weaning
Feeding

Weaning babies onto solid food

Weaning babies onto solid food is a very important step in your little one’s development. Find out how to help your baby safely explore new food flavours and textures.

Weaning your baby onto solid foods is an exciting time. After six months of a purely milk-based diet, it’s finally time to offer her some new flavours and textures. You’ll find that as your baby eats more solids, they will want less milk. An important part of weaning is to develop muscles associated with oral motor skills and speech. It is however essential to continue to give her breast or formula milk until one year of age.

When should weaning babies onto solid food start?

It is safe to start your baby on solids after 17 weeks. The HSE recommends that you should start giving your baby solid foods when they are around six months old (26 weeks), as well as breast or formula milk. Before six months, your baby’s gut is still developing and they need only breast or formula milk. Weaning too soon may increase the risk of infections and allergies. Research shows babies can get all the nutrients they need from breast milk or infant formula until they are around six months old.

How do I know my baby is ready?

The exact time for introduction will depend on your baby’s signs of readiness. Your baby is ready for solid food if:

  • They have good head control.
  • They show interest in foods; your baby may look at food eagerly, watch when you eat and chew their hands.
  • Able to sit up with support.
  • They start to look for milk feeds more frequently over more than a week.
  • The right position for eating

Weaning babies onto solid food

Babies should be fed in an upright position. A high chair, travel chair or bumper is best, where your baby can sit upright.

How to start?

  • Choose a time when your baby is not too hungry
  • Introduce one new food at a time, leaving one to two days between each new food to see if your baby has a reaction or intolerance to a food
  • Introduce the spoon slowly to your baby’s mouth so they can suck the food from the spoon
  • Give a little of their usual milk first if they are too focused on the spoon feed
  • Offer small amounts of spoon feeds, e.g. 2-3 baby spoons, to start with, but allow your baby to take more as they demand
  • Once your baby is managing to take food from the spoon, spoon feeds can be spaced out between bottle feeds
  • Never add foods to a bottle, always give from a spoon

Consistency

First foods should be smooth thin purée without any lumps. Make the purée thicker as your baby learns to take food from the spoon. Use expressed breast milk, infant formula or cooled boiled water to make up feeds. Cow’s milk can be used in cooking after six months. Some purées may need to be sieved to remove lumps and fibrous parts.

Note: Babies take time to learn how to swallow food. If your baby seems to spit food out, this does not mean they don’t like it, they are just getting used to spoon feeding. Your baby may reject new tastes initially, but if you offer this food again they may like them. It may take several tastes before a baby will accept a new flavour, so retry any food that is refused.

Skills learned at stage one of weaning

  • Taking foods from a spoon.
  • Moving food from the front to the back of the mouth for swallowing.
  • Managing increasingly thicker purées.

Weaning safety

Always stay with your baby when they are eating in case they start to choke. Cool hot food and test it before giving it to your baby. When reheating baby food, make sure that it is piping hot. Let it cool down before you give it to your baby, testing a bit of food on the inside of your wrist to see if it is a comfortable temperature beforehand.

Weaning babies onto solid food

Foods to avoid

  • Unpasteurised or mould ripened cheese: although these can be eaten if well cooked, cheeses should be pasteurised.
  • Salt: do not add salt to any foods. Choose low-salt versions of stock cubes, soups and sauces.
  • Added sugar: avoid adding sugar and using foods or drinks with added sugar.
  • Honey: avoid honey until your baby is one year old.
  • Whole nuts: do not give whole nuts to your baby until they are at least five years old due to the risk of choking. Smooth nut spreads are safe.
  • Uncooked or lightly cooked eggs: Make sure that eggs are cooked through until both the white and the yolk are solid.

Watch your hygiene

Ensure that all foods are fresh, clean, hygienically prepared and stored correctly. Never leave leftover food lying around. If you wish to offer it again later the same day, cover it and store it in the fridge. Meals, which are prepared in advance for freezing, or for use later in the day, should be stored with care. Freeze small portions in containers or plastic bags and defrost in the fridge. Reheat all pre-cooked food thoroughly and allow to cool before serving.

