4 weaning queries answered by our health visitor

Got a question about weaning? Our health visitor answers mums' problems...

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1) When do I start weaning?

Q. My 4-month-old daughter is fascinated by us eating. I’m under pressure from my family to feed her solids. Should I?

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A. Adults love to share their food with babies, and often misinterpret a little one’s fascination with watching others eating as a sign of her wanting to eat the same foods. Mealtime rituals are entertaining for her – soon you’ll be wishing she didn’t have a spoon to throw food with.

Signs your baby is ready for weaning include being able to sit up, reaching and grasping for objects, showing interest in putting things into her mouth, and being able to chew on them. The recommended age for weaning is 6 months – any earlier than this may increase infections and allergic responses.

If you do decide to wean before 6 months, some foods should be avoided as they may cause allergies or make your baby ill. These include wheat-based foods, gluten, eggs, shellfish, fish, nuts, seeds and soft, unpasteurised cheese.

2) My baby spits out solids

Q. My third baby’s 6 months old and I’m weaning her but unlike her siblings she spits out solids and cries. Should I stop for now?

A. All babies will take to weaning in their own way and go at their own pace. The signs she’s giving may indicate that she’s not completely ready yet, so slow down and don’t worry about it too much. She may be the type of baby who wants to be more in control of her eating, so let her feel, play with and look at the food. This is an important part of eating for babies, as they learn about new smells and textures.

Eventually she’ll put it to her mouth, and some will go in. Let her have her own spoon. It’ll be messy, but helps coordination. Try to remain neutral about her eating, and keep her involved in family mealtimes, where she can observe everyone and learn about eating that way. If she wants to try food from someone else’s plate, that’s fine, as long as it’s appropriate and doesn’t contain any salt or sugar.

3) Reaction to reflux

Q. My 8 month old still gags horribly on any lumpy food. He has had reflux in the past, which hasn’t helped. What can we do?

A. Gagging on lumpy food is a normal phase of weaning. However, for babies who have experienced reflux it seems to be more common. So it’s particularly important for these babies to have a positive experience with food and the social aspect of eating.

Try and keep mealtimes calm and unrushed, so he can take his time over food. Let your little one feed himself, no matter how messy or how little food appears to go in. It’s good for him to be in control and to feel different foods before putting them in his mouth. If he does gag, remain seated, smile, and look reassuring, even if you don’t feel it. Speak calmly and encourage him to keep going. Don’t pick him up, bang his back or shout for help, unless you need to. This will panic him, and make him anxious next mealtime.

4) My baby won’t eat off a spoon

Q. I got off to a good start weaning my 7 month old, but now he refuses to take anything from a spoon. Am I back to square one?

A. Weaning can be a stop-start affair for some babies. New textures, types of food, utensils and sitting up are all a tall order – especially when you’re asked to do them all at once! Little setbacks are common, but try these tips to get back on track:

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  • Offer a few different foods on a plate and let your baby pick them up and feed himself. Don’t worry if at first he spends time squishing, squashing and sucking the foods – that’s all normal.
  • Make sure when you do offer him the spoon, he has one to hold too. The more freedom he has to be independent, the more adventurous and confident he’ll become with eating.
  • Eat together where possible – this will encourage your baby.
  • Be patient and remember that every new food he tries is a step in the right direction.

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