Some thoughts about weaning your baby

After the physical act of birthing a baby and the initial days of discovering your baby and getting into some sort of a rhythm, to me weaning a baby is the next major event in the first year.  After the first hectic months have passed, when finally there’s a bit of a routine with the baby and (breast)feeding goes smoothly, then the next moment of insecurity comes… Weaning! Solids!

Out come the baby guide books again (all of them!), and there you are — back in the land of the unknown. When to start? What foods to introduce first? How to cook it? Or steam? The insecurity hits again.

When I had my fist baby, I did a lot (a lot!) of research, like I’m sure most, if not all first time mums do. Still not entirely sure what to do, I decided to follow the advise most doctors were giving at that time: I started solids after exclusively breastfeeding for 6 months. Ignoring the fact that Sara was already litterally grabbing the spoon out of my hands if I was trying to eat (which I did all day long because I was so hungry because of all of that breastfeeding)!

I started with baby rice because the guide books said so (and none of my babies liked it). Then I introduced vegetables first (I read somewhere that otherwise the baby would develop a sweet tooth!), repeated this for three days before introducing the next ‘ingredient’, so allergies could be discovered immediately. And then after that (although it wasn’t completely clear exactly when as to avoid the dreaded sweet tooth), I introduced fruits. All of this was exclusively home cooked and organic, and carefully frozen in mini batches, meticulously labeled.

I remember my mum raising an eyebrow but cleverly not interfering (she had simply mashed up a banana for my first bites when I was around four months old).

Thankfully Sara was a good eater and the whole process went well. So for the second child, I repeated the process. So far, so good. My third baby however, refused to eat. After her first taste of baby rice, she decided that food was not her thing, and she refused to open her mouth again! (I wrote a post about it here.)

It’s funny how things change. How I have changed! Even though I try to cook meals for Casper whenever possible, I do end up squeezing shop bought baby food in his mouth an awful lot of times. (Hey — it’s organic!) My old me would be appalled. Also, the general advise has changed — I understand that nowadays, doctors say to start earlier — at 4 months, 3 even! — and to introduce all sorts of food at the same time, peanut butter and all.

So what is wise? To me, it seems sensible to wait until your baby shows an interest in food. When he follows your spoon with his eyes when you’re eating, and is grabbing for objects and bringing them to his mouth, it might be a good time to start. Possibly with a mashed banana! And also: cooking for your baby is fun (the BabyCook is a big help I find!), and surely very healthy, but there are plenty of great, ready-made baby food products on the market that are yummy and can bring stress factors down dramatically. Finally, mashing half an avocado with half a banana and mixing it with a spoon of full yoghurt is the easiest home-cooked baby meal I have in my repertoire.

I’m very curious about your thoughts and experiences about weaning in general. And if you’d like to share your fool proof baby food recipe — yes please!

xxx Esther

15 COMMENTS - Add your own

1. se7en | July 17, 2013 | Reply

My kids have never been keen on starting solids and I think my mothering laziness means that they wait the longest time before I settle into it… I also did heaps of research and bought ice-trays!!! I had big plans for baby food jar crafts… but never actually used them… our kids eat from our plate – here’s our take on starting solids: http://www.se7en.org.za/2010/06/10/se7en-1-starts-solids

2. Esther in Amsterdam | July 17, 2013

Great post!! And yes, I agree on all the things you say. (Except for the teeth — Ava didn’t have teeth until she was 16 months!!! :) ) Thanks for sharing your story. xxx

3. Hanna (mapart.me) | July 17, 2013

I’ve read your post and I love it! That’s exactly the way my second child is eating now (at 15 months). But honestly, I had to end with breastfeeding a month ago because he wasn’t interested in any kind of food other than my person :( Which I didn’t find good neither for me nor for him at this age.
My first child wasn’t interested in solids in the “book age”, i.e. 6 months, and I was worrying about that becaue I had to come back to work when he was 7.5 months old. It turned out the day I came back work he became interested in solids – very pragmatic attitude :)
Whenever any of my children refused eating baby jars I’ve tried them by myself and usually agreed they are tasteless and inedible (apart from fruit jars). So there were not too many baby jars at our home…

4. Laura Amiss | July 17, 2013 | Reply

Hi Esther,
With Pelham I made, mashed, wizzed everything and he ate it happily (although he’s a lot fussier now but a big eater!). When I started to introduce solids to Pia, Pelham was just shy of 2 years, and so he was on a lot of finger fool/ ‘proper’ food i.e. not mashed beyond recognition ;-) and I think Pia though ‘I’d like that rather than this pureed green stuff’ … Pia rarely wanted stuff from a spoon or mashed etc but she did want to hold items. So rather carefully I let her feed herself with soft veg, fruit, pasta and omlets etc. She sat up and ate a banana at about 7 months and we never really looked back. It actually made life a lot easier, when out and about as she basically ate what every one else ate. She is a better eater than Pelham (but I’m not sure that’s down to how she was weaned).

