How to prepare for weaning

As last week, 6-12th May was National Weaning Week, we take this opportunity to have a look at ways to prepare for weaning and the different approaches you can take.
The World Health Organisation recommend exclusively breastfeeding your baby for the first 6 months and the UK Health Minister supports this view. If you can’t breastfeed or choose to use formula milk to feed your baby, then this too is advised exclusively with weaning recommended from 6 months.

Why wait until 6 months?

Breast milk or formula milk provide all the nutrients needed for your baby up to 6 months old. A 6-month-old baby has more time to develop and so their body can cope with solid food. They also can chew and swallow better at 6 months and may also be able to feed themselves.

Signs your baby is ready:
Look out for the following signs to help identify if your baby is ready for solids from 6 months old:
- Stay in the seated position and able to hold their head up
- Co-ordinate their hands, eyes and mouths so they can pick up the food and feed themselves
- Swallow food, rather than just bring it straight back up.

How to wean your baby
There are different ways to wean your baby, here we look at the three most popular methods:

Pureed Food:
Pureed food is a more traditional method of weaning, by pureeing your little one’s food they may eat more at the earlier stages. There is no evidence to suggest which foods are best to introduce first, but most start with vegetables and fruit, allowing your baby to try different flavours. Once your baby is used to pureed food you can make the food more textured and gradually move to solids at about 7-8 months. The benefits of using this method is it is usually a little less messy than Baby Led Weaning as the parent holds the spoon and feeds the child. It may also be easier to introduce iron rich foods earlier on for example meat and leafy greens, which may be difficult to chew at first. Also, some parents prefer this method as they worry about gagging or choking.

Baby Led Weaning (BLW):
Baby led weaning introduces solids to your baby at 6 months, rather than you spoon feeding them. The baby then chooses what they want to try and how much. You simply offer your baby similar foods to what you are eating, being careful not to add any salt and to cook meat and eggs thoroughly. This method is considered more sociable as the baby can join in with family meal times. It is also less labour intensive as you don’t need to spend time making purees. Instead offer finger sized portions of your food for your baby to try. With BLW you may need to offer more milk than if you were introducing puree, but this will reduce as your baby gets use to chewing and digesting the food. Also, some research has suggested BLW can result in less fussy eaters and less likely to be obese in later life.

Mix Method:
Some parents do a combination of pureed and solid food from 6 months. This method can help introduce iron rich food earlier than if they were exclusively being BLW. It also encourages your baby to self-feed and using a spoon earlier than if they were being fed by a parent exclusively. It can also encourage baby to try different textures and tastes.
Whichever method you choose, there is lots of helpful advice and recipes available both from your health visitor, in books and online. Some areas also have sessions at your local Children’s Centre or Mother and Baby group which can offer advice on the best way for you and your family. Enjoy this process of helping your little one explore new tastes and textures. Good eating habits can take time and being relaxed and enjoying meal times will be easier for all, so have some fun!

How did you wean your little one? We’d love to hear your stories – just post your comments on our blog here or our Facebook Page.
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Note: whilst we welcome feedback on this blog, we will not tolerate any abuse or misuse. Please respect the views and feelings of others. The content and advice offered is based on general recommendations and health-care professional suggestions and is designed to be used as a guide and discussion piece. It is not a substitute for examination, diagnosis or treatment by a qualified health-care / medical professional. If in doubt, always consult your doctor or health-care professional.

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