Expert weaning advice to help your baby love their broccoli as much as their cake.
By Charlotte Stirling-Reed
Ready to introduce your baby to solid foods and don’t know where to start? Weaning usually starts when your baby is around six months old, but every little one is different! Perfect timing, portion size, and what to feed them can be overwhelming at first, but with a few simple tips your baby will soon be eating their five-a-day like a champ.
To help you and baby get started, Registered Nutritionist Charlotte Stirling-Reed from The Baby & Child Nutritionist and author of How to Wean Your Baby offers her expert tips on making the transition from milk to solids as smoothly (and healthily) as possible:
How to start weaning your baby
I love the topic of weaning. It’s something that I talk about and answer questions on every single day. However, I’m totally aware that for many it can be a really overwhelming experience. It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve done it before, starting your baby on solid foods might still make you anxious.
However, as a Nutritionist who specialises in this field, my main aim is to help make parents feel confident about how to wean their baby, and to help make the journey onto solids fun for babies and their parents. To get started, try my top tips to successful weaning:
- Do some research
It is worth doing a little reading around the topic of weaning first. You don’t need to buy every book out there, or scour the internet for every mummy blog, but just being confident about a few things can really help you, so before you get started think about the following:
- WHENyou want to start
- HOWyou want approach weaning
- WHATfoods you want to offer first
- WHATequipment you might need to begin!
- Don’t sweat it
There really is no right or wrong when it comes to weaning (aside from a few foods to avoid when you start), so try and go at it in your own way and at your baby’s own pace. In my book How to Wean Your Baby, I talk about a VEG-led method of starting solid foods and give a 30 day step-by-step guide for any parent wanting to know the finer details, but you don’t have to follow a plan or approach an you can start any way you want!
- Don’t compare
Honestly every baby is so different and I speak to so many parents who are worried that they are doing it wrong or see other babies gobbling up foods when their little one refuses the lot. It’s all very normal at the start of weaning, and each baby has a very different approach. This is fine and the best thing you can do is relax and follow your baby’s lead.
- Share mealtimes
Bring baby to the table with you when you eat and involve them in your meal, rather than the other way around. Baby Led Weaning is hugely popular and is all about trying to offer baby appropriate parts of your own meal to feed themselves and to involve them in family foods from word go. You don’t have to only offer finger foods by any means, but sitting with your baby and role modelling how to eat is one of the best things you can do to encourage your baby to become an adventurous little eater themselves.
- Start with veg
OK, so I know I said to start however you like, and that is key. But my approach to weaning is to start off for the first week or so with vegetables. Research shows that offering veggies early on, in variety and continuing to offer plenty of veg throughout baby’s weaning journey can help them to accept veggies in their diet more readily later on and throughout weaning! It’s worked for many parents I’ve worked with and certainly with my kiddies too.
- Make mealtimes fun
This one is easier said than done, but just remember that baby will pick up from your vibes at mealtimes so if you’re anxious, stressed or distracted, it’s unlikely to go as smoothly as you want it to. Try to sit back and enjoy the new journey that you’re both about to explore together. The more you enjoy it, the more your little one will want to be a part of those mealtimes with you.
- Offer a variety of foods
There are plenty of myths out there about weaning, and there are also different guidelines or suggestions on how to start solids which vary from country to country. However, a lot of research points to the fact that dietary diversity (offering lots of different foods) to baby early on in the weaning journey can be beneficial, including in encouraging an acceptance of a wider variety of foods when children are older. So try not to limit the foods you offer to your baby to just a handful of foods. Instead branch out a little more and try to always think variety! Some people recommend offering baby 100 new foods before the time they get to their first birthday, which can be a fun way to look at the process too.
- Don’t stress about mess
Try not to worry about the mess – feeding baby is a messy time, especially if you let baby lead the journey themselves. Sometimes it’s about embracing that mess and allowing your baby to explore food in a variety of ways – this all helps to build familiarity and it’s familiarity that has been shown in research to lead to acceptance. In time, the mess does get less!
There are so many ways that you can feed your baby, and the process of weaning is full of ups and downs, some days where food is untouched, thrown or point blank refused. That’s all part of the journey so give yourselves a break and sit back and try to enjoy it a little – it’s such a short time in their lives and it can be such fun to experience it together!