Weaning your baby is a really exciting milestone, but venturing into the unknown can be quite daunting too as there are no hard and fast rules to getting it right. To help you give your baby the very best start in life, I’ve cut through the whirlwind of information to offer my some simple first food tips.
Annabel’s top weaning tips
1. Up until now, your baby has only ever had milk, so the taste and texture of any food you give her will be a totally new experience. She may not like it at first and spit it out, or she may love it and immediately want more – both reactions are quite normal.
2. Weaning should be a gradual process, starting with a teaspoon once or twice a day. These first solids are not the main source of nourishment and your baby should continue with her normal milk feeds. Offer the food half way through a milk feed so that she isn’t too hungry or too full to want to try it.
3. First foods should be easy to digest and unlikely to cause an allergy. I like to start with sweet root vegetables like sweet potato, carrot or something like butternut squash. Not only do they have a naturally sweet taste that babies will love, but they purée to a smooth, runny consistency making it easy for your baby to swallow. It’s best to steam vegetables to retain their nutrients.
4. Remember, the first stage of weaning is about introducing new tastes and teaching the art of eating; it can take some time and is not about volume of food. Once weaning is established, you can then progress to thicker purées, then lumps.
5. I find a lot of mums continue to give only fruit and vegetable purées to their baby for too long. From six months, it is important to introduce iron-rich foods like red meat, green vegetables and lentils. A baby is born with a store of iron that lasts for about six months. After this it is important that he gets the iron that he needs from his food. Combining red meat with lots of root vegetables and cooking it slowly gives it a taste and texture that appeals to babies.
6. Babies need to learn to chew and to begin feeding themselves. Although your baby may not have any teeth yet, their gums are quite hard so finger foods should be on mum’s menu. Try soft finger foods like banana or steamed vegetables.
7. Preparing fresh food for your baby doesn’t need to be time-consuming. You can prepare more food than you need and freeze extra individual portions in covered ice cube trays or small plastic pots that are suitable for freezing. By planning ahead, you will find that you may need to cook just once or twice a week. Try mixing two flavours together like apple and pear or carrot and apple.
8. If you, your partner or a close family member has a history of food allergies, it is better not to give foods likely to trigger a reaction – cow’s milk, dairy products, eggs, fish, berries, nuts, and foods containing gluten – before your baby is six months old. If you are concerned about allergies, you should ask your health visitor for advice before weaning.
For babies with no history of allergy there is no point delaying the introduction of foods like eggs and wheat; it’s important to introduce these foods into your baby’s diet. Eggs should be cooked until the white and yolk are solid.
9. You only need to sterilise your baby’s bottle. Warm milk is a perfect breeding ground for bacteria. There is no point sterilising any other equipment after all your baby is putting her hands in her mouth all the time and they are not sterile.
10. Once weaning has been established, there’s no reason why your baby shouldn’t join in with family mealtimes. If you are giving your baby food that you’ve cooked for the rest of the family, make sure you remove her portion before adding any seasoning.
You can bake vegetables like sweet potato and butternut squash in the oven and then when soft scoop out the flesh and mix with a little of your baby’s usual milk. You can also cook vegetables like sweet potato in a microwave and then scoop out the flesh and mash for your baby. These vegetables are also good mixed with fruit like apples and pears.
If you have any weaning questions that you’d like to ask Annabel, send us an email at email@example.com and we will pass on to Annabel to answer. Please include your name, children's name/s and ages, and where you live. Please note that in the event of a large reader response, Annabel may not be able to answer all questions received.
For lots more advice and guidance on weaning, visit www.annabelkarmel.com/