After all the ups and downs we experience when breastfeeding, the time to wean can creep up without warning. The question is, should you be sad, relieved, or just unsure about what to feed them next?
Both the WHO and the Department of Health recommend waiting to wean until your baby is six months old, though research has shown that nearly half of all UK babies are weaned before they are four months old, and one in ten children have had solid food by the time they reach eight weeks. While mums can feel pressured into weaning early by their friends, family, and even food labels, which often state that baby food is “Suitable from 4 months”, you should definitely steer clear of it before that.
Mothers usually find the transition from milk to solids is an instinctive process, led more by their baby than by them, so if you do start to notice them constantly putting objects in their mouth and having a larger appetite than usual, it could be time to purchase that high chair. (Along with some soft plastic spoons, bowls and cups, a bib, floor protector and something to puree or soften all their food.)
For that first spoonful of real food, choose a time when your little one is peckish, but not ravenously hungry – they’ll be more open to trying new things when they don’t just care about filling their stomach. Recommended weaning foods include sweet potato, carrot, broccoli, parsnip, apple, pear and banana – just make sure their food is smooth and lump free whilst they get used to the new experience. For this reason, baby rice mixed with breast/formula milk or plain yoghurt is also a popular choice with new mums.
It can be tricky for babies to get used to being fed with a spoon as opposed to a breast or bottle, so be patient with them, as in the beginning they undoubtedly end up with more food on their face than in their belly. Try to keep smiling and make it as fun and enjoyable an experience as you can. The great thing about the weaning process is that you can introduce as many new flavours as possible to get them used to a varied palette and help them avoid becoming a fussy eater. We all know a few of those…
You should also get them onto a healthy breakfast straight away – baby porridge is great as it contains no salt or sugar – but do be sure to offer them their milk first. Babies should still be getting around 600ml of breast or formula milk each day until they turn one; you could even add a hint of spice to your baby’s bottles to get them used to new flavours.
After you get them used to fruit and veg, you can begin to move on to various fish, meats, eggs and dairy, gradually allowing more solid chunks within their food as time goes on. For finger foods you can try pieces of cooked carrot, strips of toast and rice cakes, and by the time they reach 8-9 months they’ll be eating three normal meals a day. Doesn’t time fly?
How was your experience weaning your little one? Are you currently going through it and experiencing ups and downs? Let us know in the comments below!