Well-Balanced Weaning – Conquering Meals with 6-9 Months
You’ll know you’re at this stage when you little one is a star at swallowing single pureés and is getting curious about something a little more adventurous. Trust your instincts as you know your baby best and will notice when they’re ready for new flavours and textures. Read on to find out my top tips for this stage from key foods to introduce to what foods to avoid.
Let’s start with how much milk your baby, of up to nine months, should have. It’s important that your baby still has milk for key vitamins and nutrients. Breastfeeding is recommended about four times a day, but as long as they’re eating solids your baby will let you know. If your little one is on formula, about 600ml a day is recommended at this stage. When it’s time to offer your baby solids, be sure to offer them milk afterwards. Weaning can be challenging, but even more so if your baby is not happy, hungry and ready for the adventure! To avoid this issue, set a weaning routine that suits you and your little one for when your baby has solids – about three times a day – and work the milk around those times. Mixing breastmilk or formula with food is also a clever way to create the perfect texture for meals and provide a familiar flavour to encourage your baby to explore.
Making homemade baby food is still the best way to provide highly nutritious, minimally processed meals for your baby. As you move on from single pureés, increase the variety of foods and textures with each meal. Start to hand mash the food so your little one can get used to a bumpy texture. Try adding in some rice or small pasta mixed into the pureés. You can make lots of ice cube trays of different foods and start to play with different mixtures, also using them as dips for toast sticks, or a quick snack for when you need them. Add herbs or gentle spices to mix up flavours and freeze the food soon after you make it – don’t keep it in the fridge for more than a few hours before freezing. The moulds should also be covered to not only keep your baby’s food safe, but to lock in vitamins and nutrients also. For the days where you’re tight for time, Tom Pom Organic baby food rings are all freshly frozen, allergy-friendly and taste just like home-made if you need back-up.
After this, you can then work towards baby-led weaning and offer soft fruit and vegetables in pieces that they can feed themselves. From around six months, soft-cooked carrots sticks, steamed broccoli florets, banana, steamed apple slices, and sticks of toast are ideal for yummy baby-led weaning ideas.
During this stage and beyond, you should also ensure your baby has enough vitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin D as well as a healthy variety of foods and flavours – including bitter ones – in their diet. Here are some food examples below to try for well-balanced weaning:
- Vitamin A – rich vegetables such as broccoli, kale, spinach, cabbage, green beans, chard, sweet potatoes, carrots and swede – required for your baby’s immune system, eye development and to help maintain healthy skin
- Vitamin C – rich foods such as broccoli, tomatoes, peppers, kale, spinach, swede, green beans as well as strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and papaya – important for their immune system, and baby’s require 40-50mg a day
- Vitamin D is hard to obtain through diet, but it is added to baby’s formula and if the mother’s diet is sufficient will be in the breast milk too. It can also be found in fortified orange juice, cereals and fat spreads, or speak to your GP about supplementing your little one’s diet with vitamin D drops
Studies (such as the LEAP study) show introducing allergens from six months may reduce the risk to your baby reacting to them, so don’t avoid them. However, before you start it is very important that you know the signs that may indicate a potential reaction to these foods, and it is imperative that you know how to introduce allergens properly. Before you start to introduce allergens, please read our blog on this topic or review the NHS Start4Life website for more information. If you have any concerns, always consult your GP beforehand.
In the earlier stages of weaning, avoid choking hazards such as small tomatoes and grapes, and make sure they are cut into smaller pieces. Here are a few other weaning watchouts below:
- Don’t give your baby pips or stones in any fruit
- Remove bones in any fish or meat you offer
- Honey is not recommended until your baby is at least 12 months old
- Don’t add sugar or salt, including fruit based sugar, to homemade food
- Whole nuts are not recommended until baby is much older, at least five years old
As ever, for more information on choking or to help you understand the differences between choking and gagging, visit the NHS Start4Life website.
Lastly…have fun! Watching your baby’s face, gestures and reactions as they grow to love healthy food is a gift for you and your little one. Take note of what they like and what you may need to reintroduce until they can accept the flavour. Make a checklist from the recommended foods that include their daily dose of vitamin A, C and D to help stay on track – and don’t forget to enjoy the journey!