What is weaning – and how do I do it?

With the help of GP Dr Philippa Kaye, we talk you through when and how to begin weaning, and reveal how other mums do it

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What does weaning mean?

In the UK we use the term weaning to mean moving your baby from milk to solid food.

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We also talk about weaning your baby from breast to bottle or even weaning your baby off a dummy. It’s all about big steps in your child’s development – moving her from something she’s become used to, on to a new way. 

In America, the word weaning is generally used to mean moving your baby from breastfeeding to bottle or cup feeding.

“Parents often find weaning confusing, especially working out when and how to start, and what to start with,” says GP Dr Philippa Kaye.

“When you start weaning your baby, he will initially only be taking small amounts of food. Weaning teaches him how to swallow food and introduces him to a wide variety of tastes, but most of his nutritional needs will still be met by breast or formula milk.

“So start slowly, with perhaps one meal a day, and gradually work up to three meals.”

When should you start to wean?

“Weaning should start at around six months old,” says Dawn Kelly, a health visitor. “This gives a baby’s digestive system time to develop so that she can cope with solid foods, be able to chew, swallow properly and pick up food.

“If you think your baby is ready earlier, speak to your health visitor or doctor, but never introduce solids before 17 weeks.”

How do you start weaning?

“You can either give your baby soft, runny purees at first, or do baby-led weaning, where your baby feeds himself right from the start of weaning – so no spoons or purees, just soft, easy to hold adult food, just as you would eat it,” says Dr Kaye.

“If you’re going to use purees, then it’s usual to start with baby rice mixed with breast or formula milk, or simple fruit and vegetable purees made of steamed fruit or vegetables which are then blended to a smooth consistency, perhaps with some breast or formula milk added.

“You can cook purees in large batches and freeze in small amounts, but remember not to add salt or sugar.

“Introduce one food at a time; this will help you spot if your baby has a reaction to a particular food.”

You tell us: Purees, baby led weaning or both?

  • 9% of you do baby-led weaning exclusively
  • 31% do a mixture of both
  • 60% use purees only

Mums share their weaning stories

MrsG25 has decided to try the baby-led route: “We went straight in with baby led weaning at 6 months and it’s terrifying but you both  soon get used to the gagging and baby will quickly learn.

“Luke is nearly 7 months and hasn’t gagged on anything today! I offer boiled veg, he especially loves broccoli. Toast, scrambled egg, sandwiches with cream cheese, he had an egg mayo sandwich the other day and loved it!

“We have done macaroni cheese (with penne pasta) tortellini, the contents of a fajita but not spicy of course! Raw veggies like cucumber and pepper. If you peel and chop an apple you can microwave it for 30/60 seconds to soften it up.

“With BLW they can eat whatever you eat just watch the salt! I’ve avoided some things like spag bol and baked beans for now because I want to know for sure he can swallow and chew but I think those are things we will try next week!”

While summer_76 is starting a little early with purees: ‘I am just about getting grips with this weaning malarky,” she shares.

“To start, I was giving the bottle just before but now toby really just wants food so I am giving :

  • 5am – 6oz
  • 8am – porridge
  • 12noon – puree and dessert
  • 3.30 – 4oz
  • 5.30 – puree and dessert
  • 6.30 – pre-bedtime milk 5 oz then bath
  • 7pm – thick milk about 5 oz.

“He is 5 months and a hefty 21lbs and LOVES food!”

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