Just when you finally get the hang of nursing, it's time to wean your baby. Here's how to wean from breastfeeding, ensuring the transition from breast to bottle is a surefire success.
"When to wean?" It's a question that's top of mind for nursing mamas.
breastfeeding exclusively until your baby is 6 months old, then serving a combination of solids and breast milk until she's 1 year old. But know that weaning is ultimately a personal decision and should be based on what's best for your family.
Telltale signals your baby is ready to start solids? He holds his head in an upright position, sits with support, or expresses interest in what you're eating. In addition, his active tongue-thrust reflex has disappeared, or is in the process of disappearing. He may also act indifferent or cranky during routine breastfeeding sessions.
It’s important to remember that breastfed babies derive not only nutrition from nursing, they also derive emotional comfort from the close physical contact with their mothers. Just because you aren't comforting baby at the breast doesn't mean you can't nurture her in different ways.
Some babies excel at weaning when they're in control. If you're OK with letting your baby call the shots, rely on the tried-and-true "don't offer, don't refuse" method. In a nutshell, you nurse when your child expresses interest, but you don't actually initiate it.
What foods should I start with?
The ideal first foods are fruits and vegetables. Carrot, parsnip, sweet potato, swede and butternut squash are all easy vegetables to start with, as well as potatoes, which can be pureed easily. Fruits such as apple, pear and banana work well too.
Start by offering single fruits and vegetables and then move on to a combination such as carrots and potatoes.
Remember not to add any sugar or salt to your baby’s meals.
What food groups do babies need?After the first few weeks of weaning, consider giving your baby foods from all the food groups, which are:
- starchy foods such as rice, pasta, potatoes, cereals and bread
- protein foods such as meat, fish, beans, pulses, tofu and egg
- dairy foods including yoghurt, custard and cheese
- fruits and vegetables
Iron is particularly important, as they’ll have low stores of it at around six months of age. Try and include iron-rich foods in their meals such as meat, chickpeas, kidney beans and butter beans as well as fortified breakfast cereals.
There’s no right way, whatever is best for you and your baby. A smooth puree with a spoon for you and baby works well but you may prefer to try more finger foods, or a bit of both.
Finger foods include things like cooked carrot sticks or small pieces of cooked broccoli (‘trees’) that your baby can more easily grab on to.
Some babies are very independent and prefer to feed themselves, so giving them a spoon or finger foods alongside their puree can really help them find their way.
When should I change textures and flavours?
- Initially, at around 6 months, it will be a smooth puree and some soft finger foods. After the first few weeks, try a slightly thicker puree with some soft lumps, which will help your baby get used to different textures in their mouth. At around nine to twelve months you can start to mash, chop or mince your baby’s food instead of pureeing. This is a bit of a turning point as meals will start to look more familiar to you! Why not try first mild curry.
- Offering soft finger foods like cooked vegetables and soft fruits like banana pieces alongside every stage helps with self-feeding as well as providing a different texture. At around 12 months you can mash and chop family meals.
- There is no set time to introduce different flavours – it will happen naturally as you give them a variety of foods and meals. There’s no need to keep foods bland and plain; experiment and change textures according to your baby’s stage.
What foods should I avoid?
- Salt and Sugar
- Avoid adding salt to your baby’s foods as well as giving them too many salty foods, such as bacon and baked beans. Also avoid processed foods that are high in sugar.
- This may contain bacteria that could harm your baby so avoid if they’re less than 12 months old. Once they’re a year old, it can be freely included.
- Ground nuts or smooth nut butters can be given around six months of age. Whole nuts should be avoided until they’re around five years old as there is a risk of choking.
- Many cheeses such as cheddar and cream cheese are fine, but some like brie, camembert and blue-veined cheeses may contain bacteria and should be avoided.
- Always cut cherry tomatoes and grapes into quarters, as these are also a choking hazard.
Always be prepared during feeding time as it can get really messy and I mean it. A good easy wipe cleaning bib is certainly a life saving. Why not try Little Baa Baa bibs.
You can also find very useful baby food recipes on Youtube if you are dry on ideas. Invest a good baby food recipe book is also a great idea to enjoy the process of making you very own meals for your little ones.