Weaning is the process of moving your baby from milk onto solid foods. The first stages of weaning help to lay the foundation for healthy eating habits, and teaches your baby how to start eating using utensils, swallow and eventually chew.
The World Health Organisation recommends starting at six months, but many parents start any time from four months onwards. If your baby was prem, you will need to take this into consideration too.
Signs that your baby is ready to be weaned:
- Can hold her head up, must be able to maintain a steady, upright position.
- Sits well when supported. Might sit on your lap at first but later will sit in a high chair.
- Makes chewing motions and could even have a tooth or two. The gag reflex has gone.
- Has had a healthy weight gain, basically has doubled her birth weight.
- Shows an interest in the food that you eat.
- Has good co-ordination (can put the food into her mouth by herself).
These are NOT definite signs that your baby is ready for solid food
These are just things that growing babies do and it does not mean that they are ready to progress to solid foods yet:
- Chewing her fists
- Waking in the night when she used to sleep through
- Wanting extra milk feeds
Essential weaning equipment
A few colourful baby feeding spoons and plastic bowls (Pigeon has a fantastic range)
- Bibs and clean cloths to wipe up any spills
- Saucepans and/or a steamer
- A hand blender or a food processor
- Ice cube trays (Preferably with lids) or small containers
How to start weaning
Start with rice cereal. Normally offered in the morning and mixed with the milk that the baby is currently drinking – breast milk or formula. It must be runny so that they can become accustomed to the texture. Normally it’s 1 tablespoon to 4.5 tablespoons of warm milk but read the instructions on the box.
You would introduce veggies first, so start with a single savoury veggie. Try to avoid sweeter ones.
Keep your baby on one veggie for three days, then introduce the next one. After about two to three weeks, start introducing fruits.
As they get a bit older you can make stews and blend them, as they learn about textures.
Useful tip: Cook the veggies with no salt and freeze them in ice cube trays: these are the perfect portion sizes and the healthiest and most cost-effective ways. The same can be done with the stews, but store them in small containers.
Now the babies will drink cooled boiled water or Rooibos tea with no milk or sugar, as milk was a meal so cannot be seen as a drink during the day now. Diluted Purity juice is also an option.
Milk still matters
When you start weaning, milk remains the main source of nutrition for your babies.
If they are between six and 12 months, stick to your pre-weaning routine, and your baby will drop a feed when she is ready. As a general guide, bottle-fed babies need around 500-600ml of milk a day. If you’re breast feeding, feed on demand as well as offering food.
Remember that each child is an individual
- Just because someone else’s baby is ready to be weened, doesn’t mean yours is ready.
- Don’t share bowls and spoons with your other children: each child must have their own to avoid the spread of germs.
- Keep it fun! If you are happy, your baby is happy. It can take 8-10 tries for your child to like a new flavour.