I wouldn't describe myself as an Earth Mother by any means, but when it came to weaning my sons I was determined to give them the best start to healthy baby foods that I could!
I made the decision early on that I would try very hard not to buy processed baby food and only in emergency situations would I buy shop produced baby foods. I wanted to know exactly what they were eating and to keep it as natural as possible.
I am not saying that there is anything wrong with processed baby food, as since having my sons many years ago it has greatly improved, this was just simply the choice that I made. I also look after a gorgeous bouncing baby boy 2 days a week and his mum is also determined to feed him nothing but homemade foods for his first year!
During both my sons first year I fed both of them homemade baby food, offering purees during the early stages, followed at stage two by lumpy foods mixed with finger foods. I followed various baby healthy eating planners and had a book shelf full of weaning books; but in the end I found the best route was to work it out together, discovering what tastes and likes your baby displayed!!
Weaning is a natural process in which you gradually introduce your baby to "solid" foods. There are two main reason for weaning: one is nutritional and the other is social. The recommended advice from health specialists is not to begin weaning your baby until they are around 6 months old. However some babies aren't completely satisfied on milk alone and can start weaning from around 20 weeks, but not before 17 weeks as your baby's gut is simply not mature enough to cope with baby food.
Some babies will take an interest in food early on and may show signs of wanting to start weaning from around 4 months. The signs are obvious that they are ready for weaning as they begin to last for less time between feeds and may be restless after them; also their sleep patterns may start to change and they might begin to wake earlier than usual, especially at night. You want to grasp any enthusiasm towards food and run with it!
I started with small amounts of baby rice; which in the first few days of trying came straight back out! A baby has learnt to swallow their milk feeds but when it comes to baby foods they don't automatically know what to do when the food is placed on their tongues, so it tends to come back out of the mouth. It can take patience and practice before they work it out.
In the early weeks, weaning is simply about giving baby an interest in baby food, not to fill them up, so its important not to push it. During the first few weeks weaning requires patience and it will entail a lot of mess. Let a baby go at their own speed as you don't want baby to develop negative associations with baby food. I found late morning to be the best time of day to introduce first foods, as most babies are alert and satisfied with their milk feeds. In the first few days all that is needed is 1-2 teaspoons of baby rice mixed with their milk feed.
The first purees I introduced to my sons were fruit and vegetables. They particularly loved the sweeter tastes with sweet potatoes, carrots, apple and pear their favourites! They moved quite rapidly onto more mixed flavours and were soon onto family meals. By the time my sons were 7 months old they were both eating three small meals a day along with their milk feeds.
The purees need to be very smooth to begin with; if too thick then mix with a little breast or formula milk to thin it. As they get older the purees can get thicker and lumpier. You don't have to wait until your baby has teeth to introduce lumps. Babies have a very good gag reflex and they need to work on a few lumps to strengthen their jaw and build up the muscles in their mouths.
You will soon find you love making healthy dishes for your baby and there are so many good websites offering to share some very tasty baby food recipes.
I have been working with parents and their children for over twenty years, so I know how challenging & daunting parenting can be. None of us are perfect all the time and we all need some help at times. I offer Bonding & Beyond baby courses to help parents feel more confident in many topics such as: Sleep, weaning, teething & development. Our social mum & baby groups are fun, informative in a relaxing environment , enjoying lots of chat, discussion and coffee, tea and fabulous cake!! Contact me to ask a question or find out more about our courses and support.