Weaning is one of those words that you know is something you have to do, but can be daunting and confusing. What is it exactly? When do you do it? How do you do it?
Weaning is the process of moving your baby from a milk only diet to a combination of milk and solid foods. It is an important process that gives baby the nutrition they need for their development.
The department of Health advises parents to start weaning at 6 months and no sooner than 17 weeks.
On how to do it, well I’ll share with you some of my own advice and some I have been given.
I’m a Mum to four, and I still find I’m apprehensive when it comes to dealing with weaning. It’s a big step and of course you worry about doing things right, and will baby cope ok.
In the time since I had my three older children, the rules have changed somewhat. When my eldest was born, 17 years ago he was on the dinky side at 5lbs. He was slow at putting weight on and I was advised by health visitors to start him on solids early. He was 3 months old. He took to them well, and was soon putting weight on. He certainly made up for lost time. Weaning at this time was advised at four months.
With the girls, again, four months was the recommended time. But they both were late starters. I found they weren’t interested in food, and it seemed unfair to force it on them. So they were both around the six month stage when they started. Which was considered late at the time.
However, now recommended guidelines say that six months is the ideal time to consider weaning as the baby’s digestive system is more mature and can cope better with the change from milk to solids.
You always get written information from your health visitor and it is a good idea to read this. It’s easy to dismiss all the leaflets we get, because I know sometimes we as parents feel we don’t have the time. But this information is important and can really help. Like I said, I have been there and done it all before, three times over, but I still appreciated the advice.
Also, always remember that your health visitor is there to help should you be worried or need some further help. Find your nearest clinic or give them a call.
Today there are recommendations on how to start weaning. Firstly look for signs that baby is ready. This usually is indicated with baby taking notice of you eating, sometimes baby starts waking more in the night, feeding longer or not being satisfied after a usual bottle feed. Another common sign is baby putting things to their mouths, including their own hands and toys.
So, you feel baby is ready, they have shown signs, they are the right age, you’ve read about how to start, what next?
You’re going to need a little equipment. Some weaning spoons, small bowls and bibs. A mini blender is useful, as is a steamer. Having small containers helps if you’re going to make your own and freeze it.
I bought this Tommee Tippee mini blender from a local supermarket. There are other mini blenders on the market, which can be found online or in stores.
Baby bowls and spoons are available in any baby section, from Boots, Mothercare, supermarkets and more. I found these bibs in Tesco, which were good value. 5 bibs for £4.
Cow and Gate were kind enough to send me their 5 Step weaning plan which is a handy book with useful information and tips throughout. It takes you through step by step stages, that progress as baby develops tastes. There are 5 sections with do’s and don’ts. A chart with foods to try, so you can tick them off and leave a comment. Some easy recipes for preparing your own baby foods, and some useful vouchers for Cow and Gate baby food products.
I found it really friendly, and easy to dip into if I wanted some help or ideas. You don’t have to follow it exactly, you can take or leave what you want from the book. At the end are weaning FAQs, which I found helpful. For example information on what to avoid. I didn’t know babies shouldn’t have honey until after 12 months.
The only thing that this 5 Step plan doesn’t help with is baby led weaning. Baby led weaning is letting your baby chose to feed, by putting food in front of them and letting them pick it up. Usually this involves cutting the food into tiny pieces and giving baby soft finger foods.
This needs patience and in my opinion confidence. The background to this method is that it encourages babies to feed themselves at their own pace. There is some belief that spoon-feeding babies can lead to overfeeding.
I chose not to do baby led feeding and have followed a similar path to The Cow and Gate 5 step plan.
The Cow and Gate 5 step plan book is colourful, easy to read, easy to follow, full of useful information and has some fabulous photos in it. The money off vouchers were useful, and there is a helpline you can call for help. It’s 24/7 and is an 0800 number.
For more information you can visit the Cow and Gate website
The first step with weaning is very smooth, slightly sweeter foods. I sat Jasper in his baby chair rather than his high chair. Or I would have him on my knee or my husband’s knee. I started with home-made pureed fruit, and used small jars like pure apple. He took to these quickly and fed from the spoon well. I would give him this in the afternoon when he was relaxed and happy.
It didn’t take long before we could introduce cereal in the morning and go on to step 2. I found dried cereal like Cow and Gate Banana and strawberry porridge great to use. Really simple and yet Jasper loved it and was full of nutrition. You simply mix with milk, so I use whole cow milk.
Here is Jasper’s first breakfast. When we first started with food he would reach out for the spoon and want to hold it. He soon got the hang of opening his mouth, but it does take a little patience.
With the introduction of two meals I found we could then reduce his milk feeds slightly. We did however introduce baby suitable yoghurt, from Rachel’s brand for a different milk source. He would have one of these in the afternoon with his fruit.
Cow and Gate fruit pots are really useful to have in. Jasper loves these. They can be kept out of the fridge and used at any time.
Step 3 is about introducing variety. Jasper enjoyed this. Although his broccoli face was most amusing. It is recommended that even though a baby may refuse some foods, it is advised that you try again with the same food on a different day. I have found this with Jasper.
I bought all kinds of fruits for Jasper to try, he seemed to enjoy them all.
Here I used the mini blended to make a fig, strawberry and pear mix.
Step 4 is about introducing protein rich foods. I don’t eat meat, but I don’t want to restrict my child’s diet. So I am quite happy for him to eat all kinds of meat and fish. A vegetarian diet is suitable for a baby, but you have to have it very carefully balanced. Cow and Gate careline would help with that.
I found it easier to use jars of food for this stage. That way I could spoon a smaller amount out and it was all ready to go. Jasper munched his way through Beef and sweet potato, chicken Sunday dinner and fishermans’ bake. All of which you will find vouchers for in the plan book.
Step 5. Establishing three set meals a day. We’re just getting to this stage now with Jasper and he is 8 months old. Now he is happy to have breakfast, lunch and dinner. He enjoys a wide variety, and I use some ready prepared food and some homemade. He’s now also progressed from smooth foods to small lumps. Cow and Gate offer food for 7 months, which has small lumps in. Jasper took to these quickly. For a step up again, Cow and Gate offer jars for 10 months plus. Bigger amounts and more “grown up”. Jasper is yet to try these as he’s only 8 months now.
We’ve cut back on some milk feeds. I was breast feeding him throughout the day, but now it’s only morning and night. He still has a formula bottle in the evening. But other drinks are now water, from a cup. He can have tap or bottled water. It doesn’t need to be boiled and cooled.
As Jasper has got used to textures, I tend to process his fruit less now.
Here is Mango and blueberry.
It’s also a good idea to add whole fruits like apples and pears. I take a slice from the side and he sucks on the fruit. It’s like a toy with taste. Pears are a particular favourite of Jasper‘s. We peel the skin off and he demolishes the fruit by sucking and rubbing on his gums. (Never leave a baby alone with large fruit).
Don’t feel daunted by the word weaning. It’s fun really. For you and baby. Be prepared for all kinds of fun, with mess and with smiles and a happy baby. It’s a big step, but doesn’t have to be hard.
You can get the Cow and Gate weaning plan free from here.
Fuss Free Living rating Cow and Gate 5 step feeding plan
10/10 Easy to follow, easy to read. Fun to go through and helpful. If you feel unsure of how to start weaning and progress, then this guide is an ideal way to try.