Hello there 🌼
Congratulations on embarking on your magical (and messy!) weaning adventures. As a mum myself, I understand the joy and responsibility that comes introducing your baby to the world of solid foods through weaning. In this blog post, we’ve summarised how to start your weaning adventures including when to start weaning, what baby food to start with, how to begin baby weaning, and why this stage is so important for your baby's development, with reference to UK sources like the NHS.
Why is Weaning Important for Babies?
Let's start with understanding why baby weaning is a crucial step in your little one's growth and development, according to the guidance from the NHS
- Nutrient Boost: As your baby grows, their nutritional needs evolve. While breast milk or formula provides essential nutrients for a newborn, weaning introduces a wider range of vitamins and minerals found in solid foods, helping support their growth.
- Motor Skills: Weaning plays a significant role in developing your baby's fine motor skills and coordination. When they learn to grasp and manipulate small pieces of food, it contributes to their physical development.
- Speech Development: Surprisingly, the act of eating solid foods is closely linked to speech development. Chewing and swallowing solid textures stimulate the muscles used in speech production.
- Exploration and Independence: Introducing various foods encourages your baby to explore different flavours and textures, potentially leading to a more adventurous and less picky eater in the future.
When can babies start to wean?
Now, let's delve into the timing of when baby food can start.
- Age: According to the NHS, it's recommended to introduce solid foods around six months of age. Premature babies need to be age adjusted 6 months. By this time, most babies have the physical and developmental readiness to start eating solids. However, remember that every baby is unique, so trust your instincts and your baby's cues.
- Developmental Milestones: Look for signs that your baby is developmentally ready for weaning, such as the ability to sit upright, on a flat surface, with minimal support, holding their head and trunk erect, long enough to explore food. showing interest in what you're eating, and losing the "tongue thrust reflex" (where they automatically push out objects with their tongue)
- Curiosity: Babies are naturally curious beings. If your baby starts reaching for your food or seems genuinely interested in mealtime, it might be a sign that they're ready to begin their weaning journey as long as they also show the signs above in line with NHS recommendations.
How to Start Baby Weaning?
Having discussed the "why" and "when," let's explore the "how" of baby weaning. It's a gentle and exciting process that requires patience, love, and some preparation:
- Gather Supplies: You don't need much to start weaning, but having a high chair, baby-safe tableware and a good coverall bib can also be handy, as messy mealtimes are common. Embrace them!
- Start with Single-Ingredient Foods: Begin with simple, single-ingredient foods that are easy on your baby's tummy and help identify any allergies or sensitivities.
- Watch for Allergies: Introduce new foods one at a time, watching for any signs of allergies, such as a rash, vomiting, or diarrhoea. The NHS advice is to wait 3-5 days before introducing another new food. Particularly attention should be paid to foods identified as allergens such as dairy, eggs, nuts.
If you need support with monitoring allergens and a full list of which to watch out for, please download our free Baby Feeding Charts (here) by providing your email so we can send them straight through to you.
- Encourage Self-Feeding: As your baby's coordination improves, let them explore self-feeding by offering finger foods like small pieces of banana or well-cooked pasta. This encourages independence and fine motor skills development.
- Establish a Mealtime Routine: Consistency is key. Babies thrive on predictability, and a set schedule can make the weaning process smoother. Sitting together as a family to eat helps babe to understand the importance of mealtimes and enables them to copy your actions.
- Be Patient: Remember that baby weaning is a journey, not a race. It's normal for your little one to push food away or make funny faces when trying new flavours. Be patient and keep offering a variety of foods consistently. It may take several tries before they acquire a taste for certain foods.
What Baby Food to Start With
Selecting the right foods for your baby's first taste can be a bit daunting, but rest assured, there are plenty of wholesome options to get you started. Depending on whether you opt for baby led weaning or more traditional methods, food can be served in finger length pieces easy for baby to grasp or pureed.
- Avocado: An excellent first food due to its healthy fats and creamy texture that's easy for babies to swallow.
