After six months of bottle or breastfeeding, the next nutritional adventure for babies is to introduce solid food.
Baby weaning can be a time of discovery, fun and excitement. It can equally be a time of confusion and anxiety.
Introducing food to young children can seem like an overwhelming part of parenthood.
While they still need milk, weaning is part of the move away from that alone.
There is no shortage of fare available for babies and the options for feeding little ones are endless, although some foods cannot be given to youngsters under the age of one.
Food used during the weaning process can be purees, mashed or finger foods depending on a parent’s preference.
While this may all seem rather daunting it is an important part of your child’s development and will soon become the norm for parents.
Baby weaning: A personal view
Like every other pair of first-time parents, my wife and I started out on the weaning journey full of trepidation.
We offered our daughter Ayda pureed food but she was not too keen on the carrots her mother had lovingly prepared.
We spoon-fed her and it went okay, but then we read about baby-led and soon decided it was the way forward.
Baby-led weaning is a unique approach to starting solid foods. It involves jumping straight into finger foods and bypassing purees.
We offered the same food we ate at mealtimes and mostly let our daughter feed herself.
Bypassing purees and jarred baby food altogether can give babies more control over what (and how much) they put in their mouths.
It can seem a little strange offering up a plate of food to a baby and expecting them to just tuck in.
I was always tempted to intervene with a spoon and make sure we had a full tummy at mealtimes.
But as the months went by we found the baby-led weaning paid off because our daughter could use mini cutlery and was adept at eating herself.
She was familiar with a variety of textures and flavours.
It is fantastic to be able to take her to someone’s house or a restaurant and she just happily eats away unless there are lots of distractions like dogs going around.
Baby-led weaning was the route we decided to go down but there is no wrong way to do weaning.
As long as your little one is happy and healthy during the weaning process then how you get through it does not matter too much. Either way, weaning is messy and great fun!
Variety is the spice of life
Karen Mackay, infant feeding leader for NHS Highland, feels variety is important during weaning.
She said it can also be a sensory journey as the little ones get to grips with different tastes, textures and sensations.
Karen also said it can be good messy fun for parents and children.
She said: “It is about introducing a wide range of food during weaning.
“Parents get very, very worried about it. I remember with my own kids I was panicking when they choked.
“But it is understanding that all of these new textures can have quite funny effects on your baby. We’ve all seen videos of babies with lemons.
“It is all about introducing a wide variety of tastes.
“It is good to offer that food that we are eating.
“Use your baby as the focus and try to gradually introduce different food like fruit and vegetables.
“Weaning is going to be fun. It is also going to be a mess so protect your nice cream carpet.”
More advice from the experts
Jennifer Cowling and Lauren Herd are Aberdeen-based health visitors.
They have provided some professional advice on the reasons for beginning baby weaning at six months and what to offer babies.
The NHS Grampian duo said there are signs to look out if your baby is ready to begin on solid food.
Jennifer and Lauren said: “Before six months, a baby has a protective tongue reflex which can be seen in action pushing food out of their mouth, indicating they are not ready for solid food.
“Furthermore, babies by six months, have been practising their hand to mouth co-ordination and can mostly manoeuvre food up to their mouths independently by this age.
“When you feel your baby has reached this stage in their development, considering what to feed your baby is the next step.
“Initially babies will only need a small amount of food. First foods can include fruit and vegetables, which can be purees, mashed or finger foods depending on a parent’s preference and your child’s developmental readiness.
“Moving onto more textured foods such as meats and cereals can be done following the successful introduction of the early foods.
“By this stage, babies are getting the hang of textures, different foods, and mealtimes where a pattern of meals, breakfast lunch and dinner has developed.”