What does weaned mean?
Weaning can mean different things to different people. There are no hard and fast rules. There’s a bit of trial and error and a lot of mother’s instinct. So if you are a breastfeeding mumma or a bottle feeding mumma or a combination of both, there’s a time when you need to start thinking about how and when to introduce solids. The goal of introducing solids is to gradually replace the milk only diet. A milk only diet can’t sustain the energy and growth of a baby on its own from about 6 months of age.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) makes recommendations on when to start weaning and that is currently 6 months. Some health bodies believe it should be 4 months. Regardless of this 2 month difference, you should take into consideration the needs of yourself and your baby. Perhaps you have a bub that won’t accept a bottle after being breastfed but isn’t getting enough breast milk; perhaps your baby is holding their head and upper body up confidently at 5 months and looks intently at the food on your plate – these may be cues to try solids.
What are the signs of weaning readiness?
Your maternal health nurse will guide you and give you tips at your appointments, however here are some signals (a combination of) to look out for:
- Baby is sitting up and holding their neck and head confidently
- Baby has great hand to mouth co-ordination and can pick up objects and put them in their mouth
- Baby is interested in the food on your plate – grasping or motioning to try some
- Bub will not accept a bottle of milk
- If the bub is not ready, they will push their food back out with their tongue
How do you wean a baby?
There are 2 methods you can try. There’s no real scientific evidence which says one way is better than the other. You’ll probably be using a combination of both anyway. Or your baby may favour one or the other. With baby led weaning, bub manages the chewing process right from the start and learns to use a spoon for eating later; and spoon fed weaning teaches how to eat pureed food with a spoon first and chew second. Depending on how bub takes to this new skill you will eventually find the need to drop a milk feed or reduce the amount of milk bub is having.
- Baby Led Weaning: Starting with finger foods. Soft fruit & cooked vegetable chip size pieces. This is when baby decides what to pick up and munch on and is usually what the rest of the family is eating. Just put a few things in reach.
- Spoon Fed Weaning: Feeding your baby purées before moving onto lumpier mashes before solids. Foods are usually prepared ahead of time – fruit or vegetable purees, iron fortified baby rice/cereal – and fed to baby.
Some of the benefits of spoon feeding:
- less mess – got to appreciate this one !
- less chance of choking on lumps
- you’ll know exactly how much they are eating (rather than playing!)
Weaning recipe ideas
Baby Led Weaning
- Steamed soft carrot, sweet potato or parsnip sticks
- Steamed broccoli florets or cauliflower florets
- Toast fingers
- Cooked pasta
- Slice of omelette
Spoon Fed Weaning
- One of the best baby friendly combinations has to be a puree of ripe banana and ripe avocado. Nutrient rich, creamy and flavourful.
- 3 Bean Mix and Sweet Potato puree. A rich source of protein, iron and fibre with the sweet taste of the sweet potato.
- Carrot and parsnip puree. A tasty vegie mix with a good source of beta-carotene (which is converted to the essential vitamin A by the body) – needed for healthy skin, immune system and eye health. In season, parsnips have a delicious natural sweetness, so bubs will find this very tasty! (All year except summer).
- Pear and apple puree. This delicious mixture of fruits will provide your baby with plenty of vitamin C. Pear is also good for the back end… To successfully stew fruit, place the pear and apple in a small saucepan with 2 tablespoons of water and cook over a low heat, stirring occasionally, until the fruit is tender then puree. Be sure to keep an eye on it to avoid burning the pot rendering it useless… just sayin…
The possibilities are endless. Avoid products that have added salt and sugar. Avoid hard foods or those just the right size to cause bub to choke. Introduce high allergy foods such as peanut butter, dairy and egg one at a time to check for reactions. And if you are lucky enough to have landed in an awesome Mother’s Group, you’ll be able to draw on other experiences and ideas. But most of all remember to enjoy this huge milestone in your baby’s life. As always, if you have any concerns about how bubs is feeding, seek advice from your maternal health nurse or GP. This information is meant as a guide only.
Let us know if you have any handy tips below. Good luck!