Baby-led weaning tips to get you started

How crazy is parenthood? One moment you’re dealing with sleepless nights and poopy diapers, and the next, you’re dealing with sleepless nights and poopy diapers – but your baby is on the cusp of weaning onto solid foods. 

Whether you have spent the past few months breastfeeding or bottle feeding, weaning onto solids is an entirely different experience. Parenting is tough and with the level of conflicting advice out there with every single issue, it’s hard to know what the right thing to do is when it comes to weaning onto solids.

Firstly, the best thing that you can do is research, research, research. You need for your baby to be as healthy as possible, and while you have a gaggle of grandparents ready to dish out advice, it’s always best to politely thank them and then look at the current guidelines. There are a couple of ways to wean your baby onto solids, and the first is traditional weaning – or spoon feeding and purees. You’ll find more on the best baby food maker here, where you can puree the food you want to feed your child and spoon it to them at each meal. The other option is baby-led weaning, where you wait for your baby to pick up their food and feed themselves. Regardless of the way that you choose to wean your child from purely milk to solid foods, you need to follow the tips below so that you can bet you’re getting it right.

  • The Right Age. Remember we talked about politely declining grandparents advice? Usually, this is due to age. You should wait until six months to wean to solid food for a good reason. The gut is not mature enough to tolerate solid food until around 26 weeks of age, and any introduction of solid food (including rice, puree, rusks and food) is going to cause potential damage to the gut before that age. Baby food is marketed from 4 months onwards, but without the go ahead from a pediatric dietician, you could cause your child issues that don’t present themselves until later life. Stomach aches, gut issues, reflux, IBS – it’s all linked in to early weaning, and it’s not damage you can see or fix and you won’t know you’re doing it. Early weaning on the advice of a pediatric dietician is the smart way to go as they will weigh the risks properly. As you can’t see your child’s stomach to know that it’s mature enough, it’s better to err on the side of caution and wait until 26 weeks.
  • Comfort. Your baby should be comfortable, which means choosing and buying the right highchair. Babies should be sitting independently before they wean onto solids, as it shows that they’re steady and less likely to choke. Choose a highchair that is solid and easy to clean – those sauces you make are going to be a tough one to get off and you want it to be as easy as possible.
  • Be Prepared For Mess! Baby led weaning is exciting compared to traditional weaning as you get to watch your baby explore their food. It’s also far messier and you have to prepare yourself and your environment for it. Babies don’t just feed themselves, they swipe food onto the floor and make as much mess as possible. One of the best hacks you could have is to put a couple of shower curtains on the floor around the highchair and underneath it to catch the mess. Keep a carry box of clothes and bleach to hand, too, as these will come in handy for those pasta sauce messes and soup flinging you’re about to enjoy!

Go Slowly. The next thing to remember is that food before one is just for fun. The first six months of weaning aged 6-12 months are all about exploration. Babies touch, throw, squash, mash and taste their food and it’s all in the name of discovery. It’s going to get messy and it’s going to be much less stressful on you if you take your time and go through one type of food at a time. First foods like boiled carrots and parsnips can be cut into finger shapes and shared with your baby. This makes it easy for them to grab and feed themselves.

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  • Control. When you start with baby-led weaning, your baby is in control of feeding themselves. The choice of the food on their plate is your choice, but they can pick up the pieces that appeal to them the most, and so all you have to do is offer the food and let them go from there. Sit beside them and watch so that they don’t choke, and if they gag, wait a moment to intervene. Gagging is perfectly normal for a newly weaning baby, and a pediatric first aid course can teach you that. Slice all grapes and similar-shaped foods in half and half again – choking is not where you want to go and grapes are the perfect size for getting stuck in a child’s throat.
  • Mealtimes. Babies eat when they’re hungry and stop when they’re full, so if they don’t finish everything you give them, don’t panic, it’s normal. Encouraging eating together as a family is a great idea, as they can interact and learn about eating as a group. Never add extra salt to your baby’s portion, so cook food without it and when you serve up, let the other grown ups sort out the salt themselves.
  • Milk First, Always. When you are weaning to solids, it’s tempting to take away bottles or breastfeeding from the baby. Don’t do this. Children need milk as their first source of nutrition for their first 12 months. They will naturally drop feeds themselves as they go, and you can ensure that they are calm and comfortable with solids if they know that they have the comfort of milk feeds, too.

Image source: Pexels
Main image source: Pexels

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