Start solids the easy way, with weaning and nutritional advice from SMA® Nutrition
Weaning is a big step for you and your baby, and it’s important to get them into healthy habits right from the get-go. To help you along the way, SMA® Nutrition has pulled together some advice on how to start weaning, what first foods your baby needs for a balanced diet, and when to make the change from bottle to beaker.
Tips for starting weaning
Purées are a great way to get your baby used to different tastes and textures. When starting weaning, you should blend purées smoothly until your little one is comfortable swallowing them. Try these simple steps:
- For your first feed, pick a time when your baby isn’t tired and you’re not in a rush. It may take a while for your baby to get used to taking food from a spoon.
- Your baby may be hungrier and more alert first thing in the morning, so it’s a good time to introduce new foods
- Sit your baby upright in a high chair with no distractions such as TV, mobiles or tablets
- Give your baby a little of their usual milk first to relax them and take the edge off their hunger
Babies naturally like sweet tastes so will accept vegetables with a slightly sweet taste such as carrots quite easily. Help them get used to the less sweet, more bitter vegetable tastes such as broccoli and courgette. It can take up to eight times for babies to accept a new taste so be persistent. Try single veg purées
- If the purée is too thick, add a little of your baby’s usual milk or some cooled boiled water to thin it out
- Beginning with vegetables exclusively for the first two weeks gives the best chance for healthy eating habits in later life*
- Serve food lukewarm or at room temperature
- Only try one new food at a time, combining flavours after a couple of weeks. Always praise them for trying something new.
How much should I feed my baby?
When it comes to portion sizes, it’s good to remember that:
- Babies have little tummies and need lots of calories for growth – so don’t opt for low-fat versions of dairy products
- Fibre leaves less room for more nutritious food so avoid giving them too much
- Offer a couple of teaspoons once a day plus their usual milk feeds – gradually building up to three times a day
- Go at your baby’s pace and stop feeding when they show signs of fullness (e.g. turning their head away)
What should I feed my baby?
Just like adults, babies need a healthy, well-balanced diet. The following food groups will provide the nutrients your baby needs to grow healthy and strong.
Milk and dairy products
The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) recommends continuing breastfeeding alongside weaning. If you choose to formula feed, your baby will need the equivalent of about 500-600ml (about a pint) of milk a day, once you have established weaning. If your baby is 6 months old and you choose to bottle feed, SMA® PRO Follow-on Milk is designed to complement a weaning diet.
It’s fine to give your baby dairy products made of cows’ milk from 6 months, including cheese, yoghurts and fromage frais. These all help provide energy, fat-soluble vitamins and minerals, so make sure you give your little one the full fat versions of these. However, the HSE recommends that you don’t give your baby cows’ milk as a drink until they are 12 months old.
These are really important for your baby because they provide calories, B vitamins, folate and some calcium and iron. Some starchy foods include bread, rice, pasta, grains, potatoes and fortified breakfast cereals.
Fruit and veg
Remember you can choose from them in any format, whether it’s frozen, canned or fresh, as they all provide essential nutrients: vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, fibre, antioxidants and phytochemicals. Slowly work your way up to five portions per day as weaning progresses.
Meat, fish and alternatives
As your baby is growing, it’s important to have the appropriate amount of protein. A healthy diet includes at least one portion of meat or fish a day, or two portions of an alternative, like eggs, beans, lentils, pulses, nuts and seeds. These foods provide iron, protein, vitamins and minerals.
Foods to avoid
Put simply, you shouldn’t give your baby salt, sugar, whole nuts, undercooked eggs, low-fat foods, shark, swordfish and marlin, honey or raw shellfish.
When to move on to a beaker
The HSE recommends introducing a cup with a spout or a sippy cup from six months. Babies should stop using bottles with teats by the time they’re 12 months (unless advised otherwise by a healthcare professional). Try these tips for making the switch:
- Offer water or diluted fruit juices at meal times when you are weaning
- Seat your baby upright before offering them something to drink. This encourages a good drinking position and puts the cup at the right starting height. You will need to hold the cup for them at first.
If you’re bottle feeding:
- Keep bottles out of sight when you start offering your baby drinks from a cup
- Replace your baby’s bottle with a cup for one meal in the day (when your baby is not too tired).
- Once they get used to using a cup for one meal, replace another daytime bottle with a cup
- Replace the bottle your baby is most reliant on last. For most babies, this will be the last bottle of the day.
IMPORTANT NOTICE: The best way to feed a baby is to breastfeed, as breast milk provides the ideal balanced diet and protection against illness for your baby and also many non-nutritional benefits for both baby and mother. We recommend that you speak to your healthcare professional when deciding on your choice of feeding your baby. Professional guidance should also be sought on the preparation for and maintenance of breastfeeding. If you do choose to breastfeed, it’s important to eat a healthy, balanced diet.
Infant formula is intended to replace breast milk when mothers choose not to breastfeed or if for some reason they are unable to do so. A decision not to breastfeed, or to introduce partial bottle-feeding, will reduce the supply of breast milk. If for any reason you choose not to breastfeed, do remember that such a decision can be difficult to reverse. Using infant formula also has social and financial implications which must be considered. Infant formula should always be prepared, used and stored as instructed on the label, in order to avoid risks to a baby’s health.
SMA® PRO Follow-on Milk is only suitable for babies over 6 months as part of a mixed diet. It should not be used as a substitute for breast milk during the first 6 months. The decision to start weaning or to use this product before 6 months, should be made only on the advice of a doctor, midwife, health visitor, public health nurse, dietitian or pharmacist, based on baby’s individual needs.
*Chambers L, Complementary Feeding: Vegetables first, frequently and in variety, 2016, Nutrition Bulletin, 41: p. 142 – 46 and Coulthard H, Harris G & Emmett P, Long-term consequences of early fruit and vegetable feeding practices in the United Kingdom, 2010, Public Health Nutrition, 5: 75-85