Is it just me or does the idea of choosing your baby’s first food feel like a big decision? Despite there being the obvious bad choices. . . like cake or chocolate, there are many good options. The most common foods to start with are baby rice, fruit and vegetables, and it just comes down to personal preference!
When I weaned my oldest son, I started with an oat and rice based baby cereal. He took to this well and weaned without any major problems. However, this time round I’ve decided to try an alternative option and go down the more savoury route, i.e. vegetables.
So, this afternoon was preparation time. . . I peeled some potatoes and carrots, cut them in chunks and steamed them. I then mashed them together with some expressed breastmilk and just like that tonight’s big first ‘meal’ was ready!
I decided to start with mashed foods first instead of the traditional purees as Joshua did so well with a few finger foods last week. If it didn’t go well, I could always try purée tomorrow.
And… It couldn’t have gone better! He did really well and ate 3 or 4 baby spoons over about 15 minutes. Yes, he had the normal spitting it all out moments, but he happily opened his mouth and managed to swallow quite a bit. He loved holding the spoon and putting it in his mouth, and very quickly I was reminded of the mess that weaning brings! It went everywhere, face, top, jeans, highchair and floor!
And with that there’s no turning back… we’re off on our weaning adventure!
Aims for the first few weeks of weaning
- Give your baby the opportunity to taste a few different foods.
- For them to experience new textures in their mouths and learn how to swallow food.
- To start learning how to eat from a spoon or self-feed finger foods.
- Don’t worry about how much they eat, in the beginning it’s more about them learning how to eat.
- Let your baby enjoy exploring foods, even when it’s with their hands!
Remember your baby has never swallowed anything other than liquids before so it’s very normal for them to gag or pull a disgusted face at the beginning. Eating is a new skill they are starting to learn.
How to start weaning
- Offer food once a day for the first week or two, after a milk feed or half way through.
- Start with a baby cereal or a vegetable purée/mash containing one or two vegetables mixed together. When deciding what to start with it’s also reassuring to know that it’s been shown that repeated exposure to a food is more important in setting your child’s taste preferences than what their first bite actually is!
- Add your baby’s normal milk to the food to get a mushy consistency. If you are breastfeeding you can either express milk to add to your baby’s food or you can use full fat cow’s milk. Cow’s milk shouldn’t be given to drink before 12 months but it can be added to foods from 4 months.
- Pureed foods may be more easily accepted but you can also start with mashed foods. That’s what I’ve decided to try and I’m finding it less work than pureeing which I’m enjoying! Though obviously some foods are easier to mash than others so I’ll still be puréeing as we progress.
- Use a soft plastic baby spoon if starting with purée or mash and don’t forget a bib!
- For baby led weaning, start with 1 – 2 big pieces of softly cooked vegetables. For example, potato, sweet potato, carrot or broccoli.
- Wait for your baby to open their mouth before you try to feed them. If they don’t, I’d suggest trying to put a small amount on their lips and see if they’ll lick it off. This sometimes works well to get them more interested!
- Offer 1 – 5 baby spoons and don’t worry if they refuse to try anything or gag on the first taste, this is very normal.
- Offer the same food for 2 – 3 days before moving onto a different one.
- For now continue giving your baby the same amount of milk feeds.
Our babies will progress with weaning as we give them opportunities to, but it’s also important to remember that some get the hang of it faster than others. If your baby hasn’t taken to his or her first foods well, this is quite common. Don’t worry and I’d encourage you to keep offering meals in a non-pressured environment.
And remember. . . babies learn through play so forget the saying ‘don’t play with your food’ and let them have fun. It’s one of the most important keys to them developing positive eating behaviours!