When to start weaning my baby?
In the past, most mums used to introduce solids to their babies from 4 months. This has changed with the new guidelines that were introduced in 2003 by the Department of Health (based on recommendations by the World Health Organisation and UNICEF). It is recommended now to start weaning your baby at 6 months.
It is now thought that, in general, under 6 months old babies’ kidneys and guts are not mature enough to cope with a more diverse diet and that early weaning can increase the risk of infections and the development of allergies like eczema and asthma.
However, some babies tend to be more advanced than others, so do look out for these clues to know if your baby is ready to start taking some solid foods:
• Their birth weight has doubled, usually around 6 months
• They can hold their head up and maintain a steady, upright position
• Also, they can sit up with some support, such as in your lap
• They have the coordination to look at food, hold it and put it in their mouth without help
• They look at your meals and try to grab food as you move it from the plate to your mouth
• Also, they make chewing motions
• They swallow their food. Babies who are not ready will often push their food back out.
If your baby is chewing on their fists, wanting extra milk or waking up more at night, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are ready for solids. Try to wait until your baby is passed the 6 months’ mark and showing the above signs.
Don’t forget that babies’ appetite varies from day to day, just like our appetite does! If your baby spits everything out, try not to get frustrated, it’s normal.
You’ll notice that your baby’s milk feeds will start to decrease as he starts eating more solid food.
Babies over six months can drink tap water which hasn’t been boiled and cooled.
What are the foods that are unsafe for my baby?
Salt: Your baby’s kidneys can’t cope with salt yet and it’s best not to encourage a liking for it.
Honey: Honey can cause botulism in babies. An adult’s intestinal tract can prevent the growth of these spores, but in a baby the spores can grow and produce life-threatening toxins.
Cow’s milk and soy milk: Stick with breast milk or formula until your child’s first birthday. Why? Your baby can’t digest the protein in cow’s milk and soy milk for the first year, they don’t have all the nutrients he needs, and they contain minerals in amounts that can damage his kidneys.
Sugar: Try sweetening natural yogurts and porridge with fresh or dried fruits instead of sugar. Or you could use expressed breastmilk or formula milk.
Artificial sweeteners: Diet drinks or squashes containing artificial sweeteners are not suitable for your baby. They are not nutritious and can encourage a sweet tooth as well as tooth decay.
Certain fish: Your baby should not have shark, swordfish and marlin because they may contain traces of mercury.
Tea or coffee: The tannin in tea may prevent babies from absorbing the iron in his food properly. Any caffeinated drink is also unsuitable for your baby.
Low-fat foods: Always offer your baby the full-fat versions as he needs the calories.
Pate: You should avoid feeding babies pate because it can contain listeria bacteria which might cause food poisoning.
Some kinds of cheese: Avoid soft cheeses because they can carry the risk of being infected with bacteria.
How to prevent my baby from choking?
Never let your baby eat unsupervised and avoid letting him eat in the car because it’s too hard to keep an eye on them while driving.
If you’re using a rub-on teething medication, keep a close eye on your baby as it can numb his throat and impact his swallowing.
Watch closely for these choking hazards:
Large chunks: A chunk of food larger than a pea can get stuck in your child’s throat. Vegetables like carrots, celery, and green beans should be shredded or cooked and cut up. Cut fruits like grapes, cherry tomatoes, and melon balls into pea-sized pieces before serving. Cut meats and cheeses into very small pieces or shred them.
Small, hard foods: Hard candies, cough drops, nuts, and popcorn are potential choking hazards. Seeds may be too small to choke on but can get stuck in a child’s airway and cause an infection.
Soft, sticky foods: Soft foods like marshmallows and jelly or gummy candies can get lodged in your child’s throat.
Peanut butter: The sticky consistency of peanut butter and other nut butters can make it tough for a young child to swallow safely.
How do I know if my baby is allergic to something?
Some allergies can run in families, always ask your GP or health visitor for advice.
If your baby suffers from eczema or asthma, then he might be allergic to peanuts, ask for advice before introducing peanut butter or products containing peanuts for the first time.
It may be worth trying foods that are most likely to cause a reaction one at a time. That way you can see how your baby gets on, and isolate any trigger foods. Start with a very small amount, and don’t give any of them to your baby before he’s six months old. Foods to introduce one at a time are:
• grains, such as wheat, rye, barley and oats, that contain gluten
• fish and shellfish
• citrus fruits
• nut butters
• cow’s milk