Weaning your child to solid foods is an exciting but sometimes scary milestone. I wasn’t ready to stop breastfeeding my little one but SHE was ready to move on to food. I had no idea what the first step to weaning should be or even what foods to try. I googled ‘how to wean a baby’ and found pages upon pages of information. I was overwhelmed. What if I fed my child something on the no-no list? What if I didn’t feed my child enough? What if I feed them too much? I had so many questions. In the end, I decided to just let my mommy intuition help me figure it out. When I stopped trying to be perfect, I found that weaning my little one was super easy! Below I break down the steps I took throughout the process.
Step One: Look for the signs
This is a big one! Here are a few things to look for to decide if your little one is ready for weaning.
- Does your baby stay in the seated position by themselves?
- Can your baby hold their head up without help?
- Does your baby look for more feeds frequently?
- Does your baby look interested in food?
Teeth have nothing to do with readiness. Babies are really good at using their gums to break down food. If your little one is showing the signs, IT IS GO TIME!
Step Two: Knowing what foods are best at what age
In this step, I break the baby’s age into three stages and list a few tips for each stage. First stage happens around six to eight months but can be as early as four months. The second stage starts around nine to eleven months. Last stage is around twelve months.
Note that every child is different and may take to foods at a different rate. Patience is always important and this should be a fun milestone, not a stressful one.
- The optimal time to introduce foods to baby is around 6 months of age. Some people start at 4 months but I wouldn’t go any earlier. A baby’s gut is still immature and not fully developed before 4 months.
- Start with liquid puree or soft foods.
- May want to start with savory foods instead of sweet. Babies taste buds are geared toward sweet flavors, so starting with savory may keep them from becoming picky eaters.
- Introduce one food at a time. If the little one doesn’t like it, introduce it again the following week. It can take time for some foods to stick. Don’t give up!
- Breast milk and formula are still most important, since baby is not eating three full meals a day.
- Foods to Introduce:
- Red meat (babies grow on iron and protein, so this is a great first food)
- Fruit and vegetables (avocado, kiwi, oranges, banana, sweet potato, butternut squash)
- Apples, pears, and plums are easier to digest when cooked
- Fish (tuna and salmon are a good source of omega-3’s)
- This stage starts around month nine.
- You can introduce lumpier textures during this stage
- The amount of milk may decrease as the amount of food increases but milk is still important!
- Foods to Introduce:
- Bread, Pasta, Rice
- Waiting until closer to one year to introduce bread is just to help baby with digestion. (Parents use your best judgment here!)
- Babies don’t make large quantities of an enzyme called amylase, which breaks down starches, until about a year of age.
- There are ways for a baby to digest carbohydrates:
- Babies create salivary amylase, which travels from mouth to intestines to digest starch.
- Receive considerable amount of amylase from mama’s milk, if breastfed.
- Produce another type of amylase in the small intestine, called glucoamylase.
- This stage starts at a year old
- You can eliminate the bottle at this stage
- Child starts to eat three full meals daily
- Milk is still important
- Foods to introduce:
- Fruit & Vegetables
- Bread, pasta, rice
- Whole egg
- Cow’s milk as drink
- Citrus fruit
Step Three: Let your kid be a kid
Allow your kid to be a kid and play with their food! For the neat freak mom, this can be a hard step to follow. When starting out, allowing your little one to pick up, poke, and/or mash their food is good for them. It gives them the freedom to be curious and some of the time it even ends up in their mouth! Just sit with baby and encourage them to play! By encouraging their own curiosity, you are not forcing them to eat, which could end in a stressful meal time.
Weaning should be a fun time for mommy, daddy, and baby. Remember, you want to start your little one off on the right path. Start with meals that are healthy and will help your little one grow. Never force your child to eat, just switch it up and/or cook it a new way. Remember, it may take up to 20 tastes for some foods to stick. Don’t start the habit of making multiple meals. If you start, it can become a hard habit to break. Feed children the same meals as the rest of the family. Lastly, eat with your child. If they see you enjoying your food, they will want to copy that. Starting good eating habits are really important and can make the process of weaning easy and stress free.