Food for all ages: The basic steps of baby weaning
We’ve teamed up with the ladies behind Mother Tongue – a Dubai-based podcast run by three first-time expat mums, to bring you tried and tested recommendations for baby weaning while cooking Hello Chef recipes. Here, one third of the mama-trio, Ellis, tells us more about her weaning journey and reflects on how her family now enjoys the same meal, regardless of age.
Weaning your baby can be an incredibly exciting yet daunting next step from breast milk or formula. Before you start weaning, there is one key question parents should ask themselves: is our baby ready? Whether you feel ready or not is a separate matter. However, it is crucial that your baby is showing signs that they are ready.
What are the signs to look for?
• Has good head and neck control and can sit upright when supported
• Shows an interest in food – for example, by looking at what’s on your plate
• Reaches out for your food
• Opens their mouth when you offer them food on a spoon
So, is there a specific age you should start weaning? The answer is no. Not every baby is ready at the same time, however on average most babies will start to show signs at around 6 months, if not earlier for some.
In my own experience, my daughter Frida was showing interest as early as 4 months, we were also advised to introduce solids from this age to help with her reflux. Babies who suffer with reflux are commonly recommended to wean earlier to help with their stomach muscles and digestion, however it is highly recommended to consult your pediatrician for guidance.
Once you have identified that your baby is ready to start the weaning process, the fun can begin. But as a word of warning – it is very common for many parents to find this next step rather stressful. What is most important is that you take your time and feel confident in what you are feeding your baby, which can be helped by following a weaning guide or cookbook for comfort.
The below includes some basic tips and ideas for weaning:
Stage 1 – When the baby is approx. six months old:
• Start with mashed or pureed vegetables (carrots, pumpkin, potato, sweet potato, sponge gourd or ash gourd)
• Fruit purees like ripe and cooked apple, pear or mashed banana.
• Baby cereals
• Purees of lean meat, poultry, lentils, split peas, mixed vegetables and green vegetables like cabbage and spinach
• Slowly incorporate dairy e.g. yoghurt, cream cheese, cottage cheese or custard
• Do not include cow’s, goat’s or sheep’s milk as the baby’s primary food until he is a year old
Stage 3: Between 7 to 9 months (2 to 3 servings of starchy food, 1 serving of protein)
• Mashed or minced lumpy food
• Starchy foods like khichdi, semolina upma, semolina porridge, sago porridge, durum wheat, breakfast cereals or oats can be given
• Cornmeal, potatoes, rice and millets
• Boiled and cooled water
• Citrus fruits, fish, lean meat, poultry, lentils
• Nut butter (check family history for allergies)
• Finger foods like cooked green beans, carrots, cheese cubes, banana slices or soft pear
Foods to avoid during weaning:
• Salt: The baby’s kidneys cannot process the salt yet
• Honey: No honey is advisable until the baby is one as it can cause infant botulism
• Sugar: Try sweetening the food with mashed banana or stewed dry fruits puree as artificial sweeteners can encourage your child to develop a sweet tooth
• Whole Nuts: They are a choking hazard and difficult to process
• Certain Fish: To avoid mercury poisoning
• Tea/Coffee: Caffeine and tannin are unsuitable for babies and prevent absorption of vital nutrients in their body
• Low-fat food: Any low-fat dairy or food products are unfit for the baby as they need calories
• Risky foods: Foods like mouldy cheese, liver pâté or soft boiled or raw eggs that can contain bacteria and are not killed in the cooking process
Every baby is different and so is every parent’s approach to weaning for that matter. The best piece of advice I was ever given was to be adventurous. Allow your baby to try as many foods and flavours as possible before they are 1 year old as they start to form preferences after this and become ‘fussier’. This also benefits the convenience element of weaning, when you expose your baby to lots of foods and flavours, it allows for the whole family to have the same meal. This is why we found Hello Chefs family friendly recipes so helpful.
As hard as it can be sometimes, I would also say have confidence in your little one’s ability to eat. Of course, be extremely cautious when it comes to choking hazards and risky food, but allow the child to have fun with their food; it is a new sensory experience and can be incredibly fun for them to experience the new smells and textures, albeit messy!
Mother Tongue is a Dubai-based podcast run by three first time expat mums. Maryanne, Ellis and Jess share their (very honest) journey on everything they have learned along the way in an attempt to create unity between mothers who might be away from their families and friends. They discuss everything from navigating motherhood as an expat, baby brands that they love, the products they swear by and the experiences they have been through during pregnancy, work, motherhood and beyond. Tune in wherever you listen to your podcasts, and be sure to follow them on Instagram @wearemothertongue.