It doesn’t feel like one blog can give this huge and interesting subject justice….but we shall try! This one is going to be all about weaning!
I will start by stating clearly that I am not a nutritionist, nor a professional in the field of weaning at all. I am only going to share the things I learnt during the first 6 months of Charlie’s eating. I am a voracious reader and all the resources I used I will link to at the end of this blog.
There are lots of options when it comes to introducing food to your little one and I will try to cover all of them but of course I am more comfortable talking about how we went about things with Charlie which is what I will focus on and the resources we used.
How do you know your baby is ready?
There are a few markers to look out for at around the 6 month mark to know if your little one is ready to start on more solid food. I say around 6 months as some babies (like Charlie) are ready a little younger than this and some are ready a little after their 6 month birthday. Charlie was giving me signs he was ready a little before. The biggest couple of these were something called tongue thrust and the ability to bring whatever was in his hand to his mouth and pop it in! The truth was he wasn’t actually able to sit for very long unaided yet, which is supposedly one of the things you have to wait for. But I knew my baby and he was “late” (I put these in inverted commas for a very good reason) to roll, hold his head up etc etc. I just knew that Charlie was very quick at learning some things (fine motor skills) but a little lazy about the gross motor skills so I wasn’t worried about him not sitting unaided. Turns out I was right as he took to solid food so well but didn’t actually end up sitting unaided until over 7 months old so if I had waited for that marker he would have missed out on the start of his weaning journey.
Tongue thrust is an interesting one. It’s not something I had heard about before but this is what I learnt: The tongue thrust reflex is stimulated with touch to the lips or tongue causing it to stick out. This movement may push food out of the mouth at the start of weaning and is a sign that your baby is not quite ready for solids. It is usually present until between 4-6 months after which is gradually fades. Charlie’s had certainly gone by about 5 months old and was a strong indicator to me that he was ready.
Puree/Spoon fed or Baby-led-weaning? What’s the difference?
Many people are super strong advocates of baby-led-weaning (especially where I am from in the UK) and I always assumed I would follow this route. However, in Spain it is much more common to wean with purees and spoon feeding. This was what was recommended by Charlie’s paediatrician. So in the end, I read around for myself A LOT and decided to go with a blended approach. I don’t mean blended foods but a bit of BLW (baby-led-weaning) and purees. I started him with veggies, so I would cook and blend broccoli for example, and offer it to him with a spoon, whilst also having available some cooked whole broccoli for him to explore and experiment with, play with and sometimes eat. He took to both ways of eating really well. After introducing him to as many vegetable flavours as I could I branched out to more meal-type things. He loved foods he could grab and bring to his mouth such as a flapjack style breakfast made of baked oats. He also loved cheesy cauliflower tots that I would bake in a big batch and freeze. He also loved pasta and fish so I would make big batches of simple salmon pasta. Until he was about one year old, his preference was grabbing fistfuls of food and getting it to his mouth as quickly as possible! And he loved experimenting, just before his first birthday we had a holiday in Portugal. Every lunch time I wouldn’t need to prepare anything to bring along to the restaurant because he would happily enjoy bits of fish and seafood we had ordered for ourselves! And luckily he was and still is a milk monster, so would thoroughly enjoy his formula milk or some breastmilk after every meal too.
I think the 2 most pressing worries for parents when it comes to weaning is choking and allergies. As I have said above I am not a doctor so I am not able to give allergen advice, but I will point you in the direction I took for advice which I have found super soothing and helpful
I have been very lucky in that so far Charlie has had no issues with any food he’s tried. We always gave him potential allergens in the morning as for me, being in a foreign country, my main anxiety was being able to get him to the clinic or hospital and the easiest thing for me was knowing where my emergency clinic was and the opening hours so I gave him eggs, nuts etc for the first time for breakfast and had the car keys ready! I’d also prepare something in writing about what he had eaten and when in Spanish! Strange, I know but these little things helped calm my worries and made the process fun like it should be!
When it comes to choking, I never worried too much. I made sure I knew the difference between gagging and choking and we have only had one choking episode where Charlie needed my assistance but an awful lot of gagging where he was able to handle it himself like a pro. I hope because I was chilled out about it, that transferred to him so he was never really giving signs of worry when he was gagging. The choking episode (when he was about 14 months old) did put him off grapes for the rest of the day but he soon got over that!
I wish I could say we now have an 18 month old who eats everything! But he’s also now starting to learn the power of no and learn about the power he holds in this household. He is also extremely good with the spoon and fork so won’t accept help with eating from me. He’s learning his independence which I am completely OK with. When it comes to food refusal I try to stick with what I have always done.
1) Don’t offer alternatives
2) If he’s getting distressed move away from the dining table and play for a while until he has calmed down and then offer it again. If he still won’t eat it then move on with our day.
3) Don’t offer too many snacks throughout the day so that he has built up an appetite for meal times.
I realise a toddlers appetite fluctuates wildly, so please don’t worry if your little one completely refuses a meal, they will probably have a huge one tomorrow! Of course, if you have concerns your child’s doctor is the best person to reach out to as a professional first port of call.
Is there anything I missed? Do you have any preference when it comes to weaning, will you or did you follow the Baby-Led-Weaning method? How did you find it? I would love to hear from you! And don’t forget we have a whole section in the shop for weaning - check it out!
Charlotte Stirling-Reed - Charlotte has a wealth of experience working as a nutritionist in many sectors including the NHS, Commercial Companies, Local Authorities and Charities.
Wean in 15 - I got a lot of recipes from this book by Joe Wicks
Escuela de BLW - help here in Spain to support your BLW journey!
Bel & Mums First Aid Course - an all round first aid course for parents and carers that of course covers choking.