Monday, October 3, 2011

Weaning Your Baby - What Foods and Not Foods!

All babies are different, and although it is advocated that we wean onto solid foods at six months, there are times when babies are weaned earlier, for health reasons for example.   There is a big clue baby will give you when she is ready for solids - she will watch what you eat very closely, may smack her lips and even reach for your food!  However, as babies are different personalities we can't predict whether she will enjoy solids immediately she tries them, or whether it will take a little time for her to become used to the idea.  I always felt that if I listened to what my baby was telling me I couldn't go far wrong as far as what she would eat.  Some tiny ones are happy for a long while with purees, some are more adventurous.

The reasons for weaning at six months of age  that at this age her digestive system and immune system have been slowly becoming stronger, and are now able to cope with more than liquids, and also that at six months she has almost depleted her stores of nutrients - especially iron - and needs to replenish these from food.  Obviously, she still needs her milk as well, and this will continue until twelve months old.

If you have to wean before six months it is advisable to have a talk with your doctor or Health Visitor before doing so.  There are quite a number of foods that are not suitable for her before six months, including gluten - this is found in cow's milk, in eggs and in grain.   At six months, because baby's system is ready for solid foods she is not as likely to have a reaction to foods she has eaten.

Depending of course on how well baby takes to solid foods, you can give most foods, and you can introduce new ones fairly quickly.   To begin with you can offer

  • pureed or creamed cooked vegetable - e.g. carrot, squash, parsnip, broccoli, cauliflower, potato, sweet potato
  • baby rice or cereal - mix with baby's usual milk
  • puree fruit - e.g. pear, cooked apple (ripe only), papaya (pawpaw), mango.  Or mashed  fruit such as banana or avocado (ripe only).

Remember, baby's gums are very hard, and they can learn quite quickly to chew food that has soft lumps, even before there are any teeth.  Just make sure that the food is mashed well.  I showed my daughter, and she showed Fifi how to "chew chew chew", moving our mouths in a chewing motion and telling her as well.  We both repeated this every time baby had food, so that she learned quickly to chew automatically. Baby usually becomes used to eating from a spoon quite quickly, and once she does you can add to the variety of foods offered to her.  I found also that adding new foods and varying foods helped her from becoming bored with the same thing over and over.

You can then add the following foods, ensuring that food is cooked well, and all bones are removed.

  • Blended, or pureed meat - e.g. chicken or fish. 
  • Custard, yoghurt (whole milk), fromage frais (no cow's, sheep's or goat's milk until 12 months)
  • Pureed vegetables e.g.  cabbage, peas or spinach.  (a word of warning - spinach can produce gas and discomfort, so not too much)
  • Well mashed or pureed pulses - e.g. split peas, lentils, chick peas

It is best if you can prepare food yourself for baby, but it's fine to use bought baby food for the odd occasion. Actually the jars of baby jelly etc., are quite luscious.  You can check the contents of the bought jar or packet and if the foods are what your little one is happily accepting, there is no reason why she can't be given food from the group labelled seven months onward.  Just  check on the consistency of the jar or can and give a further puree or mash if required.

The time that our babies started on solids is the time we stopped putting salt in with the vegetables as they cooked.  We did extra of the foods she could eat, pureed it and put into ice cube tray, froze, decanted into plastic bags and labelled with the contents and the date.  This was a real time-saver, and at times when we were ill or very tired was also a life-saver.  You can buy small pots or cubes in which to freeze baby's food, and I did get some of these for my daughter.  If memory serves me well these are larger than the standard ice cube trays.

A word of warning here about salt  sugar and honey for babies less than 12 months old.  At this age their kidneys cannot handle salt, and adding salt to meals or giving foods high in salt can damage their kidneys permanently.  With honey, this contains some amazing properties, but occasionally it can also contain a bacteria that is poisonous to baby's intestines.  No honey under twelve months.   Sugar is unneccessary, and is a bad habit to develop at any stage. It is harmful to teeth, can promote weight problems and encourage them to  have a "sweet tooth".

Other foods which are  not suitable are drinks which contain artificial sweeteners, and tea or coffee.  There is tannin in tea, and this can prevent baby from properly absorbing the iron from her food.  Caffeine is not good for baby, in any drink.  I am just thinking how hyper caffeine would make an already overtired, hyper child.  Not a good thought!

Whole nuts are not advisable as baby can choke, also apple peel is another choking hazard at this age.

I hope these suggestions are helpful, and I will add to this blog with a followup for feeding from 7 months.


Chell Cave said...

I was told that watching to eat isnt a sign of being ready to wean :/
Oh well!!

Also dont no if you know that Kiwi isnt adviced till 12 months as its a "new fruit" and if a child is allergic to it there isnt any medication as yet in the uk.

Great info on weaning, shame that there isnt alot of help in the UK for parents starting to wean. x

Carol said...

Thank you Chell! We have always been told that if baby is really interested they are ready. Just shows the different trains of thought. :(
I am obliged for the information re kiwi fruit, we haven't been told anything like that at all. I will do some research on it, and see what comes. Haven't heard of any babies being allergic, but that doesn't mean much! Many thanks again Chell xxx