Why is weaning important?
During the first year, your baby grows more quickly than any other period of their life, making it important for you to offer your baby different foods varying in tastes and textures to get the energy and important nutrients required to help them grow.
At around six months old, your baby starts to need more than just milk to satisfy their growing appetite, so this is the time to begin weaning. The first stage of weaning lays the foundations for happy, healthy eating habits and teaches your baby how to eat from a spoon, swallow and eventually chew. Weaning is important so your baby can get all the right nutrients from the food they eat.
The different textures offered enable biting and chewing to help develop the muscles needed for speech development. Weaning isn’t just about filling their tummies up; it helps to lay the foundations for healthy balanced eating for the years ahead.
Introducing variety to your weaning adventure
A baby’s tummy is small, making it vitally important that every spoonful your baby eats is packed full of the right nutrients and goodness. This is the main reason that babies eat little and often throughout the day. Throughout the first year, it can be a great idea to vary the types of food you are giving to your little one.
The team at “for aisha” understands the importance of taste and adventure during weaning and mealtimes.
“We know it’s important to ensure that your little one has a varied diet that will help obtain all of the essential vitamins and nutrients that they need for growth and development. Our “for aisha” recipes introduce variety, taste, texture and smell. This will help your baby to learn, accept and enjoy new tastes and textures as they grow… So they’ll be less likely to be fussy eaters!”
A wide variety of foods and tastes should be introduced at this stage to ensure that your child has a varied diet that will help obtain all the vitamins and minerals they need for growth and development. This will help your baby to learn, accept and enjoy these new exciting smells and flavours if they are given the opportunity to try them.
When to begin your weaning journey
Current NHS guidelines recommend that you start weaning your baby at around six months; this is because a babies’ digestive systems are not developed enough to cope with solid food until around this time.
However, all babies are different so here are some signs that your little one is ready to start weaning.
Can your baby:
• Sit up: Your baby should be able to sit unaided and hold their head steady
• Feed themselves: Can they look at food, pick it up and put it in their mouths all by themselves?
• Swallow food: Babies not ready for weaning will push their food back out of their mouths
If you think your baby might be ready for weaning before six months, or if you have any concerns, please speak with your health visitor/doctor for advice.
How long does the weaning journey take?
Don’t worry about what other people are doing; all babies are different so it’s important to let your little one set the pace
Our top tips
Our number one tip is to have fun at this exciting time in your baby’s development
• Let your baby play with their food. Expect and plan for mess (especially as they start to explore the food in their bowl) Messy is good! It helps your baby learn and explore the new textures
• Always smile- this will show you are enthusiastic and your baby will be excited and will want to try the food you are giving them
Here are a few more tips to help you on your journey:
• Start with small spoonfuls and work your way up. To begin with, how much your baby takes is less important than getting them used to the idea of eating. Gradually you’ll be able to increase the amount and variety of food your baby eats until they can eventually eat the same as the rest of the family, in smaller portions
• Try to offer variety – even if they refuse a new food the first time. It can take a number of tries before they get used to a new taste and texture
• Don’t worry if the food comes back out after the initial spoonful, it’s a new experience for your baby, as he or she has been used to push their tongue forward to suck milk
• Don’t panic if they don’t eat much to start with, they’ll still be getting most of their nutrients from their milk feed. Remember to keep feeding your baby breast milk or infant formula as well but don’t give them whole cows’ milk as a drink until they are a year old
• Never leave your baby unattended when feeding because of the risk of choking
Finally, try not to feel disheartened when food goes flying and certain things are refused. After all, weaning takes time, and there’s a whole host of delicious foods for your little one to explore
Is it ok to use commercial baby food in the weaning journey?
Yes. Commercial baby food can be included into your baby’s weaning diet and as a parent, you may find them convenient and an excellent way of introducing different tastes and textures. Try and avoid relying too much on sweet baby foods, as this can lead to a poor diet. There are great savoury weaning baby foods available which you can introduce into your baby’s diet
Written by Mark Slater, Founder of for aisha baby food