My little man is 13 months old so I think I can officially say we are over the weaning stage… While he does enjoy throwing food on the floor, I’m really happy with the variety of food that he eats. Thankfully, both of my children have been a dream to wean, this definitely has a lot to do with genetics but I also like to think that the way they have been weaned has played a role too.
Weaning can be an absolute minefield so I’ve put together my top 10 super tips on weaning based on my own experience. Fingers crossed this helps some of you!
1 – Don’t focus on HOW your baby is weaned, focus on WHAT they are being weaned on; the key thing here is not to feel pressured to go with a certain style of weaning. I know baby led and puree babies that are fussy eaters and I know baby led and puree babies that are a dream. Some say the baby must be baby led as it helps develop the pincer grip or the baby must be fed only purees or they’ll choke… honestly it doesn’t matter in these early months, follow your baby and go with your gut.
2 – There is no rush; I would try and wait until 6 months to wean if you can. Babies’ digestive systems are still so underdeveloped, even if they swallow the food well they can have a tough time digesting it through the stomach and the intestine. Milk is their key source of nutrition at this age.
3 – Give whole vegetables as first foods; baby rice is traditionally recommended as a first food but this is in fact difficult to digest, lacks nutrients and can be fairly processed. I gave sweet potato, avocado, broccoli, peas, butternut squash, cauliflower, carrot etc. in the first few weeks of weaning.
4 – Be mindful of digestion; During the first few months of weaning your baby may have stomach pains learning to digest these new foods. If this is keeping them up in the night or causing them lots of upset take a step back, maybe give a bit less or milder vegetables for a few weeks. Processing chunks of food (even if chewed and swallowed well) can be difficult for their underdeveloped guts. You can also mix purees with a little bit of milk at first to make the food more appealing and easier to swallow.
5 – Use good quality oils; I recommend blending purees with a little cold pressed coconut oil, this is full of good fats and helps your littleone digest fat soluble vitamins found in the vegetables and other foods you are pureeing. If roasting finger food, use extra virgin olive oil, this is relatively stable at high temperatures (vs. say sunflower oil) and provides good fats, vitamins and minerals.
6 – Don’t be afraid to offer finger food; When you and the baby are ready offer finger food with each meal, they are much better at chewing and swallowing then you think! They probably won’t eat a lot of it to begin with but practice makes perfect! I found banana, sweet potato chips, homemade jellies (fruit and good quality gelatine), soft broccoli, asparagus and omelette good options.
7 – Don’t be afraid to serve food containing nuts; this tip comes with a big fat warning that if you are unsure of allergies in your child or there is a family history do seek professional advice before offering nuts. Both of my children have shown no sign of allergies to nuts and there is no family history. As a result, I offered almond butters and milks from around 8 months and have been introducing other nut butters and milks, like cashew, from then. There is mixed opinion on when to introduce nuts but some new advice is saying that introducing earlier helps your child avoid developing an allergy.
8 – Avoid refined sugar completely until 12 months; babies have no idea what a ‘treat’ is, if you feed them pure whole foods up to 12 months they will be absolutely none the wiser and, more importantly, they will learn to love the good quality food they are being given. You are doing them a massive favour! After 12 month’s old and throughout childhood I would let them have refined sugar in moderation. Refined sugar is a treat.
9 – Limit processed food; diet is fundamentally the most impactful factor you can control in influencing your baby’s health. Giving your child good quality whole foods and plenty of good quality fluids is ultimately protecting their health. We are responsible for building a healthy ecosystem in their guts, building healthy cells in their bones, muscles and bloodstream and influencing their food preferences for life. Limiting processed food is essential in making this happen.
10 – Enjoy it; if you are relaxed and enjoying meal times your baby is too. Take time over them, eat together if you can and talk about the food you are eating. Meal times should be fun!