“Let’s talk about weaning”…. If you’re interested in that phrase, it’s likely you’re about to start thinking about the newest phase of parenthood. Introducing food to your baby. Whilst it’s a new adventure for both of you, it can also feel a bit daunting and it’s likely you’ll have a lot of questions. At doddl we’re specialists in feeding and weaning (and between us have been around the babyhood block a few times). So you can trust us to help you through the process of how to wean your baby, with lots of info and helpful guidance.
Signs your baby is ready to wean
UK Government guidelines suggest waiting until 6 months before introducing solid foods, so obviously we agree. Of course, every baby is different and you will know your baby better than anyone. However, there are three very clear signs which, together, might show that your baby is ready to try solid foods alongside their usual formula or breast milk.
- Your baby can stay in a sitting position, holding their head steady.
- Your baby can coordinate their eyes, hands and mouth which means that they are able to see food, pick it up and put it in their mouth.
- Your baby can swallow food. If they are not yet ready, they will simply push food back out with their tongue.
How to start baby led weaning
We asked Stacey Zimmels from Feed Eat Speak to share her weaning expertise. Stacey is a feeding & swallowing specialist and Speech and Language Therapist so she knows a thing or two about this subject.
What is baby led weaning?
“Weaning is the gradual transition from all milk feeds to eating solids alongside milk. There are lots of different ways to wean your baby, below I’ll try and guide you with the options and my preferences based on my professional expertise and experiences with my own two children.
As with the government guidelines listed above, you should wait until your baby is showing weaning readiness cues. These typically occur at around 6 months of age. Your baby should be sitting up, showing an interest in others eating and reaching and taking food to their mouth. Your baby should also be able to take food to the back of their mouth and swallow it. If your baby is pushing it back out with their tongue, they might not quite be ready for weaning. If you start but then realise your baby is not ready, then stop and try again a week later.
Weaning is a gradual process. The first weeks and months of how to wean a baby are about having positive experiences, learning to eat, being exposed to a range of tastes and receiving the different nutrients that food offers. Follow your baby’s lead and go at the pace that suits them the best.
When to start baby led weaning
Begin with one meal a day and choose to give this at a time when your child is well rested and not too hungry.
Offer milk first.
You can offer different meals at different times of the day. Do what works best for you and your baby.
You can choose to follow baby led weaning, spoon feed or do a mixture of both spoon feeding and finger feeding
From 6 months you can offer most foods including protein, dairy, fish, meat, carbs and egg as well as fruit and vegetables
Your baby can have tap water from 6 months. Offer water with each meal. We recommend using an open cup or a free-flowing spouted beaker. It’s best to avoid non-spill beakers.
Whenever possible, your baby should eat in a highchair at the family table. Try and eat something with your baby when they eat. Babies love to watch and copy so this is a great way to role model happy mealtimes!
It’s helpful to remember that everyone’s weaning experience is different. Work out what works best for you, and your little one. And don’t forget that food can be fun! Try to embrace the mess and the chaos – it won’t last forever!”
If you need more personal insights, click here to discover one mum’s list of reasons for why she chose baby led weaning with her baby.
Setting up your mealtime environment for success is also an important part of weaning. Having a great environment means you and your little one are more likely to feel relaxed and enjoy your weaning journey (despite the mess!). Read our article on tips on creating the best set up for your baby’s weaning experience, including advice on highchairs.
For more tips on introducing solid foods to your baby, have a look at our blog here.
How long does weaning take?
There’s no ‘one size fits all’ answer to this – every baby is different. But we love a list, so check out our blog post for some simple weaning journey markers to guide you through the process.
What equipment do you need for weaning?
With SO many weaning products out there it’s hard to know what items are going to be truly essential and how to make the best choice to suit your baby.
We recommend the following as essentials:
- doddl baby cutlery – specially designed for little hands. Touching and feeling food is important for development. But getting started early with cutlery at the same time is a great way to smooth the transition to independent eating as a toddler. That’s because it helps your baby always associate food and mealtimes with cutlery. But self-feeding is a skill, so you need to give them the right tools for success. doddl is the perfect introduction to cutlery and is suitable from 6 months. The short compact handles remove the risk of gagging presented by long handles. The smooth ends feel comfortable in your baby’s mouth and they are easy to grip
- baby bibs such as Tidy Tot – award winning coverall bibs and weaning accessories
- highchair – watch our short video below for top tips on how to set up your highchair to support your little one
- Baby cup – we recommend an open baby cup. That’s because open cups are recommended by dentists as the best for oral and tooth development in babies. And they help encourage proper drinking habits at an early age.
