Weaning: Introducing Solid Foods

Mums have many questions about how to start their baby on solid food as it’s a really important step in their development.  for aisha,(www.foraisha.com) a leading baby food company, has produced a guide that supports you as you explore new flavours and textures together.

When should I wean my child?
Current recommendations are to exclusively breastfeed until 6 months. Weaning introduces solid foods into your baby’s diet who is drinking breast milk or formula milk from 6 months onwards and helps them develop new skills. As a parent you may wish to start earlier however, 4 months is the earliest.

During the first year your baby grows quickly than any other period of their life making it important for you to offer your baby different foods varying in tastes and textures to get the energy and important nutrients required to help them grow.

What are the signs that my baby is ready to start weaning? Can your baby:

  • Stay in a sitting position and hold their head steady?
  • Look at food, pick it up and bring it to their mouth all by themselves and wants to chew?
  • Swallow food and keep it in rather than all over their mouth?
  • Does not appear satisfied after feeding?

If you have answered yes then your baby may be ready!

Getting started: the essentials
To begin with, how much your baby takes is less important than getting them used to the idea of eating.  Your little one doesn’t need three meals a day to start with, so you can start by offering foods at a time that suits you both. Gradually you’ll be able to increase the amount and variety of food your baby eats until they can eventually eat the same as the rest of the family, in smaller portions.

Let your baby play with their food. Sometimes messy is good! It helps your baby learn and explore the textures.

No frowning! Always smile- this will show you are enthusiastic and your baby will be excited and will want to try the food you are giving.

Don’t worry if the food comes back out after the initial spoonful, it’s a new experience for your baby, as he or she has been used to push their tongue forward to suck milk.

Remember to keep feeding your baby breast milk or infant formula as well but don’t give them whole cows’ milk as a drink until they are a year old.

What about drinks?
Try to introduce a cup from six months and offer sips of water with meals. Use a lidded or free flow cup will help your baby learn to sip and is better for your baby’s teeth. Dilute pure fruit juice (half and half) and give at meal times – this will help to increase iron absorption. Limit fruit juices, as natural sugar in juices can cause tooth decay.

You should still offer regular breast feeds. If your child is being formula fed they should be offered 500-600ml of suitable infant formula.
Avoid adding sugar or something sweet in your baby’s milk.

Which foods can I start with?  

Baby food from 6 months:

Stage   Age Consistency/ texture/ foods to introduce  Weaning Foods
1 Around 6 months Thicker consistency with some lumps, soft finger foods, baby rice, baby cereal mixed with baby’s milk,  Chapatti made into crumbs and soaked in milk Rice, pasta, potatoes, yam,  bread,  rice cakes and cereal.

Meat, fish, pulses, and eggs

Yoghurt, custard and cheese

2 9-12 months Mashed, chopped, minced, more finger foods: potato, yam carrot, apple or pear. Soft fruit like peach, melon,  ripe banana
3 12 months  and older Mashed, chopped, family foods and a variety of finger foods- chicken, mashed fish, pasta, noodles, toast, pieces of chapatti, paratha, lentils, rice,  hard boiled eggs
Spices: Mild spices such as coriander, cumin, turmeric, cinnamon can be used in small amounts from 6 months onwards. If it’s too spicy for your baby then try adding some plain yoghurt.
Once your baby has mastered puree move on to and try mashing to create lumpier texture.

How long will it take? 
This really does depend on your baby! Every baby is different and the time taken depends on how well they get the hang of eating solid foods and getting used to the new flavours and textures.

Is it ok to use commercial baby food?
It is best and often great fun for your child to be weaned on to foods that the family eat but it’s important to avoid salt, which is damaging for babies (added salt is found in many adult foods). Commercial baby food can be included into your baby’s weaning diet and as a parent you may find them convenient and an excellent way of introducing different tastes and textures. Try and avoid relying too much on sweet baby foods, as often they are only suitable options available. This can lead to a poor diet. There are savoury weaning baby foods available which you can introduce into your baby’s diet.

Which foods should be avoided?

  • Salt: Babies should eat less than 1g of salt per day (breast milk and formula milk contain the right amount of salt) between 7 months and 1 year 1g of salt is the maximum. Salt should not be added to foods such as cheese and some processed foods should be limited.
  • Sugar: Avoid adding sugar to your child’s food and drinks
  • Honey: Can contain a bacteria which can make your child ill and needs to be avoided until after 1 year
  • Nuts: Can be given from around 6 months old, if they are finely ground. If your Child is under 5 years old you should not give them whole nuts because of the risk of choking and inhalation.

Do I need to give my child supplementation?
All babies who are 6 months and over should be given supplements A, C and D, such as healthy start vitamins until they are 5 years old.

Is it safe to wean onto a vegetarian diet?
Your baby can develop normally on a vegetarian diet, although you need to ensure that nutritional needs are met.

Special diet and Allergies
If you think that your child may have an allergy or would like them to follow a specific diet,please ask your health visitor, GP or paediatric dietitian.

From  Sajida Manzoor- Registered Dietitian www.foraisha.com

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