When is the right time to introduce food to your baby? The NHS recommends 6 months is the right time to start weaning your baby.
Some of my friends and family who have had children have told me and my partner that they started weaning at an earlier age.
We decided to stick to the NHS guidelines unless our little one’s hunger wasn’t being met with breastfeeding. It did meet her hunger needs so we started weaning from six months.
To begin with, we opted to use ready-made food pouches for the first couple of weeks. We thought Ella’s baby food stage 1 range was great and on a whole used this brand. We also keep some of Ella’s later stage range in stock to use on days out.
The advice we tried to follow with regards to introducing flavours was to be bold and introduce to varied flavours.
After a couple of weeks, we moved onto a salt-free and added sugar-free baby-led weaning approach.
I recommend you visit the NHS site on weaning as there is thorough advice provided and you may find an approach you would prefer to follow.
In this remainder of this blog, I will touch on what we have done… which seems to be working.
After a couple of weeks, we introduced a baby-led weaning approach which is where the little one feeds themselves. A key advantage is that you will not have to make choo choo train noises as often!
The benefits of baby-led weaning in my eyes are positive. It helps fine-tune motor development: supporting the development of eye-hand coordination, chewing skills and dexterity. It also offers babies an opportunity to explore the taste, smell and texture of a variety of foods. Little ones also learn self-regulation by not being forced to eat more.
A balanced diet in our opinions starts early. We provide our little one with a range of fruit, vegetables, carbohydrates, and poultry and fish (albeit on a much lesser scale at this point).
When cooking we ensure it is without salt and sugar. We cook using fresh ingredients as jar sauces are full of additives, including plenty of sugar and salt
There are plenty of recipes online. A few recipes which go down well with our little one are:
We also give our little one toast (unsalted butter), well-cooked broccoli, carrots, sliced tomatoes, cucumber, strawberries (which she loves), grapes (quartered) and banana (a staple).
Make sure the food presented is soft enough and at a cool temperature.
How Much Food And How To Present
You will still be breastfeeding or bottle-feeding your baby. This will reduce the more your baby starts to eat. We are guided by our little one as she has a specific cry for milk!
Only small amounts are needed. We tend to give our baby two to three food items to eat. For example, for dinner, she had fritters, grapes and blueberries.
Portion wise: one fritter sliced into finger-width lengths; three grapes quartered and several blueberries halved.
We present the good in a fantastic bamboo plate which sticks by suction to the high chair (examples below).
Cut the food to a suitable size. Ensure the food is cool before giving it to your baby. Also, for good hygiene, wash the little one’s hands, or use a wet wipe at the very least.
Don’t forget to provide your little one with water. We use the below cups to help reduce spillage and allow the little one to do it herself.
A key advantage of baby-led feeding is that the little one can join us at the dining table. Where possible, we have the little one join us and have brought the time we eat our evening meal to an earlier time. It becomes more important to get the little one into a three-meal routine from around ten to twelve months of age.
Is It Messy?
Yes, as far as food going on, in the seat and on the floor around the seat. I did have images of food being thrown on the walls and ceiling. However, at the time of writing our little one is ten months so there is still time for food armageddon!
It doesn’t take us more than five minutes to clean the little one, high chair and the floor. Key items that have helped us: having a dog and a cordless Dyson!
Should You Help?
Absolutely, if your little one needs a hand but let them have a go first before jumping in … they are learning!
In the beginning, the little one may struggle to grip the food. They should start to be able to pincer (use thumb and finger) to pick up food from 8 to 9 months old. Cut the food suitably to help them grip it. Beware that some foods do pose a choking hazard so please slice appropriately: read this.
If my little one isn’t tucking in themselves, I’ll hold up items of food to them. But I don’t force her to eat.
Your Baby Will Gag!
My heart sometimes missed a beat when weaning begun because our little one would sometimes gag and I thought she was choking.
Nature has gifted the little one a strong gag reflex to help protect them from choking.
I went to a child first aid course which I highly recommend. You will learn the appropriate knowledge to deal with a choking situation if the time was ever to arise.
Using Vitamin And Mineral Supplements
We were advised by our Health Visitor to use a vitamin and mineral supplement with our little one. It is important for your baby to get Vitamin D, which is more difficult to get during the autumn and winter months in the UK.
We use a liquid supplement.
In no time at all your child will be eating mussels using a shell as a pincer. Yep, kids can do this, I’ve seen my three-year-old nephew do this which was incredible.