Weaning your baby can seem an insurmountable task. Knowing when to start, how to start, and why to start are just a few of the questions you might be bombarding yourself with in the quiet hours around midnight when you should be trying to get some sleep. If this is your first baby, or your first challenging baby, the opportunity might not present itself as obviously as you’d expected.
Take it slow
Approaching weaning gradually helps mothers battle breast engorgement, while making the transition easier on baby. Ramp up attention during this time to make up for the bonding time lost once nursing is history. Consider the timing; if you can, avoid weaning during another life transition such as moving, returning to work, or even when your baby is learning to walk.
Let your baby lead the way
Taking subtle cues from your baby helps make the process of weaning gentle and helps more challenging children slowly warm up to, and even help guide, the process. Baby Led Weaning, quite simply, means letting your child feed themselves from the very start of weaning. The term was originally coined by Gill Rapley, a former health visitor and midwife. By 6 months of age, most babies are developmentally capable of bringing food to their mouth and eating it. All you have to do is offer appropriate-sized piece of food to your baby and then let them decide to eat it or not.
Knowing if your baby is ready
There are a few key signs to let you know baby is ready to wean.
- Can he sit well without support?
- Has he lost the “tongue-thrust” reflex which causes him or her to spit solid foods out?
- Is he interested in food? (I realized my child was interested in weaning when she starts to steal pieces of food off my plate when I held her during mealtimes.)
- Can he chew?
- Does he have a good pincer grasp? This one isn’t critical – after all, having lots of little bits of food will incentivize your baby to learn.
Get a high chair
One tip to develop healthy eating habits and meal routines is by having mealtimes together, and put baby in his own high chair. A completely washable high chair, like this chair from Baby Bjorn will make clean up a breeze while still inviting your baby to join in on meal time.
If you are following the Baby Led Weaning approach, food prep is truly minimal. Start offering him easy to grasp, and easy to gum foods – think avocado slices or a mushy hunk of steamed sweet potato. Move on to berries or other soft fruits. With Baby Led Weaning, baby can eat whatever you’re eating, just put a small amount (say a teaspoon) of whatever you are eating on his high chair tray and let him explore. For the first few months of this, baby will probably wear more food than eat, but he’ll learn all about tastes and textures and will become a champion eater in no time at all.
Make your own
If you prefer to make baby his own food, it can be not only economical, but easy! Start with a good quality food mill, and from there the world is your oyster. Start with single fruits or vegetables, and then move into more complicated combinations and textures as your child adjusts to eating solid foods. Steamed and mashed root vegetables, such as carrots or yams, are a great beginner food, as well as mashed mango, avocado, and pear.
Foods to avoid
Some foods are not recommended for babies, especially infants under 12 months who are still learning to coordinate chewing/swallowing muscles.
- High choking risk foods like: grapes, cherry/grape tomatoes, nuts, whole hot dogs, fish balls, hard candy. Cut these up or avoid serving them altogether.
- Unhealthy and processed foods like: chips, popcorn, sugar-containing foods, breakfast cereals, gum, and hard candy.
- Honey, as it can contain can contain spores of the bacterium Clostridium botulinum, which can cause botulism, which can be fatal in infants.
- Stimulants. Avoid coffee, sugar, food additives and dyes.
There you have it our tips on weaning your baby, a gradual process requiring patience and understanding from both mother and child.