What is weaning?
Whether you’re a first-time mum or not, I found this so daunting. How am I supposed to teach my baby how to eat and develop a love for food? I didn’t know where to start and did what most of you probably do- Google it! I recall thinking, I wish there was one place that would tell me what to do, what worked and how to prepare for what is supposed to be a stressful time.
So here are my views and experiences, which I hope will help you on your babies weaning journey.
I still remember seeing the Health Visitor for a general check-up. She asked if I had thought about weaning my baby. Honestly, I didn’t know what weaning was, let alone starting it. So, after more googling, I found that weaning is the process of moving your baby from just milk to a diet of solid food too.
This first stage of weaning lays the foundation for healthy eating habits. So it was important to me that I gave my baby the best start that I could.
From all the reading I did, the key things that really stood out for me included:
- Start weaning at around 6 months
- Introduce different single veggie flavours early in weaning, rather than fruit.
- Offer a variety of new tastes and textures.
- Be prepared with all the essential weaning equipment.
- Use meal plans once my little one started to eat more food.
- Be relaxed, because if you are then so will little one. So, lots of mess and giggles!
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Essential Weaning equipment
Armed with some knowledge about what weaning was, I then wanted to be prepared with all the essentials. Here is my opinion of the must buys that I have personally tried and tested:
Do you want a highchair that is:
- Easy to clean, with no nooks or crannies for food to get lodged into.
- Lightweight but sturdy.
- A very good price compared to others on the market.
- Portable. Simply remove the legs and tray and pack in to your car. This has been invaluable for me for when I go to spend time with my parents.
- Suitable from 6 months old.
- Easy to assemble.
- Safe for your baby, as it includes a 3-point safety harness. So it protects even the wriggliest of babies.
If you have answered yes to all of these then this is the highchair for you. In fact, I have two and absolutely love them! And to top it all off, it has been voted the winner of the Mumsnet best budget highchair 2018!!
For added comfort, you can even buy the high chair insert, which is perfect at start of your weaning journey as it holds your little one snuggled in the high chair and prevents them hitting their head on the back of the chair, whilst they are still developing their neck muscle strength.
2. Feeding aprons
For me, practicality was key. They had to be machine washable and easy to clean. I have had this feeding apron for over 3 years now and they still look new. They are super lightweight, and my children look comfortable in them. I like the fact that they have long sleeves with elasticated ends, so food does not run down their arms.
The suction cups allows the bib to be attached to the high chair so your little ones can explore food in no time, without the mess on the floor! To make them last even longer, I now also use them when my children paint- definitely an added bonus
3. Bowls and feeding spoon
I had fun picking the colourful designs and really liked the Vital Baby brand. They are great value for money and not to mention steriliser, microwave and dishwasher safe. I also like that they do a weaning kit so that saved me from buying all the individual pieces.
It really is the perfect set for weaning. The spoons have a soft tip that help to protect my little one’s sensitive gums. The freezer pots are ideal for the initial weaning phase. Useful when little one’s appetite is still small but as it grew I changed the way I prepared her food.
Read on for my must do tips that involves using what you may already have at home. I would, however, add that I was not overly keen on their drinking cup. It was a pain to clean so instead I opted for the Tommee Tippee first cup. It had the added ease of handles that my babies could hold on to.
As your babies become more confident and independent, I would recommend the Grabease Cutlery Set. They are specially designed with babies’ independence in mind, and they come highly recommended by Occupational Therapists. The ergonomic handle fits comfortably in babies’ natural hand grasp, making the hand-to-mouth motion easier! Using this set will also help strengthen their fingers while encouraging proper pencil grasp development (this will come in handy later!). They even make the perfect the gift and come in a range of colours!
4. Food Processor
When preparing food having the right food processor will make any mum’s life a lot easier. After much research I decided to buy the Beaba Babycook food processor and that was 4 years ago and I still love it!
This is a 4-in-1 food processor, so it steam cooks, blends, defrosts and even reheats. So, I am sure you can already tell that this will save you much needed time.
I still remember the time that I visited a friends’ house and wanted to cook some peas for my then toddler. With no steamer at hand, I poured some frozen peas in to a pan, added some water and placed the pan on to the hob. Anyway, I got chatting and completely forgot about the peas, until the foul smell of burnt peas came wafting across the living room.
It was safe to say that I missed my food processor even more! It quickly steams fruit, vegetables and meat in 15 minutes and it goes into standby mode once the time is up, so you can chat away without worrying. Not only that, it preserves the flavours and vitamins, so all the goodness is not lost.
Some think that this type of product is only for that short time while you wean your child. Not True. I am still using mine; to help steam those veggies for mine and hubby’s dinners or to steam cook a salmon fillet for lunch. And the best thing is that you can pop frozen veggies and/or meat in, and it will defrost it too! Amazing right?
