To celebrate the launch of the special 30th anniversary edition of the baby weaning ‘bible’, The Complete Baby & Toddler Meal Planner, Annabel has shared her 30 top quick weaning tips with us.
30 Years of Weaning: Annabel Karmel shares her 30 quick top weaning tips
- Don’t worry, wean happy!
Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing. It’s about choosing the method that works for you, your baby and your family. You just need to feel comfortable with the route you are taking, and of course that baby is enjoying it too.
- No right or wrong way to wean
There really is no right or wrong when it comes to weaning methods. Lots of parents choose either spoon-led weaning or baby-led in isolation because that works for them. However, combining both purees and soft finger foods at around six months is an option many parents find most realistic to adopt.
- Explore, explore, explore!
Focus on introducing a variety of different foods in different ways and take a lead from your baby.
- Bring baby to the dinner table
Make sure baby gets to be a part of family mealtimes as they soak up so much from their social surroundings and from watching you or a member of the family eating a range of healthy foods.
- Eat together
Perhaps eat breakfast together or adapt your weekend routine to eat a little earlier with your baby. Serve them a portion of your family meal, even if it’s deconstructed, chopped-up or mashed.
- Set wean
All babies will have their own way of displaying readiness to wean, with the first one being sitting up independently. They will need to be able to stay in a sitting position comfortably without grown-up intervention.
- Coordination is key to readiness to wean
Can they grasp objects, like teethers, and put them into their mouth all by themselves? This hand-to-eye coordination is an important developmental milestone.
- Tongue thrust reflex
See if your baby is showing signs of having lost their tongue-thrust reflex. In simple terms, is your baby able to swallow food? Those that aren’t yet ready will push their food back out.
- Misconceptions of readiness to wean
Night waking and wanting extra milk feeds aren’t always signs of baby being ready to wean. All babies, no matter how old they are, can wake for all sorts of reasons, just like adults do. And learning new skills requires additional energy, so your baby is likely to show signs of being more hungry than usual. But this may just mean that they need more fuel in the form of milk.
- Did you know?
In their first year, babies triple their birth weight. They grow more rapidly in their first year than at any other time in their life. And obviously, to grow that much, they’ll need a stack of nutrients!
- Mighty milk
For your baby’s first year, when introducing complementary foods, their usual milk still provides the mainstay of nutrition.
A baby’s iron reserve will be running low at around six months, so this is the ideal time to start introducing iron-rich foods into your baby’s diet. Babies absorb iron from meat more easily than iron from any other food source, and the darker the flesh of the meat, the higher the iron content.
- Vital vitamin C
There are plenty of non-meat sources of iron such as egg yolks, wholegrain foods, lentils, dark leafy veggies, apricots and fortified breakfast cereals. Pairing these primarily plant-based sources of iron with Vitamin C will aid iron absorption.
- Essential fatty acids
Essential fatty acids are super important for babies, and must come from food. You’ll find them in abundance in oily fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines, and ideally you should include a serving of oily fish in your baby’s diet twice a week.
- A word about wholegrain
Wholegrain bread, pasta and rice is a fantastic source of fibre, but too much can be a little bit bulky and too filling for babies. It can even inhibit their appetite and also reduce the absorption of key nutrients, so it’s best to alternate between the two.
Babies should get up to 50 % of their calories from the start of weaning from ‘good fats’ such as egg yolks, avocado, nuts (ground or as nut butter), cheese (made with pasteurised milk), full fat yoghurt, unsalted butter, lean meat and poultry.
- Vitamin D
Did you know that your baby is born with 300 bones? Vitamin D is needed for normal growth and development of bones in children, and contributes to their normal immune system function. Between the ages of six months to five years, there are three vitamins the Department of Health currently recommends supplementing – vitamins A, C, and D, irrespective of whether you are taking a vitamin D supplement.
- First tastes
Start with a single vegetable. The reason for this is so that your baby can identify the foods they’re eating. Once they have accepted these single flavours, you can then go on to combine flavours and introduce fruit which I’ll come on to shortly.
ANNABEL KARMEL WEANING RECIPE: Butternut Squash, Pea, Broccoli and Kale Purée
There are so many health benefits to eating kale that it would be hard to find a reason to keep it off your baby’s menu. It is high in iron and calcium and rich in vitamins, and this recipe, where it is combined with sweet butternut squash, is a tasty introduction to it. Makes 4 portions.