- Sweet Potatoes: Rich in vitamins and have a naturally sweet taste that babies enjoy.
- Bananas: Bananas are a great source of potassium and have a sweet, mushy texture that appeals to many babies.
- Cooked Carrots: These vegetables are easy to cook and mash, with a sweet flavour, providing essential nutrients
- Berries: Fruits that are gentle on the tummy and offer a slightly tangy, sweet taste
Remember, there's no rush. Take your time introducing these foods, one at a time, and observe how your little one responds.
For a “100 First Foods” Checklist to help guide your weaning journey and provide daily inspiration, please download our free Baby Food Charts by sharing your email here
What if baby is not eating enough?
Food and structured mealtimes are brand new for your little one and it takes time to adapt to a new situation. There are a few reasons why your little one may not be keen and things we can do as parents to help support them on their weaning journey.
- Baby is feeling fussy- we all have our good and bad days. Sometimes, your little one may just not be up for it, that’s ok! Stay positive and continue trying daily, ideally at the same time so your baby can develop a positive routine.
- Get involved! Try and sit as a family to eat so your little one can copy you. Letting baby feed you can help as they get to feel the food and smell it, eventually they might eat some too! You may want to wear a bib yourself for this one!
- Babies and us parents/carers have the joy of tackling teething and weaning at the same time! Can you imagine eating with a toothache?! Ouch. If baby is not eating as much when teething, offer them soft and cool foods such as yoghurt and cucumbers. Ensure you are using soft, silicone utensils, gentle on their gums and great for chewing too.
- Baby may be feeling under the weather. On those days the level of food consumption will go down as it does for all of us when we feel poorly. Baby may not eat much after vaccines either.
- In all cases above, offer food first and then top up with milk as needed. Milk will remain their primary source of nutrients up to the age of 1
Best results come when parents/carers relax and enjoy their little ones feeding times. Avoid stressing about how much they are or aren’t eating. Babies can pick up on an anxious situation and can create a negative cycle. Positive vibes only!
The fear of baby choking
Choking is one of parent’s worst fears when it comes to starting to wean their little ones so important we cover this topic.. It is essential to understand the difference between gagging vs choking
Gagging- The gag reflex is located further forward in the mouth for babies then it is for grown-ups meaning it’s further away from their airway. Their gag reflex is their natural mechanism to protect themselves from choking on any of their new found grub. When babies gag, the tongue pushes the food out of the mouth sometimes accompanied with coughing or vomiting. This is their body's natural response and will often go on eating their meal without even noticing. If your little one gags, they are still able to breathe and it is noisy as they try to bring the food back to the front of their mouths to avoid choking.
Choking- This is when something totally blocks the airway preventing someone from breathing. There are many ways to prevent choking including;
- Make sure baby has all signs of readiness (as above) prior to starting your weaning journey
- Complete an Infant CPR and Baby First Aid class near you. This will go into depth on when the baby is choking what to do (NCT Baby First Aid, St John’s Ambulance CPR Advice). Knowledge is power.
- Avoid baby choking hazards by ensuring food given to your little one is properly cut up, remember their airways are narrow.
- Supervise your child during mealtimes, at all times.
As always, if ever in doubt or concerned about your child’s health, seek medical support. Call 999 if you suspect choking or if your child is having a severe allergic reaction, or your GP or 111 for a mild allergic reaction and general concerns
Baby weaning is a remarkable journey for both you and your baby. It's a beautiful opportunity to nurture their growth, development, and exploration of the world of food. As you embark on this adventure, remember that every baby is unique, and there's no one-size-fits-all approach. Trust your instincts as a parent and celebrate each small milestone along the way.
Enjoy these precious moments of discovery and laughter with your baby as they take their first bites into the world of solid foods. It's a wonderful part of the incredible journey of parenthood, and you're doing an amazing job.
With all my support,
Mama & Chomp Founder
This blog has been created in consultation with baby healthcare professionals and NHS Guidelines. Speak to a medical professional immediately if you have any concerns about about the health of your child.