How to Start Weaning Your Baby
How to Start Weaning Your Baby
It can be daunting to think about the first time your baby will eat something other than milk.
However, by the time they reach six months old, babies need more than breast or formula milk to meet their nutritional needs.
Many parents we speak to tell us how worried they are about starting weaning. The anxiety often comes from the droves and droves of information available online, much of which is conflicting.
We’re here to share some of the experiences that our nursery parents have had and help you work out how to start weaning your baby.
We hope you’ll come to understand that each child’s experience of weaning is unique, and that’s OK!
Taking Your First Steps into Weaning
Before you begin, there are two key things for you to consider:
1) Can your child hold their head up without support?
At six months old, babies are still a little ‘wobbly’, but they should now have some control over their head movements. They should be able to hold their head up without support before they start weaning.
2) Does your child have a feeding chair?
You will, of course, need a suitable place to feed your baby. A high chair is a popular option, but booster seats for dining chairs are also good choices for some parents.
When picking a high/feeding chair, you’ll need to ensure that there is a tray that can be attached/detached from the chair and that it can all be easily cleaned. Babies in the early stages of weaning know how to make a mess!
You may also wish to purchase some baby cutlery if you plan to support feeding. However, young babies usually want to explore with their hands.
Tip: A rubber matted bowl or plate that sticks onto the feeding tray helps your child get used to taking food from a plate or bowl.
Baby Led Weaning vs Pureed/Spoon Feeding
We spoke to one parent who has two children. She followed pureed-led weaning for her first child but switched to baby-led weaning for her second child. With that in mind, we wanted to share her experience and insights into both approaches.
Baby 1 (Eldest)
“When weaning my first child, I was a first-time mum and had no idea where to begin when it came to weaning,
“I did my research and followed a pureed led weaning process. I began with just one puree, which is usually recommended at lunchtime. I went with the vegetable puree.
“Looking back, it’s hard to know if my eldest would have taken to baby-led weaning. Anyway, I continued with purees and began introducing solid foods slowly at around 7-8 months. I felt my baby needed time to get used to different tastes before introducing him to the world of real food.
“I made my purees using leftover fruit and vegetables, but also some shop-bought purees for when we were on the go as I found them easy to store and access when away from home.
“At the time, I felt this worked for my eldest, and even when we introduced solid foods, he was still more interested when being fed from a spoon than picking things up himself.”
Baby 2 (Youngest)
“My youngest baby was a big baby from birth, and for the first six months, he often seemed unsatisfied by milk alone. Then, at around five months old, partly due to reflex (as advised by my GP), I began to wean him.
“I’m not sure what was different, but I felt more confident approaching weaning the second time. I started with purees like with my eldest. However, I noticed my youngest wanted to take the spoon from me at every opportunity and feed himself.
“With that in mind, I started putting whole foods on his tray to see how he would manage. I was amazed at how well he took to it and that he could chew the food down without any teeth.
“Of course, I was mindful about what food to give him. But, to be honest, he ate most of what we ate as a family, cut into different shapes or softened to make it easier for him to chew.
“I also found an app called Solid Starts, which breaks down all the food you can introduce to babies and from what age. It also shares how to prepare the food to ensure that it is not a choking hazard.
“Once he began having real food, I stopped using the purees, as he enjoyed experiencing the different tastes with his hands rather than from a spoon.”
Responding to Gagging
Choking is one of every parent’s worst nightmares and will undoubtedly be on your mind when you start weaning your baby.
Babies need to learn how to chew and swallow food. When babies put food into their mouths, they occasionally put too much in or try to take a breath of air when they are about to swallow. When this happens, they gag.
Gagging is not the same as choking and should not be treated the same way. Gagging is your baby’s natural way of pushing the food back to the front or out of their mouth.
When you witness gagging, your baby may go red in the face and cough. Choking, however, is very different as your child will not gag or cough if something is lodged in their airways.
It’s essential to remain calm when you see gagging, as you won’t want to pass on the fear that you might be experiencing to your baby. If they feel the need to panic, they could end up choking.
When you begin weaning, please ensure your baby has a cup of cooled, boiled water to help aid food digestion.
There are a lot of water cups on the market, so it can be tricky to know which one is best. We recommend parents check the reviews of any cups they consider.
Sometimes, known brands, such as the Tommee Tippee First Essentials Cup, are a safe bet. It isn’t the “fanciest” cup but offers baby water from a free-flowing teat, which is excellent as it allows your baby to practice the skill of drinking from a cup.
Enjoy the Show!
We hope that this has given you some help in deciding which weaning approach to take. The main thing is to try and respond to what your baby wants to do, but you must also enjoy the experience. Weaning can be a lot of fun and is a great bonding opportunity.