Getting a child to swap their beloved milk for solid food can be a tricky task, so here are some top tips on how to achieve the best results!
The process of weaning is the movement of the child from milk to solid food; it is also the perfect opportunity to introduce healthy eating habits. This is normally recommended when the child is 6 months old, but will vary from child to child and according to the parents’ wishes. The child will naturally be more receptive to sweet tasting purées at the beginning, so it’s often best to introduce these first, however, introducing vegetables will help them to accept and enjoy savoury flavours.
Weaning usually takes around a month, however, every child is different and some might take longer than others. The important part is that you don’t rush the child and that you keep communicating with the parents to see how they’re getting on at home. You’ll know if the child is ready if they begin to:
- Sit up and hold their head up
- If they’re showing signs of being hungry, in between bottles
- Bring objects towards their mouth and try to put them in there
- Get more food in than around their mouth when eating
When beginning the baby weaning process make sure you have the following:
- Colourful baby spoons and bowls
- Ice cube trays or small containers
- Bibs and clean cloths
- A food processor
Step 1 – Eating from a spoon
To start with, you’ll want to get the child eating baby rice or cereal (which you can get from any local supermarket); this will get them used to texture and lumps. Give them this for the first two weeks alongside their milk routine.
- Try a familiar, relaxed location and ensure that the child is not too tired or hungry otherwise they will not want to try something new
- Let them play with the spoon and squeeze the food if they want to
- Praise them when they do eat from the spoon
- Keep trying but if they keep refusing, stop for a couple of days, otherwise the child will feel stressed
Step 2 – Breakfast routine
After two weeks, you want to establish a routine with the child, so you can introduce one puréed vegetable or fruit, at a time, with milk for breakfast.
- From 6 months, the baby still needs 500-600ml of milk a day so continue their milk routine otherwise they will not enjoy breakfast
- Avoid gluten or wheat before 6 months
- Let them attempt holding their own spoon
Step 3 – Introducing meat and fish
When the child is happy eating their vegetables you can begin to introduce meat and fish which provides the protein that they need for healthy growth and development.
- Use high iron meats such as beef, chicken and fish – trimming off excess fat
- Remove all bones and cook thoroughly
- No processed meats (burgers, sausages, bacon or ham)
- Avoid stock or gravy
Step 4 – Establishing a routine
The child will now have a sense of what is sweet and what is savoury and you’ll also have a better understanding of their eating habits, including what they like and what they don’t like. You could feed puréed vegetable for lunch and baby rice for dinner. Try to avoid giving too many sweet flavours as this could lead to a sweet tooth.
- Avoid over-feeding, but offer a fruit like a purée for dessert
- Keep up with milk feeds as milk contains lots of nutrients
- The parents might find that the baby is too tired for meals at dinner time, therefore, try feeding them these at lunch time instead
Foods which should be avoided for babies under 12 months old are:
- Uncooked eggs
- Fruit juice or sugary drinks
- Sugary foods
You can find out more information on weaning and nutritional needs from www.eatwell.gov.uk