The Great Adventure of First Foods
We have met with Jenny Alexander who is the Infant feeding coordinator for Haringey and asked her some tips to get you started with this very exciting but somewhat daunting new stage of your baby’s development: THE WEANING.
Here is some useful advice.
HOW DO I KNOW THAT MY BABY IS READY? You should wait until all of these 3 conditions are met before you start:
1. your baby is sitting straight and holds his head steady
2. they have a good eyes – hand – mouth coordination to help them feed themselves
3. they can swallow food
The current government advice is to start weaning your baby around 6 months so that your baby’s digestive system can cope better with solid foods. It also saves time and cuts out having to puree food. Breastfeeding your baby up to 6 months gives babies extra protection against infections.
WHAT TO OFFER FIRST? Try to introduce a great variety of healthy food from the start to help good habits. At around 6 months baby’s first foods should be mashed or soft cooked sticks of fruit and vegetables: apples, pears, carrots, sweet potatoes, parsnips, yam… make sure they have cooled down. Also try soft fruit like bananas, soft pears, melon, peach, avocado. Baby rice and baby cereal mixed with baby’s usual milk or cow’s milk (you can introduce cow’s milk from 6 month when it is mixed with food but not as a drink).
Do not wait too long before introducing the next foods like pasta, noodles, rice, lentils, couscous, bread, pieces of chapati, mashed or boiled eggs, cooked meat (chicken), mashed fish (carefully check for bones). Also full fat dairy products such as yogurt, fromage frais and hard cheese.
A vitamin (A, C & D) complement is also recommended from 6 month to 5 year old. Ask your Health visitor for advice.
HOW MUCH SHOULD I FEED MY BABY? At the beginning the main nutrition is still provided by the mother’s milk (or formula) therefore quantities are less important than getting your baby used to a variety of food. Start by offering just a few pieces or teaspoons of food a day. From 8 to12 months slowly move towards 3 meals a day (alongside mum’s milk or formula).
From 12 months your baby will be eating 3 meals a day, healthy snacks plus milk in smaller quantity (mum’s milk, formula or whole cow’s milk can now be given as a drink). Also offer water in an open cup for each meals (get into a good habit of not offering juices – keep them as a treat).
ALLERGIES? Certain foods are more likely to provoke food allergies. It is important when introducing eggs, cow’s milk, wheat, gluten, nuts peanut products, seeds, fish and shellfish you should INTRODUCE THEM ONE AT THE TIME AND IN SMALL AMOUNTS. If you have a history of family allergies or if your child already has a known allergy, speak to your Heath visitor or GP before introducing solids.
OTHER TIPS TO CONSIDER: Cook from scratch and try to keep jars for emergency situations (you can cook in batches and freeze food for later). Avoid adding any salt, stock cubes or sugar (use herbs to add flavour). Never rush! Take time for mealtimes and let your baby discover food by letting them grab / touch the food.
Never force your baby to eat and follow their cues for when they’ve had enough (i.e pursing their lips, turning their head away or pushing the spoon away).
Try to eat together as often as possible so babies can learn from family meals.
Last but not least be prepared for the mess!!!
Contact your local Health Visiting Team and local Children Centre for advice on weaning (or any other health issues!) they are a great resource!
SOME USEFUL LINKS
- Official weaning advice from the NHS
- Excellent information about good nutrition for the 0-5
- FAQs about baby and toddler food
- Vitamin supplement