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Health And Beauty: Weaning (six months to one year)

Weaning (six months to one year)Your weight
Expert advice to help you maintain a healthy weight

Dissatisfied with your weight?
We're bombarded with scare stories about weight, from size zero to the obesity 'epidemic'. But a healthy weight is determined by different factors for each of us. Our expert advice is designed to help you achieve and maintain a healthy, life-enhancing weight.

Overweight or underweight?
Being the right weight has a positive effect on wellbeing but also on our health, as being the wrong weight can cause a range of medical problems.

By around six months of age, your baby's energy and nutrient requirements become difficult to meet with breastmilk or formula alone, so it's time to start weaning them on to food.

When to start weaning
At six months, a baby's digestive system has matured enough to cope with solid food, and other developmental changes (such as the ability to bite and chew) mean your baby is ready to experience new tastes and textures.

The Department of Health recommends that weaning shouldn't be introduced until the age of six months, but your baby may show signs of wanting to try solids earlier than this. If this is the case, discuss your baby's readiness to try weaning foods with your health visitor.

The aim of weaning is gradually to introduce a variety of tastes and textures so that, by the age of one, your baby's enjoying a varied and healthy diet.

Every baby's different. Some enjoy trying new tastes and textures, moving through weaning quickly and easily, while others need a little more time to get used to new foods. Proceed at your baby's pace, moving on to each new food and weaning stage when it's right for them.

How to start
Before you begin, here are some general tips for successful weaning:

Choose a good time of day for your baby to start on solids. This should be when they're not too tired or hungry (in the early stages, offering a breastfeed or a little formula beforehand will mean your baby is not too hungry and so is less frustrated with learning to take solids from a spoon).

Allow plenty of time.
Don't force food on your baby. If they don't want to try a food, stay calm, take the food away and offer it again later or in a few days' time.

Prepare for some inevitable mess by keeping plenty of bibs and cloths to hand.

Only heat up a small amount of food each time so you don't waste food your baby doesn't eat. You can always heat up more if your baby is keen.

Don't reheat previously uneaten food.
Always stay with your baby when they're eating.
Always test the temperature of food before you give it to your baby - it shouldn't be too hot.
Encourage self feeding. As your baby develops and shows signs of wanting to feed independently, give them a spoon or finger foods to try.

Stages of weaning
There are three main stages:

1. In the first stage, you start to introduce the feeling of a spoon in your baby's mouth, along with first tastes and textures.

Mix some of the following foods with a teaspoon of either breastmilk or formula (whatever your baby's usual milk is):

Pureed vegetables such as carrot, swede or potato
Pureed fruit such as banana, or cooked pear or apple
A non-wheat-based cereal such as baby rice, sago or cornmeal

Don't force food on your baby, especially at this stage. Remember they're getting most of their nutrients and energy from breast or formula milk. If your baby refuses to eat, it might be too early for them, so try offering the food again in a few days.

2. Once your baby's used to taking food from a spoon, start to slowly increase the amount and number of times a day you offer it. Initially, you'll probably just offer food once a day, but you can now start to introduce it twice and then three times. Remember to go at your baby’s pace.

At this stage, start to introduce the following:

Full-fat cow's milk products such as full-fat yoghurt or a cheese sauce (you can use full-fat milk in cooking, but avoid giving it as a drink until your baby is over a year old)
Purees of meat, or pulses

Gradually cut down the amount of cereals you offer, but continue introducing new fruit and vegetables

You can also now begin to use some of the foods you cook for yourself. Homemade pureed foods are cheaper than shop-bought products, and have the added benefit of introducing your baby to the kinds of foods your family eats. Freeze small amounts of home-made food (try using ice cube trays for handy portion sizes). Remember you don't need to add salt, honey or sugar to your baby’s food.

3. Start to offer thicker purees and then introduce soft lumps. By the end of this stage, your baby will also be moving on to mashed and chopped foods. Remember to offer a variety of foods to ensure your baby receives all the necessary vitamins and minerals.

Things to remember at this stage are:

Your baby should still be having 500ml to 600ml of breastmilk or formula every day.
Aim for a starchy food, a fruit and a vegetable at each meal.
Every day your baby should have one serving of protein-rich food such as soft cooked meat, fish, tofu or pulses such as lentils. Eggs should be thoroughly cooked so the yolk is hard.

Around this stage, your baby might start to enjoy finger foods, such as chopped fruit and vegetables (initially vegetable sticks should be lightly steamed to make them a little easier to chew), bread sticks or toast.

Chewing helps with oral muscle development, which is important for speech development. Try to avoid biscuits and snacks that are high in sugar.

Always stay with your baby to make sure they don't choke on any finger foods.

You're now moving towards including all the foods your family usually eats in your baby's diet. You'll probably still need to modify the texture by mashing or chopping as appropriate for your baby.

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