with a fork. Your baby should have his own feeding utensils and these should be sterilised until he is at least six months old. After that, although they no longer need sterilising they will still need to be kept scrupulously clean. You’ll need a plastic bowl and teaspoon (a metal spoon could get too hot), a feeding cup and a supply of bibs and kitchen roll.

HELPFUL BABY WEANING TIPS

If a particular food is rejected, try something different and then reintroduce it again laterGradually build up to lumpy texturesOffer lots of different food to get your baby used to different tastes and textures.If you use jars, tins or packs of baby food, make sure that they are appropriate for your baby’s ageNever feed your baby straight from a baby food container. The digestive substances in saliva can find their way into the container and make any remaining food unsuitable for another meal. Always decant the food into your baby’s bowl

INCORPORATING WEANING INTO FAMILY MEALS

Once weaning your baby has been established, your baby will enjoy sitting with you and joining in family mealtimes. If you are giving your baby food that you’ve cooked for the rest of the family, make sure you remove her portion before adding any seasoning. You may prefer to make your baby’s food separately, in batches. This means that you can freeze the food in ice-cube trays, then the frozen cubes can be stored in freezer bags, ready to be defrosted when you need them.