Weaning your baby/child onto solid food and the equipment you need

Let them play with the food.
Let them play with the food.

Weaning your baby onto solids can be easy

Weaning is one of the most important things we do for our children in the early stages of their lives. We understand that it is important for a child to move onto solids, from a milk diet so as they maintain a healthy diet and receive all the relevant and much needed vitamins and minerals that are needed for them to be able to grow up healthy and strong.

When should you start weaning your child?

Years ago it was the done thing for parents to wean their children as young as 6 weeks. Now, it is recommended by the Department of Health that we don't introduce solids until our baby has reached 21weeks. This is mainly due to the fact that following much research it has been found that weaning too early can increase the chances of allergies and other bowel conditions developing later in life.

However, there are still many parents who choose to wean earlier at around 3-4 months. This is usually due to the child becoming hungrier and not being satisfied with milk alone. If you consider introducing solids early then you should speak to your doctor or health visitor as there are some food groups that should be avoided.

Is my baby ready to start solids?

Before you start introducing solids, your baby should be showing some of the signs below;

1. The child should be showing an interest in what you eat

2. They should be able to sit up well holding their head and maintaining a steady, upright position

3. They should be starting to make a chewing motion with their mouth, practising the movement that is needed to move food from the front to the back of the mouth

4. They may become more unsettled, waking in the night when they had been sleeping through, shorter daytime naps

5. Most babies are ready to be introduced to solids when they have doubled their birth weight, this does sometimes happen before their 6th month.

How do I introduce solids?

Once you have established that your child is ready for solids, start by making sure you have all the necessary equipment;

· Bib, at least 1 for every meal per day (it can get very messy)

· An old towel, to put over your lap

· Soft tipped spoons, there are various types of these, some which change colour when applied to heated food

· Small bowls for the food

· Relevant food. The Department of Health recommends Baby Rice that is enriched with iron, mixed with their normal milk.

There are many other things that you can buy, but at the very beginning this is really all you need.

Before you start, make up a small bowl of baby rice. Get your spoon (you may want 2 so that your child can hold one as well) and put a bib on your child and a cloth over your lap (an old tea towel is good). Now your ready to start!

There are two ways of approaching it the first time, you can either offer the child some milk as you normally would, and then before they are fully satisfied offer them some of the Baby Rice as a taster to get them used to the texture of the food. Alternatively you can offer the Baby Rice first knowing that the child is hungry and therefore more likely to accept the new food.

What foods should I use?

Once you have an established routine you can start to add other foods. Baby Rice is an excellent food that can be added to all pureed fruits to make very good desserts. Remember that all fruits are an important source of vitamins, and therefore should be offered to your child as soon as possible so that they become accustomed to the taste.

Vegetables should also be added to your child’s diet as soon as possible as again they are a good source of vitamins and minerals. These can be cooked and then mashed into a pulp so that they have no lumps, these can be added at a later date when your child is older and has more teeth. Good vegetables to try at the beginning are Sweet potato, normal potatoes, carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower. All of these vegetables mash into a puree very easily with little effort. If the vegetables look a bit dry you can add gravy to them. There are various different makes of baby gravy’s out there, but look out for the normal Low Salt gravy granules that you would normally buy. Remember you can always make it up a bit weaker than they suggest and it may work out cheaper.

As your child gets older, you should be careful not to fall into the trap of buying all baby foods. Some of the foods i.e. cereals aimed at babies can be high in sugar with salt contents not too dissimilar to adult cereals. Remember your child is not going to be eating baby foods forever!

How can I prepare food in advance?

It may seem like a lot of hard work when people say about preparing meals for their child for the week ahead, but in actual fact it is very easy. When you cook your meal, cook a bit extra, pop it in an ice cube tray and freeze it. At the beginning 1 cube of mixed vegetable will be sufficient as a main course. All meats and vegetables can be frozen. Unfortunately fruit cannot be frozen very easily and therefore has to be made up freshly as and when you want it.

If you don’t wish to freeze the food and want it as fresh as possible, still cook a little extra when you do your own meal, then put the surplus in a bowl, cover it and place in the fridge for the following day.

If you are breastfeeding, you may find some of the links below useful.

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