Baby weaning - it can be a bit of a minefield, but for me I actually find it a really nice stage, a move from just giving your baby milk to exploring a whole new world of mealtimes, mess and foodie pleasure! Now I'm no expert in any shape or form but I thought I'd share with you my personal experience and tips on baby weaning so far and what I've done differently this time round with V. It's a bit of a food adventure seeing your baby explore and develop eating skills that will be so important later in life. There are a few essential bits of equipment, books and food recipes that I want to share and hope that you find this of use whether you are thinking of starting, doing it already or are just curious to know what's to come.
So what is baby weaning? It's the gradual transition a baby makes from milk alone to solid foods. For me the important thing I always try to remember is it's not about eating a large quantity and getting a full tummy at the early stages, your baby should still be getting all their nutrients and calories from milk. It's more about exploring, trying new things and establishing good mealtime habits.
When should you start weaning? Current guidelines say 6 months but personally I think you should do it when your baby seems ready. With both of mine that was around 5 months. They need to be able to sit up with a strong back and also have started to show some interest in food. Your instinct will tell you what's best but if you're worried or unsure you can always speak to a health visitor or your doctor.
First tastes can just be given on your finger - juices from fruits or a bit of mashed potato from your plate. The faces they pull when trying things for the first time are priceless and part of the best bit - they will make some hilarious looks of disgust and delight. Apparently this is totally normal and you should not take them pulling a face as meaning they don't like it - it's just new tastes and textures they are discovering for the first time! To develop on from small tastes I find mashing a banana or avocado a good starting point as it's quick and easy - and spoon feeding it to them. The best spoons I've found to use are these Tommee Tippee ones with the soft tips and long handles, they are really easy when feeding your baby. Next step is to make sweet potato, apple or pear puree, if you make a big batch you can freeze them into small freezer pots (like these here) and grab them out as and when you need them. I've found it's best to be prepared in advance rather than make something from fresh each day, otherwise you will spend your life cooking and washing up!
Basic Pear Puree Recipe:
1) Peel, core and quarter a few pears, cut each quarter into smaller pieces
2) Gently cook in a saucepan for around 10 minutes until soft
3) Cool slightly then use a food processor or hand blender to puree, add a little water if necessary to get the right consistency
They can eat this alone otherwise it's nice mixed into baby rice or baby porridge to thicken it up and make more substantial for breakfast or as a snack. Another top tip is to get frozen bags of fruit such as strawberries or blueberries and whizz these up into purees, super quick, cheap and easy. They are great added to natural yoghurt or make a nice dessert.
Over a week or two it's nice for them to taste lots of different smooth purees - venture out into broccoli, peas, butternut squash, carrots etc. I did find with both of mine they did naturally prefer the sweeter fruits over veg, so another good tip is to mix the fruit and veg purees you make together - e.g. avocado and banana or butternut squash and pear.
Next step is to try different textures and a bit of baby led weaning (where baby feeds itself) - carrot sticks, spaghetti, pitta, sticks of cheese, strips of roast chicken, home made chunky humous, omelette strips and toast. Anything easily cut into strips for baby to hold, suck, explore. Above is V eating omelette strips (I also grated cheese into them), most of them ended up on the floor but they were soft enough for her to squeeze into her mouth and get a good taste. Eggs need to be well cooked through at this age and avoid giving nuts, honey and liver. I definitely feel as a second baby she has been much more interested in feeding herself than Finn was. Absolute favourites so far are strawberries which V likes to hold and suck, this is super messy so best to make sure you have bibs (we like the Tommee Tippee bibs that catch food, are easy to clean and roll up) and coveralls like these Baby Bjorn ones (also can be used for messy play/painting) for super messy meals and baby led weaning.
Top snacks for on the move are breadsticks, Organix carrot crisps, rice cakes, sticks of celery (also great for teething babies if you give them super cold straight from the fridge) and squeezy fruit sachets like Ellas. Ella pouches are so good (and V absolutely loves them) and it is really easy to get into a (expensive) rut of using just them. I find the savoury ones such as chicken casserole are more popular diluted with a bit of yoghurt. Have you ever tried the savoury ones yourself? They are disgusting!! My rule is now to only use them if we are out and about or travelling, if we are at home it's fresh and homemade food where possible (often easier said than done!). Another tip - collect the Ellas lids, wash them and string them up to make a fun colourful toy you can attach to the high chair! Be prepared for mealtimes to be a slow and long process, you need to be relaxed and let them take their time.
