Just how much food should you give your baby when weaning? Portion sizes for children has become a big thing recently in the wake of efforts to get us into healthy eating habits early on. But it's hard to know and, of course, every baby is different.
Indeed, 'how much' is a question we hear a lot at MadeForMums, along with when to ditch purées and move to mashed and chopped foods.
So we've worked with registered nutritionist and founder of child nutrition consultancy Happy Eaters, Sam Perkins, to give you a visual guide to portion size and texture - month by month.
We've used a baby bowl and plate, and put a 50p in every photo, so you can get a clear idea of size and proportions. Plus Sam has outlined how much food this actually equals.
We’ve focused on purées and finger foods rather than baby led weaning – but it’s relevant for BLW too in the later months.
Now, of course, this can only be a rough guide. We don't need to say again, (but we will), all babies are different and will respond to solid food differently. Some may love it from that very first spoon, others may struggle for a few weeks and most will be somewhere in between.
“Babies are so varied that everything is normal,” confirms Sam. “So go with your instinct and your baby’s appetite. It’s about making it a positive experience for you and your baby.”
How much? Up to one tablespoon of a smooth fruit or vegetable purée, once a day
Current NHS guidelines advise starting weaning at 6 months, although some parents do start a little before the 6 month mark. Always check with your GP or health visitor first if you want to start solids early – but never begin before 17 weeks.
“At this first stage, solid food is supplementary to milk so your baby’s milk intake should not decrease with the addition of solids,” explains Sam.
First month of weaning – once you’ve got going
How much? One tablespoon of a more textured purée, twice a day
Offer fish, meat and dairy products once your baby is past 6 months. If you’ve started weaning early then carry on with vegetable and fruit purées, adding an extra mealtime once your baby is keen, says Sam.
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If your baby is already more than six months, recipes can now be made with regular cow’s milk, rather than formula or breast milk. Try offering water at mealtimes in a lidded, free-flow beaker with handles.
How much? Two-three tablespoons of a purée with lumps in it, up to three times a day
A portion around the size of a Weetabix soaked in milk is about right at this stage, notes Sam.
“Some finger foods on the side, such as some steamed broccoli or steamed carrot in batons, are a good addition to your baby’s meal now.”
How much? Around four tablespoons in total of mashed or chunky purée and finger foods at each meal, three times a day
As each baby is different, some may prefer a smoother texture, while others will be quite happy to munch on a lumpy meal. If your baby prefers less texture, try mashing foods like rice.
“Some babies will also want dessert too,” points out Sam. “Try yoghurt with fruit - about two-three tablespoons.
“Even if your baby doesn’t seem that interested in food, I would give three opportunities to explore food each day at this age.”
How much? Around four tablespoons of chopped food, plus two-three tablespoons of dessert
Babies can manage much less smooth foods at this age and with red meats, Sam recommends minced meat and slow cooking so the meat is less chewy.
“It’s really common for babies from 8-9 months and older to decide they want to do everything themselves so some babies will refuse a spoon or want to do it themselves,” she explains. “This is fine and totally normal.”
How much? Around 100g or 4-5 tablespoons of chunky food at each meal, plus a dessert
As your baby becomes more independent, she might enjoy picking up lots of different coloured and textured foods to accompany her meal. Try cucumber batons, breadsticks, fingers of toast, red pepper fingers, or other veggie sides.
“Remember it’s normal for babies to have days of not eating much too,” says Sam. “Your baby might be teething, tired, hot, or you’re on holiday, which can all affect appetite.”
How much? Around 120g or 5-6 tablespoons of chunky food, plus a dessert
“You are generally looking at not blending at all at this age,” says Sam. “The amount depends very much on the meal ingredients but around 5-6 tablespoons plus a pudding would be about right.
“You can also try deconstructing food to make it easier for your baby to eat, by giving her the elements of the meal separately.”
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