Paisley is showing a huge interest in food now (to the point where she actually snatched my sandwich out of my hand!) so we figured its time to wean her.
There are two ways of weaning your baby on to food. Purees/spoon feeding or baby led weaning.
We have opted for a combination of both but I’ll explain the basic differences for you. When you first start to wean, it should be an addition so your baby should still get their main nutrition from their regular milk. The key thing to remember is to do what works for you and your baby. Purees seem to have a reputation of being old school while BLW is the new, cool way of doing it. Both work, both feed your baby and both give your baby new tastes and textures so the choice should be yours.
The spoon feeding method starts with you pureeing one vegetable flavour at a time in a very fine consistency building up to combined flavours, adding meat and pasta etc over time and getting towards thicker, lumpier consistencies until your baby/toddler can manage normal food cut up and finger foods. This way is best if you aren’t too keen on letting your baby make lots of mess or if you are concerned about gagging or choking.
Baby Led Weaning.
BLW introduces finger food from the start and your baby learns to feed themselves. Normally babies are given the same foods that the rest of the family is eating and they get the chance to study and explore the food which eventually leads to them eating it themselves. This way is best if you aren’t concerned about mess and don’t want the faff of making and storing purees. It also means to a certain degree, your baby can just eat what you and the rest of your family eat.
Over the last few days we have tried a bit of a mixture of both just to see how Paisley reacted so that we could take it from there. So far she has had a taste of carrot, broccoli and cheese on toast.
It started with us having broccoli with our dinner one evening and she was eager to get hold of some so I sat her in her high chair and put a piece on her tray. Very little of this actually went in her mouth but she she did explore it which is a good start. It ended up completely mushed and absolutely everywhere and when she did manage to taste some, her face was quite the picture!
The following evening we were having carrots for dinner so I steamed an extra one for Paisley and then pureed it with a bit of breast milk. One carrot made enough for four small portions so I kept one out for her to try and froze the other 3 portions. This time I combined the 2 options. I gave her some soft carrot to hold and then fed her some pureed on a spoon. She was desperate to get hold of the spoon so I put some carrot on the end of it and laid it on her tray for her to grab. To my surprise, she picked the spoon up and put the right end in her mouth so easily. She also managed to smear it around her face, up her nose and in her hair, but she was having fun so I let her carry on. At this point she was having so much fun with the spoon, she didn’t even acknowledge the soft carrot pieces on her tray.
Yesterday morning, we were watching Astronaut Major Tim Peake return to Earth from his mission on board the ISS. Whilst watching, I was having my breakfast of cheese on toast and Paisley kept reaching for it so I cut her a soldier to hold. It went straight into her mouth and she sucked it to a mush. It was hard to tell how much she actually ate but she definitely swallowed some. I gave her, her normal breast feed and she went to sleep clearly full and content.
That evening she had carrot puree again but this time I tried to feed her the majority of it while still letting her play with the spoon (and the bowl). She actually managed to keep more in her mouth this time and by the end of dinner she opened her mouth as the spoon came towards her.
I let her have the spoon and the bowl once she’d finished so that she could explore them both. She was very interested in them but occasionally dropped them.
Now that we’ve introduced her to the basics I’m changing tact and I will be structuring it a bit more. From here I plan to puree a few vegetables that don’t have huge flavours so cauliflower, broccoli, peas and carrot and will start buy just trying her on one flavour a day and just a couple of spoons at a time. Although the food is pureed I will still be letting her do the majority of the work by just putting it on the spoon and letting her pick it up and use it so she’s still getting the baby-led benefits too. I’ll gradually introduce bigger flavours and then start to mix some too.
Making the purees.
Most of the purees follow the same idea and method so if you want to do a similar thing, it’s very easy to batch cook a load of different flavours at once and bring them out as and when you want to.
- Generally, I will start by steaming the vegetables. I do this separately so as not to contaminate flavours.
- Once the vegetable of choice is soft, use a hand blender to completely blitz it up.
- If the texture is perhaps a bit too thick either add a spoonful of the steamed water or some of your babies normal milk ie breastmilk or formula.
- To store, pour the puree into an ice cube tray to make individual portions. Once frozen, bag up the cubes and label them with what they are and the date you made them. This way you can increase your portion sizes from 1 cube upwards as and when you want/need to.
- By batch cooking, you will have plenty of food in stock and you aren’t needing to cook something new each day or waste any excess. It also means you haven’t got to stick to one flavour until its all gone as you can pick what you want from your supply.
- To use, just put the required amount of cubes in a bowl and microwave until warm (not hot). Stir and check for hot spots before feeding your child.
- Once you have tried your baby on several individual flavours, you can start to combine some. For example, one cube of carrots and one cube of peas or one of apple and one of pear etc.
If you do decide to combine baby led weaning with the puree method, you can put the unpureed version on the high chair tray at the same time so that your child can try both together. This works well with things like sweet potato as you can puree this easily but also let your baby explore sweet potato wedges that are easy to hold and soft enough to chomp on.
Foods to avoid.
There are a few foods that your baby shouldn’t have. Some because they just simply don’t provide what they need and others because they can be harmful. These are the main things to avoid feeding your baby are…
- Low fat foods – Your baby needs fat to grow, to keep warm and to give them energy. Their requirements aren’t the same as ours and there is no need to cut fat from a baby’s diet.
- Raw or undercooked eggs – These can contain harmful bacteria. Eggs should be fully cooked through.
- Salt – can caused damage to their kidneys. Be careful when using stocks and gravies as these are rich in salt and avoid adding it as seasoning when cooking for your baby. Also, try and limit certain deli meats like bacon or other foods preserved in salt.
- Nuts – whole or chopped can pose a choking hazard. Nut butters are fine from 6 months old providing there is no history of allergies
- Added sugars. By giving sugars early on, your baby will develop a sweet tooth. Your baby’s new teeth are very delicate and sugar will cause damage to them from a young age. If you find your baby already has a sweet tooth, try them on things like bananas and other fruits along with milk to sweeten foods naturally.
- Honey – contains a bacteria that produces toxins in baby’s intestines and should not be given before 1 year old.
- Shark, swordfish and marlin all contain high levels of mercury.
- Raw shellfish – can increase the risk of food poisoning.
You can find more detailed lists online of what to avoid altogether and what is ok when limited but those should give you a good idea to start with.
So, that is where we are up to so far with our weaning journey. I’m hoping to express milk before she gets really into her meals so that I can have a supply of milk in storage before she starts to drop feeds. I know she wont do that for a while and like I said above, milk should still be her main source of nutrition so at least by expressing I’ll be keeping my supply up.
I’m off now to make up some purees ready for freezing. I hope you come back to follow along with our weaning journey. How did you wean your little ones? I’d be interested to know if you did just one route rather than combining. What were your baby’s favourite flavours at this early stage?
Feel free to message me on here or send me some weaning picture on facebook or twitter. I’ll share my favourites!