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Weaning advice

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Top tips on weaning your baby

Once she reaches six months your baby will need some ‘solid’ food in her diet to give her the additional nutrients she needs in order to thrive. Here we explain how to introduce first foods.

Remember, up until now your baby has only ever had milk, so the taste and texture of any food you give her will be a totally new experience for her. She may not like it at first and spit it straight back at you, or she may love it and immediately demand more – both reactions are quite normal.

Start slowly

Weaning should be done gradually, starting with a teaspoon or two, once a day. These first solids are not a main source of nourishment and your baby should continue with her normal milk feeds.

She will cope better if the food is smooth, so give her puréed or mashed, cooked fruit and vegetables, or baby rice mixed with breast or formula milk. Offer the food half way through a milk feed so that she isn’t too hungry or too full to want to try it.

At first, you should offer no more than one or two new tastes every few days. Once your baby is happy with these, you can introduce new foods and eventually start mixing different foods together.

Don’t try to force your baby to eat something that she obviously dislikes, wait for a week or two and then try the food again.

Foods to include

The first foods you give your baby should be bland and smooth. Baby rice is a good first food, or you could try root vegetables like potato or carrot, and fruit such as banana and cooked apple or pear.

Once weaning is established, your baby should be having foods such as the ones listed below, from the following groups each day.

  • Starchy foods. Bread, cereals, rice, and potatoes
  • Dairy products. Cheese, yoghurt and full-fat fromage frais. Cows’ milk shouldn’t be given as a drink until after one year, but can be used in small quantities in sauces, custard or in cooking
  • Meat and fish. Lean meat, poultry and white fish – or vegetarian alternatives such as beans, pulses and grains. Shellfish isn’t suitable for babies
  • Vegetables. Root vegetables, beans and cauliflower
  • Fruit. Apples, plums, apricots, pears, and bananas. Citrus and berry fruits like strawberries should be introduced with caution.
  • Eggs. These can be given from six months, but they should always be thoroughly cooked. Under-cooked eggs may contain salmonella which can cause food poisoning.

Foods to avoid

  • Salt. Don’t add salt to your baby’s food – it can overload her immature kidneys – and avoid processed foods that haven’t been made specifically for babies
  • Sugar. Too much sugar can encourage a ‘sweet tooth’ and lead to tooth decay, so don’t add sugar to your baby’s food, and avoid high-sugar foods
  • Honey. Occasionally, honey contains a type of bacteria that can cause infant botulism, so it shouldn’t be offered before one year
  • Tea, coffee and soft drinks. These are not suitable for babies
  • Nuts. Current advice from UK’s Department of Health states that foods containing nuts can be introduced once your baby is six months old. But you should keep a careful check for any reaction to the food. Whole nuts should not be given under five years because of the risk of choking.

Allergies

Food allergies are rare. However, if there is a family history of food allergy, eczema, asthma or hayfever, or your baby has eczema, your baby is at higher risk of food allergies.

The most common food allergies in babies are to cow's milk, eggs and peanuts. If your baby is at higher risk of food allergy ask for advice from your doctor before you start weaning.

Equipment

First foods need to be puréed – this can be done using a blender or liquidiser, although a sieve and spoon will achieve similar results.

Once your baby has learnt to chew, he will be able to cope with lumpier foods, which can be mashed with a fork. Your baby should have his own feeding utensils and these should be sterilised until he is at least six months old.

After that, although they no longer need sterilising they will still need to be kept scrupulously clean. You’ll need a plastic bowl and teaspoon (a metal spoon could get too hot), a feeding cup and a supply of bibs and kitchen roll.

Helpful weaning tips

  • If a particular food is rejected, try something different and then reintroduce it again later
  • Gradually build up to lumpy textures
  • Offer lots of different food to get your baby used to different tastes and textures.
  • If you use jars, tins or packs of baby food, make sure that they are appropriate for your baby’s age
  • Never feed your baby straight from a baby food container. The digestive substances in saliva can find their way into the container and make any remaining food unsuitable for another meal. Always decant the food into your baby’s bowl

Family meals

Once weaning has been established, your baby will enjoy sitting with you and joining in family mealtimes.

If you are giving your baby food that you’ve cooked for the rest of the family, make sure you remove her portion before adding any seasoning.

You may prefer to make your baby’s food separately, in batches. This means that you can freeze the food in ice-cube trays, then the frozen cubes can be stored in freezer bags, ready to be defrosted when you need them.

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