All new things can be stressful. Starting your baby on solid foods is no different.
But you’ll learn things as you go—and as you do, you’ll be able to let go and enjoy the ride.
Today, the Wild & Stone team is walking you through the basics of baby weaning. And as a plus, we’ll give you a few pointers on how to do it in an eco-friendly way.
How Do I Start Weaning?
According to the NHS, you should aim to breastfeed for the first 6 months of your baby's life.
"Exclusive breastfeeding (breast milk only) is recommended for around the first 6 months of your baby's life. Breastfeeding alongside solid foods is best for babies from 6 months. You and your baby can carry on enjoying the benefits of breastfeeding for as long as you like." Source: NHS.
In other words, the ideal time to introduce your child to solid foods is from six months onwards.
Aside from the nutritional aspect, the act of eating is also the initiation of baby humans into society. A few tips later (and they're right below), your baby will start greeting the family seated at the table.
Decide On the Method
You can choose between two methods—the old school method and baby-led weaning. No two babies are alike, so it’s best to figure out what works for you right at the table.
The old school method. This method includes introducing smooth purees before transitioning to mashed and chopped foods and finally to finger foods. You can spoon-feed babies with just about anything you can spoon up—homemade purees, strained fruit, mashed carrots, or whole-grain oats (mixed with breast milk or infant formula).
Baby-led weaning. Baby-led weaning means introducing finger foods first. Anything will do, as long as the food can be eaten with fingers, is safe and baby-friendly, and your little one keenly reaches for it. It can be macaroni, toast, and scrambled eggs or tofu.
Each method has its pros and cons. While traditional weaning is gradual, baby-led weaning is more personalised, following your baby’s natural pace.
And while spoon-feeding may be easier for some, the self-feeding approach helps your baby explore food more independently.
How Do I Know My Baby Is Ready for Weaning?
First off, you don’t want to start weaning too early. Babies aren’t able to ingest and process solids before they're 17 weeks old.
You should start weaning only after your baby has reached 6 months of age.
Your little one can be ready to advance their eating habits even at 4 months of age, but before making any changes, talk to your doctor. Yet, if your baby checks all the boxes below, it’s a good time for action.
Can stay in a sitting position and hold its neck and head steady
Can perform actions such as looking at food, picking it up, and putting it in their mouth
Can swallow food
Pro Tip: Before you start with spoon-feeding, make sure to watch out for false signs that may mislead you to think your baby is ready for weaning:
Wanting extra breast milk (or formula) feeds
Chewing their fists
Waking up in the night
Starting Solid Foods—Mission (Im)possible?
How your weaning baby will adapt to the new eating lifestyle depends both on you and your baby. But this is a process, so try not to force anything.
At first, solid food will be a mere addition to your baby’s usual milk feeds, so start with small amounts.
The primary source of energy and nutrients for babies at this stage is still breast milk or infant formula. Thus, stay focused on gradually helping them get used to new tastes and textures.
Below are some tips to make weaning easier and more fun:
Take your time. Each child has a different pace of adapting to foods. Make sure you allow plenty of time for eating, giving your baby time to learn the new skill. It will take more for some babies than for others. Make sure you include oodles of encouragement and praise while your baby eats to encourage the learning process.
There will be good days and bad days. Some days you’ll think your baby’s an eating wunderkind, and other days, you won’t get them to swallow anything. The sooner you accept this, the better. Keep trying; it may take 10 tries for your baby to get used to new foods, flavours, or textures.
Stop offering food when you see signs that your baby has had enough, such as turning their head away and firmly closing their mouth. You shouldn’t force anything. It’s best to wait until later and pick up where you left off.
Let your baby feed themself, hold the spoon, and use fingers while they eat.
First Tastes to Explore
It’s time to give wings to your little food explorer, and you’ll do that by offering a variety of foods in the first year of your baby’s life.
Don’t skimp when it comes to variety. By offering an abundance of tastes (including those that are not sweet, such as spinach, broccoli, and cauliflower), you can prevent babies from being too picky at the table down the road.
Start with meals of steamed, mashed or soft-cooked parsnip, potato, sweet potato, and carrot. Below we’ve outlined some ideas on what to avoid.
Plant and Cows' milk - Use it in homemade purees around 6 months of age. Don’t introduce it as a stand-alone drink until your baby is 12 months old.
Foods containing allergens - Foods like fish, peanuts, gluten, and eggs should be introduced one at a time to be able to spot any reactions.
Nuts & legumes - You should avoid feeding your baby nuts until they are around 5 years of age due to their risk as a choking hazard.
Around 6 months of age, your baby will most likely become better at moving food around their mouth, as well as chewing and swallowing. You can skip baby rice and other smooth, blended foods and cut right to the chase if this is the case.
This is the time to go ahead with the baby-led weaning method and give the baby pieces of food to self-feed.
The sooner you encourage babies to eat independently, the faster they’ll develop fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination.
Make sure you start with safe weaning foods. Pieces of fruit and vegetables should be big enough so the baby can hold them in their fist.
Self-feeding can come with the risk of choking—so start with finger food that breaks up easily in your baby’s mouth. Another way to avoid the risk is to omit raw carrots, apples, and nuts from the menu.
Need ideas for what finger foods to include?
Think soft-cooked veggies and fruits such as carrot, cauliflower, apple, and pear.
Reach out for starchy foods such as sweet potato and pasta, small pieces of grapes and cherry tomatoes, and fish without bones.
For a great variety of organic baby meals and snacks to help your little one get all the vitamins and nutrients they need, check out Piccolo. Selling over 40 products that can be found nationwide across the UK, packed with ethically sourced and sustainably farmed ingredients from independent farmers. Shop their products today.
A Bamboo Weaning Set—Your Best Baby Weaning Ally?
To put traditional or baby-led-weaning into practice, you’ll need a little help from the outside. It takes a little more than a high chair and a bib to launch the adventure.
Think baby-friendly spoons, plates, and bowls. Single-use plastics aren't ideal for babies as they can be hard on gums. And they’re also pretty hard on nature.
Suffice is to know that by 2050, virtually every seabird species on the planet will be eating plastic.
The set helps your baby transition to solids more easily as it’s secured in place with a suction cup base. Moreover, it’s made of Moso Bamboo, which, unlike plastics, causes minimal harm to the environment.
So why is this bamboo weaning set your best weaning ally?
The easy-grip design makes for easier and merrier feeding time.
It’s child-friendly, made of FSC Certified Moso Bamboo, BPA-free silicone, and toxic-free certified dyes.
It’s long-lasting being able to last across different generations.
Want more? Have a peek at other Wild & Stone eco-friendly products that can help you further along the weaning process.
What better way to celebrate a milestone than letting your baby show off its feeding talents on an eco-friendly picnic. Check out our Bamboo Picnic Cutlery Set.
And why not take some beeswax wraps with you to pack your yummy goodies in? Check out our awesome reusable Beeswax Food Wraps.
There’s More to Weaning Than Food
So, there you go, a few tips to help your baby transition to solid food meals. And a little more, a way to make weaning part of the bigger story—of leaving the world a little better than we found it.
Our bamboo weaning sets help you get through the day more easily (as some of our verified buyers can attest).
Vegan diets have been linked to a range of health and environmental benefits. Want to get involved, or already taking part? In this article, we share our top Veganuary tips to help you master going vegan.