Ways to wean

For many mums introducing solid foods to their babies can be a difficult and confusing time. This isn’t helped by the fact that advice on when to introduce solid foods, what foods to include and how to begin seems to change all the time.

So what is the current advice and how did we get there?

Firstly, let’s start with some Quick Tips for parents:

  • The process of introducing solid foods is now referred to as ‘Complementary Feeding’

  • Exclusive or full breast-feeding for about 6 months is a desirable goal

  • It is recognised that some parents may wish to introduce solid foods to baby earlier than 6 months and is important to look out for signs that your baby is ready to start solid foods if this is the case

  • Developmentally, infants younger than 4 months of age are not prepared for solid foodand therefore the introduction of solid foods is never recommended before 4 months or (17 weeks) for babies born at full term

  • When starting solid foods, allergy risk foods such as: wheat, gluten, nuts, peanuts, peanut products, seeds, liver, eggs, fish, shellfish, cows’ milk and soft or unpasteurised cheese should not be offered before 6 months of age

  • After 6 months it is important that foods that contain gluten and others that commonly cause allergies are introduced one at a time, so you can spot if your child has a reaction

  • It is not recommended to offer children the following during weaning: salt and added sugar or foods containing them (e.g. crisps, biscuits), honey (until 1 year of age), whole nuts (until 5 years of age) or cow’s milk as a whole drink (until one year of age)

  • Breastfed infants are recommended to take vitamin D drops from birth with exclusively formula fed infants recommended to take vitamin D once they begin to have less than 500mls of formula a day. 8.5-10micrograms is recommended for under 1s and 10 micrograms is recommended for children between 1 and 4.

Signs baby is ready for solid foods

At the moment the current advice recommends that solid foods are introduced at around 6 months, but the three signs below are useful indicators that a baby is ready for his/her first tastes:

  • They should be able to stay in a sitting position and hold their head and neck steady.

  • They should be able to co-ordinate their eyes, hands and mouth so they can look at food, pick it up and put it in their mouth, all by themselves.

  • They should be able to swallow food. Babies who are not ready will push their food back out with their tongue, so they get more round their face than they do in their mouths.

Really importantly though, you want to look out for multiple signs over time and not just one of these signs on one occasion. https://www.nhs.uk/start4life/first-foods

First foods to try

When first introducing solid foods to your baby it is a good idea to try and offer as many homemade dishes as possible. Jarred baby foods are OK to offer every now and then for convenience, but try to avoid offering these more than about once a week. Instead make baby’s purees at home using a variety of ingredients or, even better, use foods left over from your own family meals (as long as no salt or sugar has been added). Offering homemade foods helps get baby used to the tastes of the family’s cooking. It also allows you to be flexible and to offer plenty of variety, which can help reduce fussy eatingand food refusal later on. Additionally, homemade foods are a huge advantage as they give you peace of mind, knowing exactly what you are feeding your little one each day.

Advice from Nutrition Consultant Charlotte Stiring-Reed.