WEANING YOUR BABY
From 6 months to 1 year
When my first son was born I struggled to find baby weaning recipes that I would actually eat myself, let alone feed to my little boy. Most of these recipes were just horrid.
I desperately wanted information on how often to feed, how much too feed, when to fit in formula or breast milk and how quickly you need to change the style of food you make for your baby as they grow rapidly month after month.
I had to go back to work full time when my eldest son was 6 months. I wanted recipes that were workable for both my weaning baby, family and full of flavour. I wanted some information about the importance of good quality ingredients on brain and body development and which meals to give my son as he grew so fast during the first 6 months of weaning. Just growing bigger, becoming more dexterous with his hands, a bigger mouth and then some teeth totally transformed my son's meals. I could then do my job of inspiring my baby's passion for food and eating.
So I decided to create my own recipes. These recipes were perfect for him while he was weaning and the same recipe was perfect for me and my husband - we only needed to cook one recipe for all of us.
Weaning - When and how to start?
Teaching your beautiful baby how to eat is one of the very first things they learn, long before walking, talking and potty training. Eating well, understanding food, good ingredients and one day learning to cook is not only essential for your baby’s survival but also an important social skill to learn; it’s part of our culture to eat and socialise with family and friends and it’s vital for their long term health to know which foods to eat.
Begin weaning your baby onto solid food at 6 months.
Baby’s digestive systems have developed enough to eat most foods including wheat, peanuts and other potential allergens by 6 months. If you have a family history of food allergies then you must speak to your GP first before introducing that particular food to your baby.
FOODS TO AVOID DURING THE FIRST YEAR
Added salt – watch out for salt in stock cubes, crisps, etc. (listed as sodium chloride on the ingredients labels). Baby’s kidneys are too small to process lots of added salt in their first year
Honey – it can contain toxic bacteria which will cause infant botulism. Although it’s rare for honey to have these bacteria it’s worth avoiding
Whole nuts – choking hazard
Shark, swordfish and marlin – high levels of mercury
Low fat foods – babies need fat. Low fat foods contain artificial sweeteners and lots of fibre to bulk them out, neither of which you baby needs
FOODS TO BE CAREFUL OF DURING THE FIRST YEAR
Shell fish – make sure you buy shellfish from a good supermarket or fishmonger to ensure that the shellfish has gone through a depuration process – the shellfish are placed in tanks of clean seawater (UV light makes it clean) to purify
The first couple of weeks is not about moving away from milk to solid food, it is a short period of time for your baby to get used to taking food from a spoon and beginning to ‘eat’ in a new way.
You can start with baby rice at 5 months and 2 weeks. A couple of spoons a day (in the morning and afternoon), at least an hour before or after a milk feed to get your baby used to ‘solid’ food and the spoon. Your baby has to try and work out how to eat the baby rice from the spoon rather than sucking their milk.
Start introducing solid food in-between milk feeds. Do not tail off the milk feeds as your baby will need these to make sure they get enough nutrients while they are learning to eat.
You might find these timings helpful to follow and adapt to your baby’s needs (it’s also the timetable most nurseries use if you’re planning to send your little ones). Suggested meals for breakfast, lunch, tea-time and dinner are on my Menu Ideas page. Hopefully, it will give you a little bit of inspiration:
First morning milk
8:00am Breakfast – baby porridge and/or toast with unsalted butter
11:30am Lunch – a main dish and puree fruit or yoghurt for pudding
12:30pm Afternoon sleep
3:00pm Teatime – yoghurt or fromage frais or fruit puree
6:00pm Dinner – a main dish and a fruit puree or yoghurt for pudding
I’ve added the milk feeds in the timings above but you will probably find that your baby will only want some of them now that they’ve started eating a small amount of solid food.
Babies will start off eating very little as it is so new to them. A few spoonfuls might be all they want at each meal time for the first few weeks. They will build up to half a small weaning pot within a couple of months. By the time they are 10 months they will probably be eating a whole pot for each meal.
Follow your baby’s lead on how much they want to eat. They will keep opening their little mouths for more if they are hungry and if they’ve had enough, they will clamp shut. Or, as my youngest son did, spit out the last mouthful to let me know he’d had enough!
Offer water with their solid food. They will quickly learn that a few sips of water will help them swallow their solid food more easily. I started off with a sippy cup for a few months and then moved onto a ‘normal’ cup.
I am passionate about everyone in the family eating together. If you can manage dinner together most days, I truly believe it’s the best thing you can do to show your baby how to eat well and enjoy their food.
Eating well is so much more than the craft of cooking all those ingredients you’ve carefully chosen. Eating well is seriously social. As humans we share food with each other, talk about our day, our children learn from adults how to sit at the table and eat together. They find that time around the table with those closest and dearest to them, filling their tummies with delicious food, is something to look forward to and love. Yes it’s a ritual, an important one as we all need to eat, but it’s a lovely one too that makes you feel happy. I suspect that when you think about some of your favourite memories many will be of sitting around a table full of good food with your family and friends at Christmas or birthdays. We can all remember a favourite food we love which in turn makes us remember the person that used to cook it for us – those are memories of love.
Babies do not know how to starve themselves so if they go off their food it could be because they’re teething, not feeling great or just want the comfort of milk. There will be days when all they want is milk (it could go on for 3 days or more), so let them have as much as they like.
Babies are not born to be fussy eaters; they watch, learn and follow their parents. Be careful how you react to, talk about and eat food as your baby will copy everything you do. Lead by example, show your baby that eating is one of the best things about growing up; it’s delicious and good fun to eat with the family.
Give your baby a chance to get used to new foods. Sometimes it takes months before they start eating a new ingredient – it’s not because they don’t like it but maybe they need a few more teeth, a bigger mouth, etc, before they can eat it. Don’t assume they don’t like something, just keep offering every now and again. I also found with my eldest that sometimes he goes off a certain food, but comes back to it months later – I just let him find his own way.
And don’t forget that you, as an adult, have already chosen the foods, ingredients and dishes you like and edited out the ones you don’t. None of us cook meals with ingredients we don’t like! Give your baby the chance to decide what their favourites are, just because they might not be the same as yours does not mean they are fussy eaters. Let your baby have a few years (yes, years!) to develop their tastes.