What to Expect on the Weaning Journey
6 min read
Before the start of the weaning journey, you may be really excited about introducing your little one to a world of nutritious food and new flavours.
You may also be a bit nervous about the process, and that’s totally understandable. We at Babease are here to support parents during the weaning process.
As you can imagine, there’s a lot that can happen during the weaning journey, as your baby experiments with new tastes and textures. To help you understand what baby-led weaning is really like, we’ve highlighted some of the things you can expect to encounter during your journey.
What is Weaning?
Weaning is when you begin to introduce your baby to solid foods alongside their breast milk or infant formula. They will learn how to chew and swallow food and also experience different tastes and textures, beginning a positive relationship with food.
This process usually starts at around six months, but there are some signs to look for before you begin. These include:
- Staying in a sitting position with their head steady.
- Coordinating their eyes, hands and mouth so they can see and hold food.
- Swallowing food rather than pushing it back out.
What is Baby-Led Weaning?
This option, sometimes shortened to BLW, is an alternative to traditional weaning that has become popular over recent years. Baby-led weaning involves offering baby pieces of food and allowing them to self feed, and not so much using spoons or purees.
Baby-led weaning is not necessarily the ‘right’ way to wean your baby – if you want to go down a more traditional road, that’s perfectly fine. BLW has become popular with parents, though, because it allows the baby to take charge of their food. It’s also a great way to introduce your little one to more textures and tastes, promoting positive food habits.
The Stages of Baby-Led Weaning
During the weaning process, your baby will become more confident and capable of handling their own food. To highlight this development, the journey is often broken down into three weaning stages.
This is the first step on the weaning journey and is all about slowly introducing new foods to your little one. Baby steps (if you’ll pardon the pun) are essential here, with only the odd spoon or baby handful of solids introduced.
There are a few signs that highlight when to start weaning, with the biggest being:
- Baby can sit upright and hold their head steady.
- They can pick up food or other small objects and bring them to their mouths.
Guides often say to look at starting baby-led weaning at around six months. However, babies develop at different stages, so seeing these signs is more important.
The second stage usually starts at around seven months. Here, your baby will begin to move towards eating more regularly. A wide variety of foods will ensure they get all the nutrients they need, particularly iron.
Soft finger foods will be introduced more during stage two, as your little one’s chewing will begin to develop. However, baby-led weaning may see soft finger foods introduced earlier.
The third and final stage will see your baby try a wider variety of tastes and textures so they can experience all kinds of food. Here is when they will move onto crunchy foods, such as raw vegetable sticks, and they may also try similar foods to the rest of the family. This stage usually happens at around 12 months.
So, now we know more about baby-led weaning, let’s take a look at some things you can expect to encounter on your journey!
It’s Not Just Solids
A question a lot of parents ask about baby-led weaning is “will my baby get enough food?” It’s an important question, and it’s perfectly natural to be worried about keeping your little one fed, happy and healthy during the weaning journey.
The most important thing to know about weaning is that it’s precisely that – weaning. This journey is not about dropping other foods entirely but slowly introducing your little one to new flavours.
When starting, your baby continues to receive their milk feeds as they would normally, and other foods are introduced slowly. During the second stage, your little one will benefit from a wider range of foods, but will still receive milk feeds.
If you’re ever rushed for time during your weaning journey or simply want a break, that’s perfectly fine. Our quick and healthy vegetable pouches can be a welcome alternative, great for your baby’s tastebuds and also your schedule.
Baby May Gag on Solids
One of the most anxious moments parents come across during weaning is the sound of gagging. As your baby learns to use their mouth to chew and move food, it’s quite common for them to make gagging sounds. However, these can sometimes appear like choking, which is sure to worry any new parent.
It might sound strange at first, but gagging is a natural part of weaning and a sign that your baby is learning how to handle food. After all, this is a new experience for your little one, too, and they’re learning about all sorts of textures.
Serving soft foods that are easy for your baby to chew reduces the risk of choking during weaning. While gagging can be scary, it’s perfectly natural and part of the learning process.
It Will Be Messy (and Fun!)
There’s no getting away from this one. As your baby learns to handle soft foods, they will inevitably create a mess as they learn to use their fingers and mouths.
The key to this is to be prepared and welcome the mess! Many parents let their baby sit naked while weaning, so the clean up is a little easier afterwards. As with everything at this age, your little one will look to you for guidance, so being positive about their efforts – however messy they may be – will make the weaning journey a little smoother.
Patience is Required
This point is perhaps the most important. There will be days where your little one is trying and tasting new foods like a champ! There will also be times where they simply don’t want to try something new. The key is to stick with it, but without putting pressure on your baby or yourself.
Little ones develop at various speeds and will experience different challenges during weaning. If your baby is beyond the usual age for the next stage but isn’t ready to move on, that’s fine!
What’s most important is to continue introducing your little one to new tastes and textures so they can experience a wide range of sensations. If your little one rejects a particular vegetable, that’s fine, they may just need a few tries during different feeds. With your love and support, they’ll get there!
The weaning journey is an exciting one, and no two experiences will be exactly the same. However, we do hope that our experiences and those of other parents can give you the confidence to experience baby-led weaning with your little one.
If you have any questions about the weaning journey, check out our blog, which is full of helpful advice from us and other parents. We also have a wonderful community on our social media pages who would be more than happy to help!