Weaning: You know best when it comes to introducing solids, says blogger Tracey Quinn
You'll hear a lot about weaning when you have a baby. Your little one will be born about five minutes and people will start to ask "so when you are planning to wean?"
It all moves far too quickly. But it's something we all have to think about. For the first four to six months of your baby's life, their only food will be (and should be, according to health professionals) milk.
The official recommendation by the HSE is that you "should start giving your baby solid foods when they are around six months old, as well as breast or formula milk". I think the word "around" is quite important here because every baby is different.
When I was thinking about how and when I would wean Billy I was completely overwhelmed by all the information. Other generations told me about how back in "their day" you were advised to wean at three or four months. As studies are done and research takes place we are always developing when it comes to guidelines. The advice will always change as new information becomes available. But then there is the question of "how" to wean?
When I was pregnant I heard a lot of information about Baby Led Weaning. This is a new form of weaning where spoon feeding just does not happen. It's based on developing different motor skills alongside the introduction of different solid foods. It doesn't advocate spoon feeding. Read more about it here.
Alternatively, there's the more traditional form of weaning – starting with fruit and vegetable pureés and spoon feeding. But how is a person supposed to decide which to choose? I struggled. In the end I decided to strike a balance. I would start with the traditional pureés, then 'graduate' to finger foods, allowing Billy to feed himself and explore different textures using his hands.
We decided to wean Billy at around 22 weeks. He was just over five months and we truly felt he was ready. I'm very happy with the decision; he took to it like a duck to water. He LOVES food. If he sees me brushing my teeth he gets agitated because he thinks I'm eating something and not sharing.
His first ever food was a purée of carrot and butternut squash. I stored them in little containers, keeping some in the fridge, freezing the rest. I loved knowing that these natural foods would be the first my baby ever tasted.
We were told to try a vegetable first as babies naturally have a tendency towards sweet food. It makes sense as breast and formula milk are sweet. After the first purée we offered him pear and apple. We started by giving him one little 'meal' a day, then moved on to two. Before we knew it, he was having breakfast, lunch and dinner. When we got a bit braver we introduced yoghurt (there are some great infant yoghurts with no sugar or preservatives). I don't think there was anything he didn't like. Just like his mammy.
The one thing that took me by surprise was how little time you get from the 'purée' stage. I couldn't believe how quickly Billy could manage, and seemed to prefer, food with texture. I started being more adventurous with flavours and the food became lumpier. He much preferred that texture. Then came the introduction of meat when he was six months. We found stews and soups satisfied him for a few weeks, then he quickly wanted more.
And so began our journey with finger foods.
This has been the most challenging stage. It's a lot of fun seeing this tiny baby eating a piece of pear or a rice cake from his hand. It's also a bit scary; there are times when he has stuffed too much food in his mouth and gagged, but I've always been close by to save the day. We're good at that, us parents.
Snack wise, 7+ months Organix rice cakes covered in berries, and flavoured with apple are great. One packet lasts a couple of days too.
With all the information, and so many opinions, it's hard to know what is the best course of action. In the end, I just went with my gut. You know best, so trust yourself. I took the medical advice and didn't wean before seventeen weeks, took the best parts of Baby Led Weaning when I felt he was ready, and enjoyed kicking off with different pureés.
Throughout this weaning journey I've learnt quite a few things: Firstly, my little squishy newborn is no more. He is an independent little person who wants to do everything himself. It's bitter sweet because we all want to see our baby thrive and grow, but I think a part of us also wants time to stand still and stop moving so fast.
Secondly, I've learned to look at my own diet. We've had many conversations in our house about the importance of omitting sugar and salt from Billy's diet, only to go and douse our own food in salt. The reality is, children do what they see. I've decided to use this time to wean the entire family. And by wean, I mean make healthier choices all round. If the aim is to have the baby eating with the family, then shouldn't the family be eating as healthy as possible too?
Tracey is a first-time mum to baby Billy. With a background in theatre, marketing and sales, her biggest ambition in life was always to be a mother. If she's not discussing nappies, weaning and breastfeeding she can be found singing at weddings and blogging her thoughts about pregnancy and parenting at love-of-living.blogspot.ie.