Planning the early days of complementary feeding

Weaning | | Helen Farnsworth

Starting baby on solids, or ‘complementary feeding’, can fill some parents with huge excitement as they prepare to embark on the weaning journey, while others are more anxious about the impending changes. You might be wondering how your baby will take to all the new flavours and textures, how these new foods are going to fit into your baby’s routine, which foods to try when, whether you’ll know when your baby is doing well or if you should be worried. Luckily there are many sources of information you can go to – such as the NHS website.

The first few weeks of weaning are about introducing the concept of foods, exploring new tastes, and establishing a new routine, and not so much about nutrition, although this becomes more important as weaning progresses.

• Firstly, make sure your baby is ready and that you’re not starting too soon. If your baby is not developmentally ready it might be harder physically and emotionally to make this move onto solids, whereas if the time is right weaning should be easier for both of you.

• Don’t put any pressure on your baby at any stage of weaning and don’t expect them to eat everything you offer first time round, just try and stay relaxed, have some fun and encourage them to explore the new foods you are offering them.

• How are you going to fit meals into your baby’s routine? This is different for every baby and every parent, but you may have more success if you offer your baby foods at a time of day when you know your baby is less tired and calmer, and when you are not in a rush and can go at your baby’s pace. Your baby is learning a new skill so it might take some time. Make sure your baby hasn’t just had a large milk feed, but equally they shouldn’t be too hungry when you offer them a meal. In my experience, about an hour after your baby has finished their last milk feed can be a good time to offer them some food.

• How much food should you give? In these first few weeks, the amount of food you give is not important, it’s more about the variety of tastes. Even if your little one only has a small taste of the food you’re offering and appears to be ‘playing’ with the food, this is all part of the new experience and you should encourage them. Baby’s milk intake will usually stay the same at the start of weaning and will provide them with the energy and nutrients they need.

• Foods to try to start with – I always recommend a ‘veg first’ approach to weaning, offering a range of different vegetables, including bitter veg like broccoli and courgettes, pureed with your baby’s usual milk. Offer new tastes each day if you can.

• Learning to eat doesn’t always come naturally to babies but keep smiling and encouraging them to explore the foods and they will get the hang of it in the end. Don’t be alarmed by some of the faces your baby is pulling – funny or disgusted faces are perfectly normal and don’t necessarily mean they don’t like the taste of the food, they’re just getting used to the new tastes and textures! It can take up to 10-15 exposures to get a food fully accepted.