Suitable foods for stage 1:

  • Baby rice, porridge
  • Puréed vegetables, e.g. carrot parsnip, courgette, potato, turnip, sweet potato.
  • White fish
  • Well-cooked chicken and minced meat
  • Puréed fruit, eg banana, mango, avocado, peach, apple, apricots, plums
  • Well-cooked egg
  •  Oil-rich fish and white fish
  •  Bread and pasta (from 24 weeks)
  • Breakfast cereals (from 24 weeks)

More like this:

Weaning explained  – by Dr. Pixie McKenna
Guide to weaning
How to get baby started on solids

Ask Allison

Q My sister-in-law and I both work three-day weeks and we help each
other out with child minding on our working days, which up until recently has worked out really well. Between us, our kids are aged between five and nine years – the problem is that it’s now become quite apparent that we have very different parenting styles. I prefer my two daughters (seven and nine) to have a structured day. For example, in my house, we have allocated times for television and iPads, etc. My sister-in-law, however, lets the kids run loose after school – homework is ignored and my kids end up wired after eating sugary treats all afternoon. I am considering looking at after-school childcare for the kids, but I’m worried that this is going to cause a family argument. Is there a diplomatic way that I can ask my sister-in-law to introduce some discipline into her child-minding days? It certainly doesn’t do her two kids any harm when I am minding them in my own house!

A
In a word, no, there is no diplomatic way to do this as it may very likely seem like your saying that your parenting style is better than
hers. As L’Óreal says, ‘now here comes the science bit.’ Dr. Kaylene
Henderson, a child psychiatrist, wrote a very interesting blog about ‘the
science behind the Mummy Wars’. She explains that before she had
children of her own she hadn’t been aware of how parents have a
very specific sense of the right parenting style. She also found that parents could be very definite in defending their chosen parenting style. Dr. Henderson, who describes herself as a curious, scientific, open-minded person, was surprised at how defensive parents could be and, at times, of their judgemental attitude towards each other. She explained the neurology of the Mummy Wars; okay, I’ll need you to bear with me for a second. Warning; I’m about to use some neuro-techie language.

Why do we judge each other?
As we have all had different experiences, this means that we all have very different memories stored in our brains. Most of our memories are ‘explicit’ memories – these are ones that we can recall easily such as important dates that mean something to us; important birthdays, special events or stories of and about our lives.
There is another type of memory called ‘implicit’ memory that plays a
key role in our parenting. This type of memory is the stuff that you do on autopilot. Psychologists call these heuristics or rules of thumb –
such as tying your shoelace, or driving your car (once you have learnt
to do both first!). Otherwise we’d really waste a huge amount of time
pondering over tasks that we have readily available to us. This seems to be where the science bit of our parenting style kicks in. This implicit memory goes all the way back to when you were an infant being parented by your parents. This is when you started the process of storing up how they did it into your memories.
Unless you make a conscious choice and effort to parent differently, what you saw and unconsciously learnt will be your automatic go-to parenting style.

We learn habits
This can really kick into gear when we feel our parenting style is
being mirrored or highlighted by disapproval from another parent. I know the cold sweat you feel when your child decides to make their outstanding bad behaviour performance at, of course, the most public and worst time. The implicit autopilot of how your parents dealt with these outbursts will flow unconsciously from you if you haven’t worked super hard to be aware and consciously change the old habits.
What’s happening for the on-looking parent is that they see you doing something they are used to doing, but you are doing it all wrong. Simply, because that is not how they know how to do it.

Find a way that works
You both have different parenting styles – who is to say which type is correct? You just need to know what works best for your family and that’s the bottom line. The irksome feelings won’t go away. You can talk to your sister-in-law, but I’m adding a caveat that it would be hard not to hurt her feelings. What we’re possibly looking at is that you prefer a more structured form of parenting, whereas your sister-in-law has a more permissive style. I’m not sure the two styles can mix, the mixture is a bit like oil and water.
If a collaborative shared form of parenting style can be agreed upon, then that is great, but our learnt hardwiring may prove difficult to change despite the intent to do so.
Perhaps, your own instinct of changing childcare might work best for you. In terms of making childcare work; the fit is ultimately the most
important aspect as you want a cohesive congruent feeling of the other caregiver to just ‘getting it’, like in any good partnership. Best of luck
with this and I wish you both well.

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Ask Tracey

Midwife Tracey Donegan answers your questions about pregnancy and birth

Q When should I have my first pregnancy scan? And how many scans should I get throughout my pregnancy?

A
Your first scan is known as your dating scan and is routine in all hospitals. Most mums will have this scan at their booking visit, which can be anywhere between 12-18 weeks. The earlier the scan the more accurate it will be. If you have experienced recurrent miscarriages some hospitals will scan you earlier. Contact your antenatal clinic for more information. In Ireland, most women will have two scans in a healthy pregnancy – a dating scan and an anomaly scan at around 20 weeks. However, some units provide a dating scan only. Private scans are also available in most cities and many parents use these services for additional reassurance and to find out the sex of their baby.