Nutrition & Weaning with Annabel Karmel
Introduction to Weaning
By Annabel Karmel
Taking your first steps into the world of weaning can be daunting, especially when faced with mountains of conflicting advice and opinions. For 25 years I’ve guided millions of parents through every stage of feeding and now I’m delighted to be sharing my expertise and inspiration with The Baby Show. My mantra is simple; experiment with a wide variety of healthy foods and flavour combinations at the very start of a baby's weaning journey.
So let’s get those bibs on and sleeves rolled up – it’s time to wean!
Where to start?
Up until now your baby has been comfortable with breast or formula milk but if you spot signs of them being hungrier than usual even after their milk feed or waking in the night, it may be an indicator that they're ready to move on to solids.
The UK Department of Health advises that babies should start weaning from 6 months, although have a chat with your Midwife or healthcare professional if you feel your baby is showing the signs of being ready for some simple solids earlier than this.
Weaning is such an exciting journey. Once you’ve mastered the basic steps, you’ll soon be on the road to weaning victory!
First Foods: Vegetables
Root vegetables are at the very core of weaning. They’re easy to digest and unlikely to provoke an allergic reaction. The best way to preserve their nutrients is to steam them so that they puree into a smooth texture. Sweet potato, butternut squash and parsnips are great because they have a naturally sweet taste, a similar sweetness to breast-milk.
Combining fruit with savoury was my secret weapon when I was weaning my son Nicholas. He liked eating apples but wouldn’t eat chicken so I made combinations like chicken, sweet potato and apple which he loved.
First Foods: Fruits
With fruit it’s important to choose those that are ripe and have a good flavour so try tasting them yourself before giving them to your baby. Good first fruits are apple and pear which can be steamed or cooked in a saucepan. There are also some fruits like banana, avocados, peach and papaya which don't require any cooking at all and you can just mash with a fork.
Planning ahead is a great way of ensuring you have everything you need and can save you lots of stress on a busy day.
Batch cooking was my saviour! It can be difficult to blend such a small quantity of food so prepare purees in large batches and freeze individual portions in ice cube trays. Be sure to label them clearly with the contents and date so you don’t get them muddled up and start serving a fish puree for breakfast!
When it comes to defrosting, take the puree out overnight and reheat in a saucepan or microwave – stirring thoroughly to remove any hot spots. Never refreeze a puree that has already been frozen and remember not to reheat foods more than once.
When to move on?
Between six and nine months, once first tastes have been accepted and your baby’s digestive system is maturing, you can start to increase the amount and variety of food you give your baby. Babies are developing quite rapidly at this stage, so this is a window of opportunity to help them master the art of chewing.
Rice, lentils, pasta and couscous are great ways of introducing texture as well as mashing foods by hand rather than using a blender. For added tastes, start introducing different proteins such as fish, chicken and beef.
Whilst a high percentage of parents start-out with spoon-led purees, baby-led weaning (BLW) is fast growing in popularity.
There are two ways of weaning; spoon feeding purees and BLW. Most mums know me for my failsafe puree recipes, starting out with smooth flavours, then introducing new tastes and textures, adding soft/cooked finger foods at around 6 months or as soon as your baby is able to pick up food and bring it to her mouth.
The philosophy behind BLW is to let your baby feed herself from 6 months, missing out on purees and spoon feeding altogether. It gives them the opportunity to explore a variety of different tastes and textures from the beginning, helping them to eat a wide range of foods and develop good eating habits from the start.
The more you allow your baby to experiment with feeding herself the quicker she will master the art.
For more advice on weaning, visit www.annabelkarmel.com and check out Annabel’s Complete Baby & Toddler Meal Planner which will be on sale at The Baby Show, Stand G30.