Your baby can start soft food by 6 months of age. This is called “weaning” and it must be done in stages. Two of the issues to watch out for are choking and gagging. These happen when you give too much to the baby or the baby cannot handle the texture or composition of the food. The simplest way to avoid this is by feeding your baby tiny servings of soft food first and watching closely throughout the feeding.
Before getting to the stages of weaning, it must be said that the current trend in for baby-led weaning. This refers to allowing your baby to feed on soft finger fingers instead of pureed baby food. Advocates say that baby-led weaning promotes the early development of motor skills and prevents picky eaters. No matter what you choose to do – choking and gagging is possible with both methods so be guided accordingly.
The First Stage of Weaning
This starts at six months although some doctors allow parents to start at four months. At this stage, your baby should continue to take at least 600 ml of milk. You begin by introducing small portions of baby rice, mashed banana, baby cereal, pureed vegetables and fruits. Do not give your baby sugar or add salt or other seasonings to the soft food. Also, avoid fibrous foods or anything that is hot.
In this stage, your goal to introduce new flavors and textures. Use baby teaspoons and never force your baby to eat the food. You can simply try to reintroduce the food later on.
The Second Stage of Weaning
The second stage starts after six months and continues up to nine months. During this stage, increase the serving and amount of food but continue with the milk feedings. Your baby should still be drinking at least 600ml milk but you can now start to introduce cow’s milk with the food. The food your baby can eat can include cheese, porridge, and soft, lumpy fruits and cooked vegetables – no longer mashed but in strips. Your baby should take more fruits and vegetables than meats or fish.
You can also start offering your baby a cup to drink from and continue to avoid seasoning the food.
The Third Stage of Weaning
On the third stage of weaning which happens after nine months and continues up to 12 months, your baby should be able to eat finger foods and the food no longer has to be mashed or pureed. However, you should still avoid too much seasoning (no fast foods!) but encourage you baby to try different flavors and textures.
The Fourth and Final Stage of Weaning
After your baby turns one year old, you can start decreasing the milk to around 350ml a day or offer your baby dairy products. You can also switch to whole cow’s milk gradually and feedings to four times a day.
In fact, your baby can eat what the rest of the family is eating unless it is spicy or has too much sugar.
Quick Tips for Weaning with Care
- Give your baby plenty of time and attention during meals and feeding time. Do not multitask
- Choose the food based on the nutrients they can give your baby like food that are rich in iron since baby milk does not contain enough iron
- Start with tiny amounts. About 35% of babies experience choking during Stages 1 and 2
- Avoid introducing new flavors all at once
- Don’t get frustrated if your baby refuses to eat what you have prepared. In fact, prepare two food items in case one is rejected
- Do not store uneaten food, Make fresh batches
Finally, allow your baby to set the pace and direction of the feeding provided the preference is not leaning towards too much of anything. Moderation is the key to a balanced meal and diet.