What steps did I take to introduce food to my baby?
I totally get that every child is different, I can certainly say that for my two. My daughter is picky and my son prefers food and devours anything that I give him.
Now having bought all the essentials I still lacked the confidence to know what to feed my little one and how to go about preparing the first foods safely so I decided to buy Annabel Karmel’s Baby and Toddler meal planner for inspiration.
This book (although it was a previous edition) makes it so much easier and I would highly recommend to any new mum if they need a starting point. It has a full selection of homemade and nutritious meals without added salt/sugar, so you know exactly what is going in.
The recipes are all simple, quick and easy to make. The menu ideas cater for toddlers too- perfect, if like me, you have two children under two! Setting out week by week when to feed food and when to feed your baby their milk, allows you to progress through the stages of weaning with much less stress. If you have to buy one book, in my opinion, it would be this one!
Now with some inspiration I made a plan of how I would go about introducing my little one to her first foods.
Weaning breakdown from 6 to 10 months
Between 6-7 months: Introduced mainly vegetable purees. I chose the more naturally sweeter ones, such as carrots, peas, sweet potato and butternut squash. I picked lunchtimes to introduce the first foods so that little one’s tummy had time to digest it so less likely to interrupt her (and my!) night sleep.
After two weeks of just trying single veggies, I mixed two different veggies (see tips for preparing and storing food) together and also introduced the more stronger flavours, such as, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower and green beans. So, I would do a combination of a sweet veggie with a stronger tasting one. To avoid potential allergies, I would always mix a vegetable that she had already tried with a new one so if there was a reaction to it, then I would know that it was the new veggie.
Between 7-8 months: Introduced meat (mainly chicken, lamb and fish- as that is what we mostly ate). During this stage, I would blend a meat with one/two vegetables, depending on how much food little one was happily taking). Again, I focussed feeding at lunchtime to help aid digestion. If my baby became constipated (which she would) I would offer pear puree, as a pudding.
Between 8-9 months: Introduced dairy (cow’s milk, cheese, eggs and natural plain yoghurt). Now I changed the timings around. She would have a meat-based dinner around 5pm. Instead for lunch I would give her some veggies with dairy, such as, cauliflower cheese, scrambled egg with veg or natural full fat yogurt with fruit.
I have read that babies can be allergic to egg so it’s best to not give the egg white until they are 1 years old but both mine were fine with the whole egg. This is where I began to enjoy myself, as I was able to use my recipe book to make lunch and dinner meals.
My food processor came in to its own at this point, as I was able to steam cook the meat and veggies together, then blitz them down in to a puree in the same processor, retaining all the nutrients and vitamins.
Between 9-10 months: Introduced breakfast (mainly baby porridge). By this point, little one was having milk at 7am, 11am, lunch at 12pm, milk at 3pm, dinner at 5pm and milk at 6.30pm. Now, I introduced breakfast at 8am.
I continued with making up the cereal with formula/breastmilk. By 10 months old, my little one was on 3 meals a day with milk feeds in between. I also suggest having lots of wet wipes to hand as it can get quite messy.
Although both mine were spoon fed and so, much of the food was pureed, you could still follow the same guidance for baby-led weaning. Simply steam cook finger length and width food and have fun exploring with your baby.
Tips for preparing and storing food
Being totally honest, I did what most first time mums do, I stocked up on extra storage pots to freeze meals. This was a headache, as they took up so much space, let alone defrosting the whole pot for my daughter, who then did not eat most of it. With my second, I felt I was better organised and found a much better way to prepare and store food. This is something I still do now for us all as a family.
I simply steam cook and blitz a single vegetable using my hassle-free food processor, then spoon the puree in to an ice cube tray and freeze overnight. The next morning, pop out the puree cubes, place in to a labelled (what it is and the date) freezer bag and store.
Do this with all your chosen veggies and fruit. I still prepare bags of spinach, butternut squash, carrots and sweet potato purees. When I make scrambled egg, bolognaise, chilli con carne or a chicken curry for the whole family, I throw in a few defrosted veggie cubes – which mum doesn’t like hidden veggies?!
For meats (chicken and lamb mince), I buy fresh meat, cut them and spoon them directly in to ice cube trays. You then put them in the freezer overnight. Again, once frozen, put them in to labelled freezer bags.
So next time, you want to make a meal for your baby, simply select a mixture of frozen cubes and place directly in to the food processor. It will defrost, steam cook and blitz it all for you. How easy is that? Completely stress free and you may even enjoy yourself!
If you think baby-led weaning is the way forward for you. You can freeze pieces of food instead and simply defrost as and when. So as my babies got better with food, I started to introduce more lumpy textures. I would cut strips of butternut squash or sweet potato and steam cook them, then freeze them.
For more ideas or support, please feel free to leave a comment below. I would also love to hear about your weaning journey. Thank you and good luck!