Healthy Weaning Foods for Babies

Weaning your baby is an exciting but often messy time, with new tastes to discover and textures to explore. Until weaning, all your baby’s nutritional needs are met through their milk. So once you start weaning it’s important to make sure they’re getting all the nutrients necessary for optimum growth. Healthy weaning foods for your baby should include dairy, bread, cereals, meat, fish, eggs and of course fruits and vegetables.

When to wean

Babies develop at different rates, but generally the best time to start weaning is between five to six months. Before this age, your baby’s digestive system is too immature to properly digest solids. Signs indicating they’re ready to wean include waking more frequently at night or appearing unsatisfied after their feeds.

Homemade or ready-made

While it’s an easy option choosing from the range of ready-made cans, jars and packets of baby food, it’s usually cheaper and healthier making your own food from scratch. And not only do you know exactly what ingredients are included, there’s nothing quite so rewarding as watching your baby enjoying the food you’ve carefully prepared for them.

For the first four weeks of weaning stick to purees to give your baby’s digestive system time to adjust. When you’re making your own food, don’t add sugar to sweeten anything as this only encourages a sweet tooth later in life. Likewise don’t add salt to their food as their kidneys are too immature to cope.

First weaning foods

Baby rice is one of the most popular introductory weaning foods.  Due to its mild, bland taste, babies often find it easier accepting this as their first solid food. You’ll find numerous commercially prepared brands of baby rice either ready-made or powdered. The advantage of these products is they are quick and easy to prepare and usually fortified with vitamins and minerals.

However, making your own baby rice is very simple, and though it doesn’t have the added vitamins, it will have the benefit of the nutrients from the breast or formula milk you mix it with. To make your own, simply boil some short grain white rice with water until the grains are tender, then puree this in a blender with their usual breast or formula milk until it’s smooth.

Adding new tastes

Fruit and vegetable purees are perfect weaning foods and extremely easy to make yourself. Introduce new foods every few days so your baby has time to get used to them. It’s also a good way of finding out if they’re allergic to anything.

Fruit purees usually go down a treat with babies loving their natural sweetness. Some of the most nutritious fruit purees you can provide include pear, apple, mango, avocado and banana. Banana and avocado puree is easy as you only need to mash it with a fork. When using hard fruits, chop them up first and simmer or steam in a small amount of water until they’re soft and then either puree in a blender or use a fork to mash. You can always make it runnier by adding more water or some milk if necessary. Alternatively, thicken it up by adding baby rice.

Vegetables such as carrots, sweet potatoes and butternut squash are often firm favorites because of their sweet taste. Zucchinis, peas, parsnip, cauliflower and broccoli are also perfect first weaning foods. Mixing these with a little mashed potato or baby rice may help make them more palatable. Just boil or steam the vegetables until soft then puree. And to make things more interesting, try combining different flavors to create new tastes.

Next stage foods

After about four weeks of weaning, you can introduce a wider range of foods including yogurt, eggs (well cooked), cottage cheese, chicken, oats, bread and baby pasta shapes. Also suitable are tomatoes, sweetcorn, fresh fish such as plaice or cod, and canned tuna. At this stage your baby can start to eat food with a few lumps so there’s no longer any need to continue pureeing everything they eat. Always introduce each new food gradually and if they don’t like it the first time, offer it again in a few days.

Weaning lasts only a short time but the food you feed them now can impact on their quality of health later on. Though it can be a frustrating and messy experience, it should also be enjoyable, so relax and don’t rush the process. By offering your baby a wide variety of foods with the freshest ingredients, you can be assured that you are providing them with the best start in life.