stage 1 – first weaning
Weaning starts the very first time you feed your baby something other than milk, and goes on to gradually introduce new foods, starting with a teaspoon or two and working up to three squares a day. Sounds simple, right? The truth is, though, that weaning can seem anything but. Your baby is growing fast and has some very specific nutritional needs – and of course, you also want to give him or her a good start on the road to lifelong healthy eating.
Before you get stressed out, though, do remember that these first tastes are more a learning experience than a nutritional necessity, so try to have fun with it – even if most of that porridge or mashed banana comes back out the way it went in.
is my baby ready?
Ignore all the well-wishers and in-laws – this particular decision is less about watching the calendar and more about trusting your instinct as a parent. Before 4 months, your baby’s digestive system isn’t developed enough to deal with anything other than milk, and after 6 months, they definitely need more nutrients than just milk can provide. The time in between is your ‘weaning window,’ a two-month period when you’ll need to be watching for the telltale signs that your baby is ready to wean.
So what should you look for? Keep an eagle eye out for the following:
- Your baby has doubled his or her birthweight
- Sitting skills are coming along well, as is the fine art of head control
- Your dinner has become an object of MUCH interest – sometimes to the point of following every bite you take, or even snitching off your plate!
- The chewing, dribbling and rosy cheeks that often signal teething have begun in earnest
- “Hungry” seems to have become the default setting…
If you see several of these signs, it could be time to arm yourself with some muslins and prepare to get messy!
A clear sign that your baby is developmentally ready to try solid foods is if he or she gets hold of a bit of soft food (say, a bit of pasta) and manages to gnaw a bit off and swallow it without spitting it all out. Before this stage, if your baby seems hungry it’s better to give more milk at each feed, or more frequent milk feeds.
what are the best first tastes?
First foods should be easy to digest and low-allergy, just in case. Steamed root vegetables, like carrot, parsnip and sweet potato, are naturally sweet and make a lovely smooth puree. Good first fruits include ripe, mashed banana, avocado, and cooked apple or pear.
This is also a good time to introduce grains. You’ll hear a lot about baby rice, but our baby’s first four grain porridge is a great alternative: easy to digest, gluten-free, and very nutritious. That’s because instead of rice, which doesn’t offer much in the way of nutrition, our porridge contains quinoa, a seed that’s naturally high in complete protein. We add it to all our Stage 1 products, because it’s very gentle on little tummies and helps to replace the protein that otherwise gets ‘lost’ when babies gradually start to drop milk feeds during weaning. (For more about quinoa and why we use it in our recipes, click here.)
For that first feed, then, pick a puree and prepare a very small amount of it. Offer a tiny bit on a soft weaning spoon or a clean fingertip, and see what happens! If your baby’s tongue pushes it straight back out, that means you’re off the hook for a bit longer, so wash up and try again in a few days, until your baby’s got the hang of things.
Once you’ve successfully introduced these single foods, and you are confident that your baby is enjoying them, then the fun begins! Start mixing it up a bit. Apple and parsnip for example, or banana and avocado. Don’t be afraid to try bolder flavours – babies often adore them.
If you’re pushed for time or just fancy a change, our stage 1 pouches are delicious and nutritionally balanced (psst, they’re really convenient, too!) Our blueberry, banana & vanilla puree is one of our most popular, and babies love our parsnip, apple & pea recipe!
the importance of savoury
Does your baby love just about every kind of fruit? Most do! This is because babies are literally born with a ‘sweet tooth‘ (which comes in pretty handy when your main food is milk!)
Because of this, young babies often adore fruit, but turn their button noses up at veg the first few times, posing a bit of a challenge to parents. (Not the last one, either, we can assure you!) Some baby-food manufacturers try to get around this by sneaking lots of fruit into all their “savoury” recipes, but we think that’s sort of beside the point – which is to teach your baby that healthy, savoury foods are delicious!
So. As soon as you can, it’s a good idea to get your baby accustomed to savoury tastes. The (slight) urgency comes in because at around 7 months or so, most babies naturally start to become more opinionated about what they eat, and introducing new flavours gets to be more of a challenge. And it’s worth making the effort, truly: studies have shown that babies with varied diets grow up to eat more healthily as adults, too. So you’re literally giving your baby a gift that will last a lifetime!
what to avoid?
No-no’s for babies under one include: salt, sugar, artificial additives, honey, unpasteurised cheeses and whole nuts (because of the risk of choking). Fruit, vegetables and our baby’s first four grain porridge or baby rice are really all you need at this early stage; they won’t get bored, trust us. Plum’s health visitor doesn’t advise introducing dairy products until after six months if you are exclusively breastfeeding. At this age, it’s also a good idea to avoid peanuts and other nuts, wheat or gluten, eggs, meat, soya, and fish or shellfish, which could trigger a food allergy.
Plum’s top tips – first weaning…
- Use a first weaning spoon – i.e. soft and tiny.
- Start at home or in a familiar environment, and choose a time when your baby is alert and peckish, but not starving.
- Take your time, don’t be distracted – smile & connect with your baby.
- Start by offering just a couple of spoonfuls once a day, and build up to offering food twice, then three times a day, over a few weeks.
- Don’t worry about how much is actually going down the gullet; your baby is still getting used to unfamiliar tastes & textures, and most of the real nutrition and calories at this stage is still coming from milk.
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