Casper looks very happy with his food – Given the two experiences I have had I’d prefer Percy to be like Pia. L x

5. Esther in Amsterdam | July 17, 2013

Hi! Funny how different babies are! I think what you did with Pia is called ‘baby led weaning’. xxx

6. Diana | July 17, 2013 | Reply

Dear Esther,

weaning definitely is huge step in the first year. And it allways makes me a little sad to accept that the cozyness of breastfeeding will be over soon…
Talking about research: I also took a seminar on solid food. There I was told its best to wait at least 6 months, untill the baby can properly sit and can grap things with 3 fingers. I also got the advice to start with mashed pumkin as it is sweet. After a few days I added potato and another few days later meet. On the first day I was told to only give one spoon, on the second two, and finally on the third as much as the baby wanted.
I was really excited, when the big day came, but doing as instructed it really went very smooth.
As a first mother I was so stressed and anxious about doing everything the right way I decided to take off some pressure and seattle for bought orgaganic baby food. But I added a tablespoon of oil for the Omega 3 acids.
The second time around I’ much more relaxed. I still wanted the full six months and started with pumkin. But pretty soon I tried everything David liked ( and saw his big brother Rating): bread, cut strawberries and tomato …
xxx Diana

7. Esther in Amsterdam | July 17, 2013

Casper loves pumpkin as well — I think that must be his favourite food! xxx

8. Lara | July 17, 2013 | Reply

HI Esther,
when starting solids for my first one I asked a pediatrician friend why so many contradicting “rules” (try comparing general advise between countries!!) and her answer was “The truth is… we don’t really know”. From then on I decided to relax and just trust my instincts.
My husband and I love food, so I let that be my guide and example to the children.

9. Esther in Amsterdam | July 17, 2013

I love that thought! :)

10. Meryl | July 17, 2013 | Reply

We did baby-led weaning – just fingerfoods, no spoon feeding. And no baby rice – it’s actually not necessary (http://www.analyticalarmadillo.co.uk/2011/12/nine-good-reasons-not-to-use-baby-rice.html). Egg yolk, avocado, banana, chunks of meat, vegetables with butter… There are so many good weaning foods and I wasn’t shy about introducing all of them!

We also didn’t wait to suss out allergies. However I did hold back on starches, as babies don’t make amylase to digest starch until around a year old (bananas, curiously enough, contain their own amylase). My daughter also wasn’t interested in eating large amounts of food until around 18 months, until then there was still a lot of breastmilk in her diet.

Oh and advice from the WHO is still to breastfeed exclusively for 6 months. I have to say I struggle with the thought of a 3 month old being fed solids. Generally the following things work as a pretty reliable guide to readiness for solids: 6+ months, able to sit unaided, lost tongue thrust and developed pincer grip. With a baby who is truly ready, weaning is easy and lots of fun. There are so many flavours to explore… bon appetit!

11. Faiblessed | July 17, 2013

I am about to do the same as Meryl with my baby girl (http://www.babyledweaning.com/) She’s now almost 5 months old. I definitely recognise the insecurity you mentioned Esther, but hopefully as time goes by, that will fade too! Can’t wait to see the little one go for it!

12. Capucine | July 17, 2013 | Reply

Try the cookbook “Feeding the Whole Family”, it breaks down recipes for you so you can mindlessly set aside some for baby before adding spices for the rest of the family. The author’s website is ‘Cookus Interruptus’ and her recipe for White Bean Kale soup is effortless, extraordinarily good, and beloved by even kids we make it for (it’s on the site). With multiple children, I’m grateful for a book of recipes designed to feed baby and all without any forethought from me!

I breastfeed my own children with the goal of making it to two. That is the deep instinct I’ve hooked into, favoring milk above food, and ask my partner and other children to support my nursing hours. California advice is no food before six months, and nurse forever if you like, especially for skinny babies! My French husband has exposed me to advice in Europe, which is more early food centric.

I let food begin when the baby is into it, after six months, and frankly I’ve simplified my approach to new foods down to: does it cause constipation or diaper rash? I don’t do purees, just finger foods. Except prune compote and yogurt with probiotics!

13. Jen | July 18, 2013 | Reply

Esther, thank you for sharing your experiences. It’s always great to hear how other moms are doing it. I started giving my baby food at 5 months. She would open her mouth when we would eat- so we knew it was time. She’s 10 months now and she loves food and will eat anything. I exclusively make all her food. The sad part for me was that she gradually stopped wanting to breastfeed as the months went on. At eight months she totally refused to breastfeed and then at 9 months she started up again, which is great but my milk supply went so far down that I now supplement with homemade formula. We give her food three times a day. I make lentils, beans, tons of vegetables cooked with ghee, egg yolk everyday – it’s great for brain development, cod liver oil everyday, fruit, yogurt or kefir. My challenge now is getting her to feed herself. She will not put food in her mouth- she just plays with it.

14. Estelle | July 18, 2013 | Reply

We took the baby led weaning (finger foods!) approach with both ours and apart from the mess (they dropped a lot) it worked well. We started at 6 months, but neither of them ate any significant amount until over a year. We were slightly more flexible with the second child and one of my favourite books was the ‘River Cottage Baby and Toddler Cookbook’. It doesn’t champion any particular approach, but gives some great recipes which suit the whole family and a nice bit of general information in the first chapters.

15. Mary | September 4, 2013 | Reply

I am still making baby food in small batches in a steamer. It really doesn’t take that much time and I don’t mind it. I have some of those squeeze bags for when we are on the go though.

By the way I just discovered your blog and I love it!

LEAVE A COMMENT