Also be prepared for the mess - you will never brush, wipe the floor or use so many baby wipes in your life. It's the one thing I hate about this stage, the constant cleaning and clearing up after the mess. Remember banana stains really badly, cover up nice clothes! Also be prepared for the change in their poo!
Next steps for us to try are things like vegetable muffins (easy to freeze and great for on the move lunchbox), fritters and pancakes. For ideas and inspiration I turn to @thishackneymum and @young_gums on Instagram and I can also recommend Annabel Karmel's Baby & Toddler Meal Planner. My favourite book is River Cottage Baby & Toddler Cookbook, it's good because it has lots of things in there you would cook and eat yourself (e.g the Polenta Chips, courgette polpette and Spinach & onion puff tart which are our fave recipes) so it means you don't have to always cook different meals for baby/toddler and yourself. It also tells you how to serve the meal for baby vs. grown ups and older children and encourages children to help cook and be involved.
A really good tip for weaning is to use a nutribullet, so many of us have these as part of our standard kitchen equipment these days. Use it to make smoothies, raw sauces for pasta, whizz up spaghetti bolognaise (or any of your leftover meals) to make it easier for baby to eat. A piece of equipment I considered buying was this Beaba babycook machine - it steam cooks, blends, defrosts and reheats. At £119 I decided it was a little excessive and felt that being a second baby the puree stage will probably not last long! But I have heard good things about it and would be interested to know what you thought of it if you have used it.
In terms of seating we have used a few different options as it's nice to mix it up. We have a Bumbo which is a seat for when they are very young but able to support their head unassisted, it helps them maintain an upright seated position. We used it as a feeding seat when we first started weaning at 5 months. You can sit it on the table (they do say don't do this but I think it's fine to as long as baby isn't left unattended) and feed them at your height, plus you can get a little table that attaches to it. However that doesn't last that long so best to invest in a high chair. I really recommend the Stokke Trip Trapp which slots right up to your dining table bringing your family right into the heart of family mealtimes. Also now with two children it's nice for them to sit together at the table and encourage good eating habits. Not only does it look good but it grows with your baby - we used it from birth (with the newborn attachment) and it is now being used with the baby set. The other tip I have is to buy this £13 Ikea high chair. Not only is it a bargain but it's useful to have a spare high chair when you have a friend and baby over so they can eat together (which is always more fun). It's super easy to dismantle and you can pop it in the car boot if you go anywhere like a staycation or grandparents and they don't have highchairs. The tray is really good as you can just put the food directly on it then take it off and wash it when they've finished. You can also get a supporting cushion and cover if you're baby is particularly small and needs a bit more padding. Or get the grandparents to make sure they have one at their house, the really are the most useful and best bargain highchair around.
Finally it's nice to treat yourself to a few lovely bits of tableware, yes the majority of what you will use is bright orange, green and pink plastic fantastic (Ikea do have the best budget selection) but there are a few cooler, neutral pieces filtering through these days and these are my favourite ones to make the whole weaning process a more fun experience....
1. Arlo Snack Pack Lunchbox by Tiba & Marl, £22. Insulated to keep things hot or cold and clips easily onto your buggy or a bag. For food on the move...
2. Letter cup with lid by Design Letters from Scout & Co. £9 for cup, £6.90 for lid. These little cups are also great for holding your toothbrush or plant up a cactus!
3. Triangle Letters Snack Plate by Design Letters from Scout & Co. £11. Made of melamine so when the plate and snacks drop on the floor it won't break ;)
4. Mix & Match Bear Plate by Wee Gallery from Scout & Co. £26. The perfect size for snacks, we love the playful design
5. Bunny Placemat by We Might Be Tiny from Cissy Wears, £16 each
6. Nom Nom Nom Plate by Buddy & Bear from Scout & Co. £7. A tableware essential in our household
Our top websites for more ideas, inspiration and information:
Good Luck and happy weaning!!!