After the first few months of broken sleep, endless feeding, changing and settling baby before you have to get up almost immediately again to soothe her, the ‘baby fog’ slowly begins to lift.
You’ve gotten into a routine; you and your partner share the baby duties. At last, you’re getting out to meet friends for a coffee. Then Granny mentions the W word. She thinks the baby is big enough and interested in what the grown-ups eat at dinner time. Baby isn’t getting enough from the milk feeds, says granny. The mummy alarm goes off in your head.
Weaning, you hadn’t thought much about it since the last visit to the public health nurse when she gave you a bunch of pamphlets. It’s time to dig them out and take a closer look at introducing solid food to your little one.
Here are some tips from ClapHandies mums, leaders and Siobhan Berry of Mummy Cooks, along with links to the latest health guidelines.
When do I start weaning?
At 26 weeks your baby will begin to need more iron and nutrients than breast milk or formula milk alone can provide.
Don’t panic when you’re baby is approaching the 26-week stage, there are lots of resources to help: chef Neven Maguire’s Complete Baby & Toddler cookbook and Annabel Karmel’s books and website are good places to start.
For the first few weeks baby won’t be eating huge amounts, as you start with a teaspoon of purée, gradually building up to six at one meal time. You then progress to two to three meal times a day.
2. What is baby-led weaning?
This is letting your baby feed themselves from the start using finger foods rather than spoon feeds. This often happens naturally on the second baby when you’re under a bit more time-pressure if you’re trying to persuade a toddler to eat his veggies!
Siobhan, of Mummy Cooks, advises letting your baby try to feed herself with a spoon or her hands. Place a small bowl of food in front of baby; she will feel she has control and will enjoy the experience more.
The downside is that this kind of weaning can be even messier than spoon-feeding your baby! Plus a lot of food ends up on the floor. But it’s just a stage and baby will get better at feeding herself.
For more tips, check out the book, Baby-Led Weaning, by Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett. They have also written a cookbook with recipes for baby and the rest of the family which makes mealtimes a little easier.
3. What are good foods to start with?
Siobhan, of Mummy Cooks, says it’s best to start with smooth purées of apple, pear, carrot, sweet potato, potato or butternut squash. You can try mixing them with a little breast or formula milk so it’ll taste a bit more familiar to baby.
4. How do I begin?
The best time to start is usually mid-morning or lunchtime when baby (and maybe you) will be less fussy. Don’t worry if it doesn’t go to plan and baby isn’t interested or is a bit taken aback by solids. You can try again the following day with another purée. Be prepared for the mess, it’ll look like you’ve had a food fight but purees wipe off easily. And your washing machine will definitely be busier as baby’s food adventures continue.
5. How much milk should my baby have?
Nope, you can’t throw out the baby bottles or breast pump just yet! Your baby should continue to have breast or formula milk throughout the first year. Up to the age of one year, your baby needs a minimum of 600ml of breast or formula milk a day.
6. When do I introduce meat to my baby’s diet?
This can sometimes be a bit scary, even if a great big steak is your favourite dish. But in small steps, introduce well-cooked meat, fish and poultry in purée form at six months. Meat and poultry, like chicken and turkey, are good sources of iron.
7. What about gluten?
Nowadays we hear a lot about food allergies and intolerances, so it’s always good to keep an eye on your baby’s reaction to a new food and gluten, a protein in cereals, is the same.
You can introduce gluten from 26 weeks of age. Begin with very small amounts of gluten-containing foods, such as cereals, and gradually increase them.
8. ClapHandies’ little helpers!
There are lots of products that can help you through this stage. At ClapHandies we really like the BabyPotz range. These food storage sets are great for freezing food portions or carrying snacks for you and baby while you’re out and about.
Many ClapHandies mums have raved about the baby cooker products like the BÉABA cooker that steams and pureés (very handy and saves on the washing-up). Other mums have recommended moving your baby onto your “grown-up” food sooner rather than later – if they’re having a roast chicken they’ll simply puree the chicken with some milk (formula).
As well as his cookbook, Neven Maguire is an ambassador for First 1000 Days, an initiative by Danone Early Life Nutrition. The website has baby food recipes from Neven, as well as tips on weaning.
Finally, though Granny may have nudged you, well OK, forced you into the kitchen to start all this weaning business, her advice can be worth listening to. But remember many of today’s recommendations are very different, so politely explain you won’t be rubbing brandy on your six-month-old’s gums to settle them!
So, as your baby food production line swings into action, remember what Granny says: “It’s not that difficult, sure, we all got through it. Look how you turned out!”
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