Baby & Toddler / 15 May, 2023 / Charlotte Stirling-Reed
We asked baby and child nutritionist Charlotte Stirling-Reed to answer some quick-fire FAQs on weaning.
I know all too well that weaning can be a really overwhelming time. It comes at a time when you feel like you’re getting to grips with parenting, new sleep routines and, of course, your new lifestyle with a baby, and then bam! Suddenly you must think about weaning your baby too and offering them totally new foods.
I’ve dedicated my career to really helping parents to find weaning less overwhelming and helping parents enjoy it even. It’s actually such a short period of time, and if you feel confident, it can be a really fun, explorational part of the journey of raising kiddies.
I’ve just developed my very first online weaning course, which talks parents through everything they need to know about weaning their baby with visual tools and guidance and is complete with FAQs, regular live Q&A sessions, course booklets and multiple factsheets as well as a recipe book to take you step-by-step through recipes for every stage of weaning your baby.
Here are some of my tips and bits of advice to help give parents that all-important confidence with weaning.
There are more foods that you CAN offer your baby than foods you CAN’T, so try to focus on that first and foremost. However, it’s useful to know what shouldn’t be offered.
The list of foods NEVER to offer your baby includes:
I’m a huge fan of the “best of both” approach to weaning, where parents/carers offer baby some finger foods ala “Baby Led Weaning”, but also where parents also offer baby foods off of a spoon.
The reason I like this approach is that I feel like this is TRULY the baby-led way. This way baby can explore self-feeding with finger foods but also explore different textures off of a spoon too. They can learn how to use a spoon and cutlery early on and get familiar with skills such as using their top lip to scoop food off a spoon and using the spoon to scoop food out of a bowl in time. It’s also easier to offer a wider variety if you’re offering a spoon and some mashed foods. The key thing is not to get too stuck on thin puree textures and try to move baby through textures nice and stealthily.
When it comes to choking, many parents get very nervous about this when weaning their babies. Choking is a real concern, and it’s totally understandable. Firstly, it’s important to know that as your baby develops skills around eating, self-feeding and using the muscles in their mouth to eat foods, they will be more efficient at eating, and this will reduce the risk of choking.
There are some foods that pose more of a risk of choking than others, but ultimately to do all you can to prevent choking, you want to:
You also want to offer soft foods, including finger foods that are manageable to baby at the start of weaning, and gradually move on through those textures to more complex and harder foods as your baby develops their eating skills. Watching, observing and being led by your baby is key.
It’s also important to know that gagging is very normal during weaning, too, some babies gag lots and others not so much, but gagging is very different from choking. When baby is gagging they will likely go a bit red, lean forwards and make a horrible noise as they try to remove the food. It’s hard not to react, but you want to leave baby to deal with this themselves, as gagging is there to help your baby remove foods they can’t quite deal with effectively.
It does sound scary but can be very common, and your baby will do this less as they build up the skills needed to eat.
I always recommend parents do a first aid for babies course, and I have a section in my weaning course that covers first aid for choking and the difference between gagging and choking, including a downloadable factsheet.
Parents often ask about portion sizes, but the truth is that there are no portion size guides for babies. Babies will all have totally different appetites when it comes to weaning. Some take to it well right at the start, and others are slower to get the hang of it. It’s important not to compare as they are all different, and that includes in how much they will eat too. Try to let your baby lead that journey and look out for signs they have had too much or too little and want more. They are the best ones to know and feel their own appetites.
Food refusal is a normal part of feeding kids and even during weaning, babies will likely have days when they want plenty and other days when they aren’t interested. So much will affect their appetites, including the weather, illness, teething, distractions, growth – you name it.
Try to allow them to refuse foods and avoid pressuring them to eat. Sitting with them, role modelling and making the mealtimes enjoyable is the BEST way to help your little one enjoy foods and be willing to explore eating more.
No, you can offer your baby a vegetarian or vegan diet, but you do have to be a little more careful to ensure that you’re balancing your baby’s meals, including plenty of iron-rich foods such as lentils, beans, pulses, nut butters and be aware that they may need additional supplements depending on what their diet looks like and the balance of foods you’re offering. For example, if babies aren’t eating fish, they may need an omega-3 supplement, and if babies aren’t having any dairy foods, then iodine may also be important to offer in fortified foods or as a supplement. It’s always a good idea to get advice on weaning a vegan baby.
When it comes to weaning, I’ve found in my work that CONFIDENCE is one of the most KEY things you need as a parent/or carer starting your baby on their journey onto solid foods.
Hopefully, this article has given you a bit of confidence, and sometimes it takes just reading around the topic a little to help you know the what, why and when of how to begin.
For much more information on weaning, including video footage of baby’s first meals, guides to the first 10 days and how to offer allergens and all the extra details you need, check out my Online Weaning Course.
Charlotte Stirling-Reed is a baby and child nutritionist and is now running an Online Weaning Course, a complete step-by-step guide for parents to introduce solids to their baby. Find out more about Charlotte Stirling-Reed at www.srnutrition.co.uk.