Get the lowdown on fuss-free weaning
When should you start weaning? What foods should I try? Weaning needn't be a mindfield says founder of Mange Tout, Lucy Thomas
Lucy is also mum to one year old Molly and answers your weaning questions.
What are the up to date guidelines on when to start weaning?
The official World Health Organisation and government guidelines recommend introducing solid food when your baby is six months (26 weeks) old. But weaning is one of those hot potato baby issues that everyone has an opinion on. So, my advice is to trust your instincts, ignore peer-group pressure from other parents and tune in to the signals from your baby. Some babies will need complementary foods before 6 months in addition to breast milk or formula milk, others don't. But babies under 17 weeks are not developed enough for weaning, and should not be fed anything other than their usual milk.
Will I know if she's ready to start weaning?
If your baby is under 6 months, and seems to be interested in food, you can chat to your Health Visitor or GP, and they will be able to help you decide when to start weaning.
There are 3 signs that tend to appear together at around six months, rarely much earlier. The important thing to remember is that if your baby is ready for solid food all three signs will be there.
Your baby is ready if they can:
• Co-ordinate their eyes, hands and mouth, can look at food, grab it and put it in their mouth all by themselves.
• Stay in a sitting position and can hold their head steady.
• Swallow their food. Small babies instinctively use their tongues to push foreign objects out of their mouths, and until this reflex fades, they are likely to do the same thing to a spoon or a piece of banana.
Parents often assume their babies are ready for weaning if they put their fingers in their mouths constantly (it's more likely teething) or watch mum or dad intently as they eat (chances are your baby just finds this fascinating!).
What is the best time of day to start on solids?
Lunchtime often works best as there are fewer distractions, and you can offer your baby their first taste of food halfway through or just after a milk feed. However Molly was always ready for a nap at lunchtime and often fell asleep on her milk! I found that mid-morning or mid-afternoon worked best for us as Molly would be happy, alert and more interested in playing and exploring my culinary delights. If we were out and about, a frozen cube of puree in a pot – (with a secure lid!) was handy to have with us and would defrost in time. Experiment with different times of the day to see what works best for you and your baby, remembering that ultimately you'll be aiming for a meal time routine further down the track, but don't get hung up on these timings in the early days.
What are the best first foods to try?
It's best to try some soft, cooked, mashed veg or fruit, or smooth cereal or baby rice mixed with your little one's usual milk. Molly didn't take to weaning very easily and certainly didn't want to be fed by me with a spoon! Finger foods seemed to interest Molly far more as she could do it all herself. When I gave Molly her first finger foods, I gave her soft cooked slices of apple, roasted sweet potato, and batons of soft carrot. Avocado and banana were good first finger foods too, although rather slippery!