Feeding your baby well from the start gives them a good foundation for healthy eating habits through life.
So why then is baby weaning advice so conflicting and confusing?
Here are a few of the things you should know to help get your baby started on the right path to eating well, for life.
Babies don’t need “baby foods”
Baby rice is often hailed as the best thing to start your baby on solids, but its actually very bland and tastes of nothing more than the milk you mix it with. Babies should be exposed to as much variety as possible in the early days, while they are receptive to new tastes, so offering them a different home-made fruit or vegetable puree or soft mash each day is a good way to start. Jars, packets and pouches are of course really handy when you’re on the go but many of them have quite a similar taste and texture, not to mention added sugars, so its best not to rely on these too much.
Routine books are a guide, not a prescription
There are books galore telling us how to wean our babies – what foods to give first, how much and when. These are a useful guide, but what if you are out and about at 11am when you are meant to be giving solids, or what if you just haven’t had a chance to buy any pears like the book suggests? Its ok - relax! There’s not really a right or wrong, for example, you can give solids in the morning one day and evening the next if that works for you. The most important thing is to make sure you and your baby are relaxed throughout.
No right portion sizes for babies
There is no such thing as the correct portion size for a baby, or for a toddler for that matter. They are all so different and all take to food at different rates. For some babies 1-2 spoons of food may be enough at first, while others may be quite happy to take down 5 or 6. Follow your baby’s lead and look for cues - if they turn their head, push the food away, start to cry or become restless it’s a good indication they’ve had enough.
Don’t prolong the purees
Progress through the textures, from pureed to mash with soft lumps, minced, and then by the time your baby is 12 months s/he should be eating their food chopped into small manageable sized pieces. Too many babies are fed smooth purees for too long then parents wonder why at 15 months they refuse to eat “normal” food. They need to learn about lumps ideally between 6-9 months, and you can offer finger foods as soon as your baby is able to hold them to help them practice chewing too.
Its OK if your baby doesn’t want to eat today
Babies are very good at self-regulating so they won’t eat if they aren’t hungry (unlike us grown-ups!) They also won’t eat well if they are teething, tired, distracted or feeling upset for some reason. Babies often go through phases of being off their food, so try not to worry as they will pick up on your anxiety which can precipitate food refusal further. Just keep offering without any pressure (and never force feed) and their appetite will return when they’re ready. It’s a good idea to monitor their weight and seek advice if you are worried.
Julia Wolman RNutr
More Baby Weaning Resources
Parents & Co are hosting a 'Weaning Baby' Workshop presented by Julia Wolman at the Radlett Centre on Thursday 31st July 2014 from 10.00-12.00.
A £5 discount applies if you book your place before Friday 25th July - £30.00 instead of normal price £35.00. Course attendees will receive a goody bag; have the chance to taste weaning food samples and enjoy the refreshments provided.