Getting started…how do I to start weaning?
With thanks to Sarah Almond-Bushell, MPhil, BSc (Hons) RD, MBDA, Registered Dietitian & Children’s Nutritionist
I wanted to write this blog as it’s all very well knowing you are ready to start weaning and having the right bowl, spoons, highchair and bibs but when it comes to giving that first meal often mums are hesitant.
You might be a bit nervous, you might also be excited and your mind might be racing with things like what food should I start with, what time of day should I choose, where should I sit, or should I stand and what will I do if my baby doesn’t like it. This is all completely normal. Here’s what you need to know to start weaning your baby:
What food should I start with?
Babies who are introduced to vegetables first are more likely to be eating vegetables when they grow into older children. Giving a different single vegetable at each meal for the first week or two and repeating them often afterwards helps your baby gets used to the taste.
The research suggests it’s best to start with bitter vegetables first. This is because the sweeter ones like butternut squash, carrot or sweet potato will be more readily accepted as babies sweet taste buds are mature.
Bitter veggies include:
- Green beans
Some bitter vegetables can be ‘windy’ like broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage and some babies get tummy aches or constipation at the start of weaning while their digestive systems get used to more than milk.
You may want to avoid the windy ones for the first few days and go for something a little gentler.
After you have had a week or two of vegetables and your baby is used to the idea of eating, it’s really important to introduce the iron rich foods as iron is the number one nutritional deficiency that we see in babies. Iron is so important we call it a ‘Critical Nutrient.’ Iron rich foods are: red meat, dark poultry meat, beans, lentils and other pulses, whole grains, eggs and fortified cereals like Ready Brek.
What time of day should it be?
Think about your baby’s routine. It usually goes something like: sleep – eat – play. You want to be introducing solids during the ‘play’ phase so that she’s alert and not hungry nor full from a recent milk feed.
I also suggest choosing a time in the morning when you have the whole day ahead of you to observe how she reacts. It doesn’t need to be a meal time – think of it as more of an activity rather than a meal in the first few weeks.
It’s also important to choose a time that’s good for you. Pick a time when you are relaxed, not distracted or in a rush as your baby’s first experiences with food warrants 100% of your attention.
Where should I sit?
At the start of weaning, pull up a chair and sit directly in front of your baby’s highchair. Try and be at eye level with them, so you may need to adjust the height of your baby’s high chair or your seat. This is important, so that your baby can see your happy smiley face (even if you are feeling extremely anxious inside). Because eating is a new experience for them, your role is to show your baby that this is fun, to reassure them if they seem unsure. Make a real effort to use a happy sing song voice all the way through the meal.
And I can’t end this blog without talking about how your baby should sit, because positioning is critical to successful weaning. Their highchair needs to provide the stability they need so they can focus 100% of their attention on the job in hand – eating – and not need to concentrate on keeping themselves stable.
Support under their feet is really important too and is missing from a lot of highchairs, but all is not lost. You can stack up a pile of books or boxes under the highchair so your baby has something to press their feet against. Don’t leave little legs dangling.
Check that their waist, knees and ankles are at 90-degree angles and if there is too much wiggle room around their waist and they’re leaning to one side, roll up a towel and pop it down the side of the high chair for support.
And finally avoid floor seats or baby pods as they cause your baby to be in a hunched forward position which squashes your baby’s tummy causing a slouch which is really uncomfortable and unsafe for eating.
Sarah is a NHS Registered Dietitian & Children’s Nutritionist with over 20 years of experience. She advises on weaning babies, managing toddler fussy eating and help parents improve their children’s diets whether they have food allergies, constipation, weight issues, or just want to be healthier. She often writes for Mother & Baby or The Guardian or Made for Mums, and is an expert consultant for many baby feeding brands and nurseries.
You can sign up for a free Weaning Week workshop with Sarah on Wednesday 6th May here
Disclaimer: The views and advice given in this article are those of the guest writer and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Weaning Week or any other organisations represented on this platform