Some handy tips for keeping your little one happy and healthy during weaning!
Mums' questions answered
How long will it take to complete the 5 steps and what happens afterwards?
AEvery baby is different and it is important to let your baby set the pace from the very beginning of weaning. Once they are old enough and are showing the signs that they are ready (see here), you can start step 1. As a rough guide, little ones start weaning around 6 months and the 5 steps in this guide typically take around a month to complete. Once your baby has mastered purées, you can then move on to mashed and lumpy textures. Just remember, there’s no need to rush the steps – let your baby be your guide.
Why vegetables first?
ABabies are naturally more receptive to sweet tastes initially, so parents may find it easier to focus on fruits at the start of weaning, but this means they're missing out on a wide variety of foods that form a balanced diet. Scientists have discovered that the key to helping your baby learn to love veg for life is to introduce single veggie flavours early in weaning. They might pull a face at first, but it's well worth persevering!
How much milk should my baby have?
AOnce weaning is established, you should still be giving them around 500-600ml of their usual milk every day until they're 12 months old, whether it is breastmilk or fortified milk.
How can I prepare my baby’s food safely?
AThere are some simple things you can do to help ensure you don’t pass any nasty germs on to your baby through cooking:
- Always wash your hands before and after handling food, especially raw meat.
- Use separate chopping boards and knives for raw meat and fish, and vegetables and fruit.
- All equipment and surfaces used to prepare and serve your baby’s food, including kitchen worktops, chopping boards, utensils, blenders and highchair, should be cleaned thoroughly before and after use.
- Don’t forget to wash your baby’s hands before eating too − it’s never too early to establish good hygiene habits!
A note on peanuts: if your child has already been diagnosed with another allergy or if there is a family history of allergy, talk to your GP or health visitor before giving peanuts to your child.
How should I store ready-prepared food?
Always check the storage instructions on the packaging before freezing leftovers.
- Always check the 'best before' or 'use by' date.
- Check the storage instructions on the packaging before freezing leftovers.
- Use a clean plastic spoon to transfer a small amount from the jar into your baby’s bowl. You can then safely store the rest of the jar in the fridge, with the lid back on, for up to 48 hours.
- If you feed straight from the jar, any remaining food should be thrown away.
Why shouldn't I add salt to my baby's food?
AToo much salt can damage your baby’s immature kidneys. The recommended daily amount of salt is 1g (0.4g sodium) up to the age of 12 months, and 2g (0.8g sodium) between the ages of 1 and 3 years.
‘Sodium’ forms part of salt. To work out how much salt is in something, just multiply the sodium content by 2.5. Some foods contain natural sodium, but always look out for added salt and salt-rich ingredients like yeast extract or stock on food labels.
What about sugar?
AIt’s best to avoid any foods with added sugar for a while. As well as damaging your baby’s tiny teeth, eating sugary foods may encourage them to develop a sweet tooth, which could affect their long-term health. Here are some sugar-free shopping tips.
- Try to choose foods that are naturally sweet such as fruit, sweet potatoes and carrots.
- Keep an eye out for ‘added sugar’ in yogurts or desserts – choose the ones with the least amounts or no added sugar, and look out for sugar or fruit juice concentrate in savoury foods too.
- Choose foods made especially for babies when you can, as low sugar/no added sugar products designed for adults often contain artificial sweeteners which should also be avoided.
Are there any foods my baby should avoid?
AYes, there are some foods you shouldn’t include in the early stages of weaning.
Before 6 months, avoid:
Soft and unpasteurised cheeses such as Brie or Camembert, foods containing gluten (e.g. wheat-based bread, cereals and pasta), eggs, fish and nuts.
Before 12 months, you should also avoid:
Raw shellfish, tea, coffee, fizzy drinks and honey.
Can artificial additives harm my baby?
AIt's now known there are some combinations of artificial colourings that can have a negative effect on children's behaviour. So try to avoid foods with artificial colourings, flavourings, sweeteners or preservatives.
Preparing your own meals from fresh ingredients or buying foods specifically made for babies is ideal, as they won’t contain any artificial nasties.
Should I choose organic food?
AIt’s completely up to you. If you’re making homemade pur.es, always try to buy the best quality fresh or frozen ingredients. All fruit and vegetables, organic or not, should be washed, and peeled if necessary.
All manufacturers of ready-prepared baby foods have to follow strict European Union regulations, covering everything from nutrient levels to using preservatives and pesticides, to ensure they’re safe and suitable for babies. These regulations apply to all baby food, organic or not. In fact, standards are so high that respected food organisations agree there’s no nutritional difference between using organic and non-organic baby food.
And at Cow & Gate, we do even more. We get our baby grade ingredients from farms that only produce food for us, so everything can be traced back. We also hand-pick and peel our fruit and vegetables.