Okay so weaning is a slow and steady process. This first stage is really just introducing tastes and skills so try not to stress yourself and have fun.
If you’re about to start weaning you’ve hopefully reduced milk feeds down to 4 a day (or 5 if giving a dream/night feed). Your baby is also likely to have 3/4 naps a day. Having a routine and success with milk feeds is essential prior to weaning. This will help guide you as to when is best to introduce ‘meal times’ and to carry on adapting your babies routine so they remain happy and sleeping well. See my previous blog if you’re unsure when to wean.
The following is purely what worked for us as I’m not an expert and Lola is solely bottle fed; but thought it worth while sharing my tips and advice.
When is best to feed?
This is down to personal preference. It’s ultimately the most convenient time of day for you to be equipped and on hand to feed effectively. We began with breakfast.
Lola would usually wake before 7am, with her first milk bottle at 7:30/8:00am. I would feed Lola breakfast about an hour after that bottle so 8:30/9:00am. She was likely to nap around 10ish. Trick is to work out about half between having a bottle and the next nap as you don’t want your baby to be too full from milk or too tired. This theory also works with lunch and dinner. Lunch would ideally be given between the 2nd bottle and 2nd nap of the day and dinner the 3rd.
TIP: Only start with one meal each day. Doing two meals to begin with can be mind boggling as you’re juggling naps, milk and food.
How much to feed
It will feel silly at first because it really is hardly anything. You’ll find a feeding session seems more hassle than it’s worth once you washed and cleaned up afterwards.
Your baby only wants a small amount. 5 teaspoons roughly. Their stomachs are so tiny still and each mouthful will need to be tasted, swished, gurgled, swallowed and digested. Try not to feed too quickly and make the meal fun and an additional daily activity.
What to feed…
Puree or liquidised foods. Depending on which meal time you begin with you might want to try different approaches. Not that there’s anything wrong with feeding your baby a sweet potato purée for breakfast but best to start as you mean to go on.We were recommended to use baby rice or porridge as a great starter food and it worked amazingly. Your baby will already be comfortable with a milky substance and flavour so feeding a slightly thicker milky-like food from a spoon was an easy transition for Lola.
If you’re trying lunch or dinner it would be worth investing in a blender or smoothie maker to create your own food purees. You can of course buy the pre-made jars and pouches but honestly at this stage your baby will only have maybe 1/4 of one so the rest is just wastage plus it’s obviously not as fresh. However these pouches/jars (Ella’s kitchen, Heinz…supermarket own) are a godsend when you’re out and about or on holiday so worth having some in the cupboard.
Best things to purée are broccoli, cauliflower, carrot, peas, apples, pears, butternut squash. Remember that babies are only able to consume certain foods at this young age so stick to fruit and vegetables, steer clear of cheese, nuts, meat and fish until over six months.
Whatever you choose to feed just remember small amounts (5 teaspoons), not too hot or cold in temperature, Only one ingredient/food to start with (combining 2 or more and mixing together will come later, this stage is about feeding different foods at a time), Slow and fun meal times.
How to puree
At this early stage the cheapest and most efficient way of feeding is to purée. This might sound like a lot of effort but liquidising some veg or fruit will actually make countless amounts of small feeds which might sort your meal plans out for weeks if done correctly.
Get yourself some small storage pots that are microwave and freezer friendly. Blend whichever food you choose and fill up as many containers as you can.
At first you could mix in maybe a few spoonfuls of baby milk into these purées but I didn’t bother. Once your pots are filled pop them straight in the freezer. All you need to remember is to defrost and cool before mealtime or move the pot into the fridge to defrost overnight.
I started by liquidising broccoli (which made enough pots for about 8 days) then the next week I moved onto cauliflower. Once you get the hang of it and depending how many pots you invest in this really can organise mealtimes and take the stress out.
My best tip would be to buy enough pots to be able to purée perhaps three separate foods so your baby can vary their meal and have alternate foods rather than a whole week of broccoli for example.
How much milk should they have?
So weaning is an important process to eventually help your baby come off of baby milk or formula. However milk is still their most vital and immediate source of nutrition so it’s important that your baby consumes the right amount of milk during early stages of weaning.
During the first few weeks of weaning there really isn’t any need to change the amount and volume of your babies milk feeds. However you may want to try switching the day feeds into a different bottle or adding handles like we did. This way your baby starts to get used to holding a bottle themselves and doesn’t always need that comfort and cradling whilst being fed by yourself.
After weaning becomes part of your babies routine and they seem settled you should try to reduce one bottle by perhaps an ounce or choose to mix that ounce of milk into their porridge for example.
Try not to focus on milk at first but understand that over the course of weaning your eventual goal is reduce the amount of bottles (ideally two bottles – morning & bed time) and only giving your baby roughly 20oz/600ml each day.
TIP: Remember follow-on milks or so-called next stage milks are a con and unnecessary. Only purchase the original breast milk substitute that you’ve used from the start don’t buy into these other milks.
So if you started weaning close to four months then you’ll baby will be a pro at eating by six months. There’s lots of guide books and tips and advice to be found on how to up your weaning game and adapting more as you go on. It’s best to stick to a weekly plan so you can prepare, purée and buy any ingredients you may need.
Below would be a rough guide on how we tackled weaning as Lola started at four and a bit months but the theory should work for most.
WEEK 1: One meal of One food each day. Focus on getting your baby used to spoons, bowls, high chairs and bibs. Example: Cauliflower purée / baby rice.
WEEK 2: Same as week one but try a new food.
WEEK 3: Same as before but try alternate foods across the week. Example: Cauliflower, broccoli…
WEEK 4: Keep trying new foods but only one at a time and keep alternating.
WEEK 5: Try mixing two foods together. Increase the amount of food to perhaps the size of your hand, maybe 8 teaspoons… Also let your baby grab the spoon and get a little messy.
WEEKS 6 – 12: At this stage if all is going well, think about trying a second and then third meal during the day. Recommend trying breakfast and lunch first and adding a small meal for dinner to begin with. Again keep giving your baby new foods to try and mix some together. You may find once you start doing more than one meal that you’ll need to adapt their naps, bath time or bed slightly.
Lola’s daily routine by six months look like this:
Breakfast (Baby rice / porridge / fruit purée)
150ml/5oz bottle (reduced this one down successfully and she tends to not finish this one)
Lunch (Veg purée mixed / fruit purée) Small portion compared to dinner.
150ml/5oz bottle (reduced this one also which she doesn’t finish)
Dinner (Again veg purée but a different one)
This blog post is really just an idea of what weaning was like for us at the beginning and how we tackled the milk feeds and adapted Lola’s day. Some wouldn’t advise to try three meals at this stage but it worked for us. It felt a little harsh throwing this new routine at her and feeding Lola in this way but she really enjoys her food and we had no complaints. By doing this quite strictly and having an hour by hour routine it meant we were able to set Lola up in good stead for the later weaning stages. She was already having each meal at an appropriate time of day which meant when she was eating properly we could eat alongside her.
Weaning can be challenging and time consuming but if you persevere you’re start to see your baby enjoying their food and slowly adapting to a more normal daily routine. I mean who wants to be sterilising milk bottles everyday…surely this has to stop sometime?!
Thanks for reading my weaning blog (part two) if you need any more advice please refer to Start4life.