Along with teething, weaning your baby is another exciting milestone in their development. However, if you have been breastfeeding it can be difficult for both of you to break that unique bond that you have been sharing. The good news is that you can take the changeover slowly, gradually introducing more solid food over time.
The Department of Health recommends that you breast feed, if possible, for the first six months of a baby’s life. This is because it provides all the nutrients a baby needs for healthy growth and development and it is thought that feeding your baby a diet of breast milk or formula until this time helps reduce the risk of introducing allergens. However, as your baby’s digestive system matures, they will be able to handle the introduction of new and varied foods as you gradually wean them off milk.
When you feel the time is right, offer a small spoonful of iron-enriched infant rice cereal (mixed with enough formula milk, breast milk or water, depending on the product instructions to make a soup-like solution) to your baby just before you finish his / her usual milk feed. Introducing new food at this time will help ensure that he/she isn’t too hungry to become frustrated at trying the new food, and not too full to be disinterested.
Always use a rubber tipped spoon to avoid damaging the gums.
It may take a while for him/her to eat just a little bit but do be patient – it’s a totally new skill they will have to learn and will come in time. When your baby is eating two to three tablespoons of cereal a day you can try adding another food.
As he/she begins to eat and develops more of a side-to-side grinding motion, add a little less liquid so the texture becomes thicker. This allows your baby to develop a chewing and swallowing technique.
Try to add new foods one at a time every few days so that you can gauge his/her interest in each one and see how well your baby tolerates different foods. Yellow fruits and vegetables (banana, ripe pureed apple, carrots, peaches, pears, sweet potato, parsnips, cauliflower, and butternut squash) are easy for babies to digest but they do tend to be the sweeter varieties so mix them in with green vegetables like peas, beans and broccoli early on to discourage a sweet tooth developing! This is important because researchers have found that the eating habits we develop in the first few months – even before we start on solids – can shape our tastes and eating habits for life.
By the time your baby is seven or eight months old, they should be eating semi-solids three times a day.
A typical day’s intake could include:
- Breast milk or iron-fortified formula;
- Small amounts of unsweetened juice, well diluted with boiled, cooled water (one part juice to nine parts water). Undiluted juice can be too acidic and contains natural sugars that will cause plaque to develop on the teeth;
- Iron-fortified cereal;
- Vegetables such as potatoes, parsnips, broccoli, cauliflower, sweet potato, spinach and butternut squash;
- Small amounts of meats, poultry, fish, yogurt, hard-boiled egg (Columbus eggs are a good source of omega-3 which can help brain development), cheese (except Brie, Stilton and other mould-containing (blue) cheeses);