Weaning Week 2022

Baby being spoon fed

Our Registered Dietitians are supporting National Weaning Week (4 –11 May 2022) by sharing resources which will help you to start your child on solid food.

The aim of the week is to promote accurate, evidence based advice for parents as they begin the journey of introducing their baby to solid food.

 

What is weaning?

It is introducing your baby to solid foods alongside their usual breast or formula milk. At this stage, food comes in alongside their usual milk – not to replace it. This is why weaning is now known as introducing solids or complementary feeding. It is a gradual process.

Why do we introduce solids?

Babies need food to make sure they get the right nutrition to help them grow and develop well. Babies and infants have high-energy requirements compared to their small size – they have small tummies and therefore we need to make sure the food we give them is nutritious and energy dense. Good weaning practices go towards good eating habits and patterns for life. Healthy eating prevents and reduces the risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease later in life. Healthy food can also help to ensure healthy teeth and healthy mouth.

Another reason why we introduce solid foods to our babies is so they can learn new skills. Babies will learn from us about how to eat and mealtime routines. They will also develop eating practices like biting, chewing and swallowing which in turn helps to develop the muscles needed for speech development.

Key nutrients that babies and infants need for growth and development:

Protein is essential for the body to grow and to repair itself

Iron is an important component of haemoglobin which is found in red blood cells. It carries oxygen around the body. Iron is important for brain and nervous system development and it helps the body to fight infections.

Calcium is needed for strong bones and teeth and also to ensure blood clots normally.

Vitamin D helps the body to absorb calcium from food.

Fibre is important for a healthy digestive system and reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

When should we start introducing solids our babies?

It is recommended to wait until 6 months however it is important to note there is a need to not delay beyond this as it could lead to nutrient and energy deficiencies. There is also evidence to show that babies who aren’t offered lumpy food before 9 months are more likely to be fussy eaters! It is important that baby progresses with textures i.e. puree – mashed – chopped food.

No matter what, do not give food to your baby before 17 weeks as this puts them at higher risk of allergy and infections. Baby’s digestive and kidney systems are still developing.

What is the difference between gagging and choking?

It is a common misconception that these are the same thing. Gagging is extremely common – normal! When babies are starting on solids. In fact, gagging is a safety mechanism to prevent choking. It doesn’t bother babies too much but it can be a very stressful thing for parents to witness. Being aware of this makes it easier to handle. So if your baby is gagging it is likely that they will make a load retching or coughing noise, face will go red, they will push the food back out of their mouth themselves.

Choking on the other hand is when baby cannot get air in. they will be quiet and unable to cough and this is an emergency.  Never leave a baby or small child alone when eating.

Baby led weaning

This means offering your baby only finger foods and letting them feed themselves from the start – rather than spoon feeding them pureed or mashed foods. Some parents prefer baby led and others prefer traditional weaning with purees and mashes. Most people probably combine a bit of both – there’s no right or wrong way. The most important thing is that you are offering a wide variety of food to baby to provide all the nutrients they need. If you are going for the more traditional route of weaning, it is important that baby is offered finger foods as well as spoon feedings to develop chewing skills and texture acceptance. There should be no higher risk of choking with BLW as long as foods are well cooked or soft enough.

•       Be careful of these foods and how you present them to children due to choking risk: Cut small round foods, like grapes and cherry tomatoes, into small pieces longways and again

•       peel the skin off fruit, vegetables and sausages (though remember that sausages can be high in salt)

•       remove hard pips or stones from fruit

•       remove bones from meat or fish

•       soften hard fruit and vegetables (such as carrot and apple) when first given to your baby from around 6 months

•       whole nuts and peanuts should not be given to children under 5 years old

•       never give them raw jelly cubes, they can get stuck in the throat

How to introduce food to your baby for the first time

Recent evidence suggests we choose bitter green vegetables or more savoury foods to get baby used to as wide a range of flavours as possible from the start and not the sweet foods they already have an innate taste for. This may reduce fussy eating later. A calm environment for all is recommended.

After a week or so consider getting good iron sources. Think about your usual meals at home and, if you are cooking these, leave some aside for baby. Move from just making pea puree, for example, to adding some potato to that and then some chicken too. Nice ways to get soft finger foods in might be banana or toast with plenty of butter, really really well cooked veg sticks.

7 months – they should be eating all the type of food that you eat except foods to avoid, fibre and fat. Moving onto more mashed than puree – go at babies pace but don’t hold back. Try and then try again.

9 months – 2-3 meals a day, moving towards chopped foods. Still breastfeeding on demand or giving around 500-600mls formula milk/day.  Try the Chicken Curry recipe in our Weaning Week 2022 Recipes.

12 months – 3 meals a day, 1-2 snacks, drinking from cup, all the variety and textures. Maybe down to 2 breastfeeds. Foods containing iron twice a day and keep up the variety.

An example menu

Breakfast: Weetabix, porridge, fortified cereal, toast

Lunch: Egg, tuna, mackerel, chicken, ham, lentils, beans, hummous, peanut butter, falafels, chickpeas along with carbohydrates, fruit and vegetables

Dinner: Whatever you are having for dinner or use your freezer stash – or try this Sweet Potato and Butterbean bake recipe in our Weaning Week 2022 Recipes

Snacks: Yoghurt, fruit, ricecakes, breadsticks, toast

 

It will be messy – but this is also good learning!

 

Useful resources:

Top tips for weaning – Change4Life

Weaning Week 2022 Recipes

How to adapt a family meal – Safefood

4th May 2022

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