The start point! Initially you will start with a few finger foods that are easy for your baby to manage. Remember at this stage they can only use their fist to pick up with, so foods must be long enough to poke out the top.
Generally breakfast will be fruits like kiwi, mango, and banana cut in to strips. You can leave the skins on so that your baby can grip them better. They will not eat the skin, they are far too clever! You can also make porridge (normal porridge is fine, you don’t have to use the expensive ‘baby’ porridges) with water/milk, load up a spoon and give them the spoon to hold. Oatibix, weetabix and shredded wheat can be softened with milk and broken in to manageable chunks. Hard boiled eggs, poached or scrambled eggs with toast fingers are also a good breakfast option. If you use a spread on the toast, the best to use is organic salt free butter. Other good spreads are nut and seed butters.
For lunch, rice cakes come in very handy. Only use the salt free baby versions due to the arsenic content (more info HERE). Kallo is a good brand usually available in most supermarkets. You can cut these in to long strips and use homemade hummus or bean spreads. Pitta bread is also a good option. Just be careful with the amount of wheat you use, really you need to limit this to once a day. So if you have given your baby shredded wheat for breakfast do not use bread for lunch or pasta for dinner. Sticks of cucumber, steamed carrot sticks, baby sweet corn and the like can be served with lunch. Fruit can also be added again. Try to incorporate lots of different colours.
Dinner time can be a little more difficult when you first start out. Try to give your baby a version of your dinner that they can manage. A good example is steamed salmon with roasted vegetables (cut peppers, courgettes, butternut squash etc in to long strips) and some new potatoes or homemade oven chips. Lentil dhal is also a good option. Serve this with some steamed vegetables like broccoli spears or cauliflower florets. Strips of meat are also fine to give although most babies at this stage will suck and then spit out.
So basically having made all of this lovely food your baby will probably do one of three things at this stage:-
- Ignore the fact that food has been put in front of them!
- Pick up the food, squash it, look at it, stick it up their nose or in their eyes and then throw it on the floor or up the wall!
- Pick it up, try it, pull all sorts of faces, and spit it out!
All of the above are usual reactions and this can go on for a few weeks. Remember you do not need to worry about the amount of food consumed. Continue with your milk feeds as before and let your baby tell you when to start dropping feeds.
When you first start baby led weaning, it is better for the first few weeks that babies are not hungry when food is put in front of them. This is because it can be frustrating when you are starving but are unable to get the food in to your mouth straight away. Food should be fun at this stage. This frustration is one of the reasons that people tend to give up on baby led weaning. If a baby is hungry and gets offered an easy to suck puree solution from a spoon directed by someone else, then that’s the option they may well end up preferring.
Don’t panic, this stage only last a few weeks/months and before you know it your baby will be enjoying his or her food at each mealtime.
You will be amazed at how quickly your baby is able to direct the food to their mouths during these months. They will usually achieve the pincer grip by 9 months (the use of the thumb and forefinger). A good guide to the size of food to give your baby is whether they can pick it up or not! Foods to include now will be smaller foods such as cherry tomatoes and grapes halved, blueberries and raspberries, button mushrooms etc. Recipes using small whole pulses like chickpeas will usually be ok at this stage. Prior to this you can squash them a little to make them easier to manage.
You can also introduce fruits such as apple wedges and orange segments as your baby will be able to deal with these much better from 7 months onwards.
You should start to notice that your baby is eating a lot more now and milk feeds will start to decrease. If you are formula feeding around 600ml should be given. This is approximately 3 feeds. If you are breastfeeding, you will most likely notice a drop in the lunchtime feed but your baby will still be having around 4 to 5 feeds. Do not worry if this is more or less, this is just a guide.
Usually around month 9 or 10 your baby will just seem to ‘get it’. They will really start eating well at each meal, may want an afternoon snack and have a major growth spurt. Babies will usually be getting around at this point either crawling, cruising or walking so their need for calories does increase. It’s a good idea to check your weekly menus at this point as it is so easy to get stuck in a rut and rely on the same old recipes. Make sure that the salty foods are not creeping in too much. Sandwiches can often be overused at this point. Make sure that snacks are healthy; don’t be tempted to opt for so called healthy child options. Read the labels!
Towards the 12 month mark you want to introduce a fork as well as a spoon in to meal times. You can lay a place at the table for baby even if he or she is eating from the high chair. This is all about learning and fitting in with the rest of the family. Make sure you buy a child friendly set of cutlery and start introducing these.
If you are bottle feeding, you should also start to think about moving to a cup or beaker for the milk feeds. You would have been using a beaker or cup for water with meals for some time now so it shouldn’t be a surprise to your baby. Don’t worry too much about how long this procedure takes. Most babies find the teat on a bottle very comforting and it can hard for them to let go of it.
As your baby approaches their first birthday, they will be extremely apt at eating all sorts of foods and will be very aware of the foods other people are eating. This is the most crucial time for preventing the sweet tooth! Ice-cream, chocolate and sweets will be on view and seem to be readily available. From the doting Grandparents who desperately want to give their grandchild a treat to the sheer number of birthday parties your baby will attend; avoiding these foods will become very difficult. The longer you can keep your child away from sugar the better their long term health will be. There are some good alternatives to the items mentioned if you are prepared to do some baking yourself. You can set an example to the other parents and if your child does have some of the sweet foods you wouldn’t normally give them, then trust the fact that they will only have a small amount.
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Julie Clark BSc N.Med
Registered Nutritional Therapist