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What parents need to know when it comes to weaning.

6 minutes

As milestones go, weaning your baby can be a tricky one to navigate. Expert GP Pixie McKenna, author of several books on weaning and how babies develop as they grow, is here to lend a hand; revealing the ten things new parents need to know when it comes to starting this new and exciting journey with their baby.

There’s no magic age to start weaning

All babies develop at different stages and what might be right for some won’t be for others. However, on average, babies should be ready to start weaning at six months old. Starting on easy to digest foods that are unlikely to provoke an allergy, such as mashed banana, cooked and pureed carrots or sweet potatoes, is the best approach when starting to wean your baby. Some signs to indicate that your baby is ready for solid foods include sitting up with support and holding their head steady; actively putting toys and other objects in their mouth; being hungrier than usual even after their milk feed and watching with interest when you or others are eating.

Despite these signs, each baby is unique. Getting your baby used to the idea of eating is much more important at this stage!

Try different types of weaning

There is no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to weaning – what works for one baby might not work for another. There are two main types of weaning methods; baby-led weaning and spoon-fed weaning.

The difference between the two is how babies learn their newfound feeding skills. Spoon-fed weaning means that babies learn to spoon feed first, while baby-led weaning means that babies skip the smooth food phase and learn to chew from the beginning. Baby-led weaning is a great way for babies to learn their own feeding skills, as well as developing their motor control, enabling them to experience a greater variety of foods and grow their confidence. However, spoon-fed weaning has its benefits as you know exactly how much and what your baby is eating, baby can get food quicker, and it usually causes less mess! Work with your baby to see which they prefer.

Babies’ don’t need ‘baby food’

Before you rush out and buy one hundred and one jars of baby food, there are easier and better ways to introduce infants to solids. Babies should be exposed to lots of variety and most can start with any pureed single-ingredient food with no added salt or sugar. Foods like butternut squash, carrot or sweet potato are good choices as they provide a rich source of vitamin A, which is important for your baby’s growth. Adding cheese to vegetables purées is a great way to add in some protein, and well-cooked scrambled eggs make a good first breakfast too.

Babies can be fussy eaters!

Some babies will be happy with just one to two spoons of food, while others may be interested in trying more. Some days your baby might like mashed up banana, and the next day they won’t. It can take a while for babies to get used to new flavours, so trust your instinct and look for clues - if they turn their head or push the food away; they probably aren’t interested right now. Remember to increase the amount of food you give your baby depending on their appetite and offer a variety of foods, so that your baby gets used to the flavours and textures on their own.

Babies’ can’t eat all types of foods to begin with variety in your baby's diet is important, but it is not unusual for babies to be allergic to certain foods. With this in mind, introduce certain foods one at a time. For example, you should wait until six months to introduce foods including, cows' milk; eggs; foods that contain gluten, including wheat, barley or rye; foods containing nuts or seeds (do not give babies whole nuts because of the risk of choking), or fish and shellfish.i

If you are at all concerned that your baby may have an allergy to a certain food, be sure to speak to your GP.

Follow your baby’s lead

It is normal for babies to put up some resistance when they first try solid food. If your baby doesn’t seem interested after a couple of attempts, try again later. It may be that your baby is just not very hungry at the moment. Patience is key, so go at your baby’s pace, and if you feel at all concerned about their appetite, seek advice from your GP.

It’s ok to throw the schedule out of the window

Having a routine is great and can help babies when they start weaning, but it shouldn’t be concrete. What if you’re out and about when you’re meant to be giving solids? What if your baby doesn’t fancy the pear you puréed? Or what if you don’t have butternut squash in the fridge? A schedule can be helpful, but try not to worry too much if you have to deviate from it. The most important thing is to make sure you and your baby are relaxed and are enjoying the weaning process… go with the flow!

Weaning will not help your baby sleep through the night

Sorry mums and dads! There is no proof that weaning helps babies’ sleep through the night. Some babies sleep right through from about 6-8 weeks, while others take much longer. Again, all babies are different and some parents are blessed with sound sleepers, while others are not!

Be prepared for a mess…

Weaning a baby can be a whole lot of mess! Letting your baby explore, handle and taste foods is exciting but it comes with the added pressure of keeping them and your house clean.

As your little one becomes more adept with their fine motor skills, you may find that they prefer to drop or squish their food, rather than actually eating it. When they do decide to eat, the ratio of food that ends up in the mouth compared to round the face is often quite low. But fear not, to help limit any mess, take the time to investigate which baby wipes are right for you and your baby. There are plenty of gentle baby wipe options out there, such as WaterWipes with Soapberry, which are tough on mess but kind on babies’ delicate skin.

messy baby

It won’t happen overnight!

Remember, weaning is a gradual process and won’t happen instantly, some babies require several weeks to get used to the change, so be patient!

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