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 1 onion
- sliced200 g/7 oz peeled butternut squash, diced
- 350 ml/12 fl oz unsalted or weak vegetable stock
- 100 g/4 oz broccoli florets
- 40 g/1½ oz trimmed kale leaves, washed
- 50 g/2 oz frozen peas
- 20 g/¾ oz grated Parmesan cheese
Heat the oil in a saucepan. Add the onion and squash and sauté for 1 minute, then add the stock. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat, cover and simmer gently for 10 minutes. Add the broccoli, kale and peas and simmer for a further 6–8 minutes until tender. Purée in a blender until smooth. Add the Parmesan cheese and stir until melted
- Bitter sweet!
With babies only having sweet milk until this point, it’s important to expose them to more bitter and sour tastes at the start of weaning. Try introducing those bitter and sour green veggies in the first few weeks alongside those sweeter root veggies. With repeated exposure, it’s likely they’ll be more receptive to these foods which will set them up for the future.
- Time of day
You’ll want your baby to be fully alert, as getting the hang of weaning will take plenty of concentration on their part, so I would recommend offering them new foods after they’ve had a nap, but not directly before.
- Set a routine
We know that babies like routine, so now is the perfect time to set your own! Try to offer new foods at around the same time each day as this will help to establish a feeding routine.
- Spoon tip!
If you’re incorporating spoon-led feeding into your baby’s weaning journey, and your baby starts reaching for the spoon, great! Let them have a go at guiding it to their own mouth. It may get a little messy but it’s good for them to feel the texture of food on their face from a sensory perspective.
- Challenge accepted!
“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try…and try some more”. It can take up to fifteen attempts for your baby to accept certain foods or tastes, so give them plenty of chances to try again.
- Finger foods
At six months, you can introduce soft finger foods into your baby’s diet. They are the ideal way to introduce your baby to different textures and handing over the reins to your baby will allow them to work out how to get food to their mouth, break pieces off and chew.
ANNABEL KARMEL WEANING RECIPE: Banana, Apple and Yoghurt Pancakes
Babies will love mini pancakes and it’s a great way to use up those overripe bananas which add natural sweetness. If you like you can also add a few chopped sultanas or raisins. Makes 25 small pancakes.
Crack the egg into a bowl and whisk with the yoghurt and milk. Sift in the flour and whisk until smooth. Add the banana and apple and mix well.
Heat a little oil in a large frying pan. Spoon small amounts of batter into the pan. Fry for a few seconds until bubbles appear on the surface. Flip over and cook on the other side for one minute until lightly golden.
- Gums away!
Let’s dispel the myth that babies need teeth to chew. Not true! Your baby’s teeth are sitting under the gums (if they haven’t already started to make an appearance), and their gums are actually very hard and will be able to tackle all kinds of textures.
- Size guide
When it comes to first finger foods, start with pieces that are big enough for your baby to hold in their fist with some sticking out. Fairly long pieces, roughly five to six centimetres in length, stand a better chance of being picked up.
- Finger food foes
Avoid biscuits and rusks; they lack nutrients, the sugar isn’t good for your baby and you want them to explore all of those power-packed vegetables. I’m talking broccoli, carrots, sweet potato and avocado.
- Tackling texture
Tackling lumps, bumps and texture is a really important milestone within weaning. Obviously, if you’re including finger foods from the outset, then texture will be on the menu from the very start. But even if you’re spoon feeding, don’t delay in starting to make meals less smooth, and more textured within a few weeks.
- Ban bland
I’m not a fan of bland, boring food, and around about the eight month mark is the perfect time to experiment with everyday spices and herbs like garlic, basil, oregano, dill, rosemary and even a mild curry powder.
- Healthy snacking
Typically, babies won’t need the addition of a snack until they reach at least around nine to ten-months. Try to make sure that snack time is made up of two different food groups or two essential nutrients. That could be a healthy fat such as avocado slices on a few fingers of toast, or some full fat yoghurt with berries.
>> Annabel Karmel celebrates the 30th anniversary of her No.1 bestselling weaning cookbook with a NEW fully updated and extended edition. Filled with over 200 quick, easy & healthy recipes for weaning and beyond, a well as essential advice, simple meal planners and pull-out guide, this is the go-to guide for giving your baby the best start. www.annabelkarmel.com