Head to our Mealtime Matters page and click on ‘What equipment do I need?’ for more information about weaning equipment. There are also some more useful suggestions on the best baby weaning products to take the hassle out of weaning in this Evening Standard article.
How to teach a baby to use a spoon
Whether you prefer to feed your baby with a spoon or want to encourage them to self feed using finger foods and cutlery, our blog is here to help. Check out our piece on Top 4 tips to encourage spoon feeding during weaning here.
Weaning Facts and Myths
When you are on your weaning journey, sometimes it can feel like you are bombarded with information. Not all of it is true, or even helpful. And it can be difficult to sort out the facts from the fiction. We asked our expert partner Lucy Upton, The Children’s Dietitian, to help sort out the weaning facts from the myths.
Gagging vs Choking in Baby Led Weaning
One of the most common worries when thinking about how to wean a baby, is around babies gagging or choking as they learn to feed themselves. It’s important to recognise the difference between the two. We asked our expert Stacey Zimmels (Paediatric Speech and Language Therapist and feeding specialist), to help again with some hints and tips on choking which should help to reassure you.
Cows milk protein intolerance in babies
“Milk intolerance in babies is a common concern for parents of babies and toddlers.
The most common form of milk intolerance is cows milk protein allergy/milk intolerance (CMPA/CMPI). It is thought to affect 2-3% of formula fed babies and 0.5% of exclusively breastfed babies.
Symptoms vary depending on the type of milk intolerance they may have but will include more than one of the following symptoms. Excessive crying throughout the day, mucus or blood in the stools, constipation or diarrhoea, eczema, poor weight gain, reflux, vomiting, nasal congestion, respiratory difficulties and hives.
If you suspect that your child has CMPA please see your GP. If CMPA is suspected/diagnosed, according to Stacey Zimmels the following should help…
How do I know if my baby has milk intolerance?
Here are Stacey’s top tips on managing cows milk protein allergy dietary changes:
Change to specialised formula if formula fed or maternal dairy exclusion for 6 weeks if breastfed.
Some infants may also need treatment/management of reflux. This may be medication but can also include:
- keeping in an upright position after feeding,
- slightly inclining the cot head (by raising the legs of the cot NOT placing anything under the mattress) and
- baby wearing.
Sometimes changing the feeding position can also help.
For bottle feeding try the elevated left side-lying (for more info please visit Feed Eat Speak). For breastfed babies the laid-back nursing position can help.
Some babies like to suck on the bottle and breast for comfort but this can exacerbate symptoms. In this instance a dummy may help. For breastfed babies use dummy cautiously as it may impact on milk supply.”
Seek advice if concerned. For advice on how to wean a baby with CMPA, and more information on this topic, please visit Feed Eat Speak.
Food to help baby sleep
Sleep is one of the most important things for many of us and especially new parents! If you can remember what a full night sleep feels like, congratulations! It’s a pain point for so many parents (a number of us here at doddl included). And the topic of many conversations between exhausted mums and dads. When should your baby sleep, for how long, and how to get a baby to sleep? Ensuring that everyone has enough sleep is often uppermost in many parents’ minds! But have you thought that what you feed your baby can affect their sleep? It might seem obvious, but there are real links between mealtimes and sleeping. Here is some useful info on creating a great mealtime routine to encourage quality sleep. Helpful for your little one – and you!
Still got a weaning question?
For more weaning advice, grab a coffee and check out this Weaning Q&A with doddl founder Cat Dodd, and Stacey Zimmels, feeding and swallowing specialist. They cover all the basics of weaning, with some top tips and lots of useful guidance.
We have lots more information on how to wean a baby, weaning and parenting tips and tricks, and some delicious recipes on our doddl Parent Hub. Don’t forget to tag us @doddl with any questions you have, and our team will be happy to help!
Here at doddl we offer a range of award winning products designed to make eating easy and mealtimes more enjoyable.
To view the full range and find out why over 10,000 parents have rated doddl 5 stars, visit our store.