Weaning – how to begin

Don your biggest apron, stock up on bibs and have the baby wipes at the ready: welcome to the messy world of weaning

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What’s happening this fortnight

At around six months, you’re likely to be able to spot the signs that your baby is ready for weaning. These may include being interested in watching you eat and even trying to grab at food, waking at night after previously sleeping through, and still seeming hungry after a milk feed.

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Weaning isn’t an overnight phenomenon, but a gradual process that starts with your baby’s first spoonful of baby rice or puree, and continues up to the point where solid food has largely replaced milk, at around 12 months. The ideal first foods for your baby are baby rice or a fruit or vegetable puree.

Over the coming months, solids will take over from milk as your baby’s main source of nutrition. It’s an important step, as beyond six months, the stores of vitamins and minerals that your baby was born with will start to run out, and they can’t be replenished by milk alone.

Remember, weaning is a big milestone for you both. For some mums and babies it’s an exciting new stage; for others, it’s a stressful experience, but with patience, perseverance and a big smile, you can get weaning off to a successful start.

Did you know…?

While most mums start by spoon-feeding their babies runny food, others skip the puree stage and let their little ones feed themselves solids from day one: a process known as baby-led weaning.

What to watch out for

For every tot who obediently opens wide while you shovel the baby food in, there’s another who cries and clamps his mouth shut. Getting used to eating solids is a big developmental leap for your baby, and it can take a while for him to adjust to. Some babies are reluctant to move on from milk, but it’s important to persevere with solids. At this stage, most of his nutrition will still come from his bottles or breastfeeds, but as time passes, he’ll need proper food to give him the nutrients he needs.

If your baby is struggling with the transition to solids, try:

  • Feeding him on your lap, rather than in his highchair, to give him a sense of security.
  • Smiling, clapping and singing while you feed him to make mealtimes fun.
  • Feeding him at a different time of day: if he’s very tired, very hungry or not hungry enough he’s unlikely to succeed with solids.
  • Offering him some different purees: some babies turn their nose up at baby rice but will tuck into blended fruit and veggies with enthusiasm.
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If you do decide to move on from baby rice and start cooking your own purees for your baby, make sure that the meals you give him are safe at this stage of weaning: some foods and ingredients, such as honey and salt, can be harmful for tiny tummies.

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