Weaning is a process that should continually change to reflect and respond to your growing baby’s developmental needs. It can be tough, with a lot of ups and downs, triumphs and setbacks. But with a bit of time and patience everything will slowly slot into place. In this article we’ll explore the journey of weaning from 7 to 9 months, with things to include, things to avoid and developmental changes that will occur along the way.
At this point, your baby will probably be fairly familiar with eating and will have some practice at eating solid foods.
What to offer them?
Gradually begin to offer your baby 3 meals a day (breakfast, lunch and dinner).
As soon as they can manage them, start giving your baby lumpier foods and finger foods. Finger foods enhance their hand eye coordination and also teaches them to feed themselves, bite, chew and swallow. Make sure to stay with your little one while they eat these bigger bits of food to check they are swallowing them safely.
Offer your baby a wide range of fruit, vegetables (including bitter tasting ones), starchy foods, protein and dairy. You can find a list of different ideas and how to prepare them on the NHS start 4 life website.
It’s important to eat together as much as possible as babies learn from watching.
To encourage them to try new foods, it’s helpful to sit them in a calm environment (maybe have some nice music playing) with few distractions and to give them positive encouragement- lots of smiles and ‘Mmmm’ noises often do the trick.
Offering your baby a wide range of foods, including different fruit and veg, will maximise their intake of the vital micronutrients including iron, iodine, zinc, vitamin A and vitamin D. But you should pay special attention to a couple:
Iron - is particularly important for brain and nervous development. Your baby should have enough endogenous iron to meet their needs for their first 6 months (assuming sufficient iron supply in utero, delayed cord clamping, and a term birth with normal birth weight). From 6 months onwards, as their iron needs increase, it is recommended that infants receive iron from a variety of dietary sources. These can include:
• Red meat
• Leafy Greens
• Egg yolk
• Sesame seeds
• Fortified cereal
And to maximise iron intake, it’s a good idea to pair these foods with those rich in vitamin C (needed for the absorption of iron). This can include:
• Citrus fruits
Here are some iron rich finger food ideas for 7 month+ babies:
• Toast sticks with tahini (sesame paste) spread
• Egg and broccoli omelette
• Toast soldiers with dippy egg yolk
• Steamed cabbage with a squeeze of lemon juice
• Chicken breast pieces with a tomato sauce dip
• Pepper with a hummus dip
• Bean and spinach mash
Vitamin D - is recommended that infants aged 0 to 1 year who are being exclusively or partially breastfeed should be given a daily supplement containing 8.5 to 10µg of vitamin D (340-400 IU/d). Since it is fortified with vitamin D, babies who are given infant formula exclusively do not need to supplement unless they are drinking less than 500ml of milk.
It is also recommended to include dietary sources of vitamin D such as mushrooms, fortified cereals, oily fish etc.
What about drinks?
Other than milk, all you should be giving them is water. Try giving it to them from a cup or free flow cup. Encouraging them to sip will develop your babies skills and is also better for their teeth than sucking though a spout.
What not to add?
Babies under the age of 12 months don’t need snacks, so if you feel they are hungry between meals then offer them more milk (formular or breast).
You should not be adding salt to your babies food (including to the cooking water) as this isn’t good for their kidneys’. Likewise you shouldn’t add sugar to their food as this can cause tooth decay.
Avoid sweet drinks as they can contain a lot of sugar, even those designed for babies and toddlers.
Should I still be feeding them breast milk or infant formula milk?
Yes, milk is still an important source of energy and nutrients for babies under the ages of 12 months, and should be their main drink. But as your baby eats more solids, they may naturally want less milk and they will adapt their feeds to reflect this. To avoid over-feeding, offer milk after their solids and don’t force them to finish the bottle.
Baby-led weaning or spoon feeding?
Baby-led weaning means preparing fingers foods and letting your baby feed themselves, rather than spoon feeding them yourself. Some parents prefer baby-led weaning as it allows the infant to develop their motor skills, while others may do a bit of both. As long as your baby is consuming a variety of foods and getting all the nutrients they need, there is no right or wrong answer.
It takes time
It can take offering your baby the same food 10 times of more before they’ll even try it and it can take a while for them to get used to new textures and flavours. But just be patient and don’t give up. They will get there.
Once your baby reaches 7 months, it’s important to offer them a variety of foods. This should include introducing different textures, lumpier foods and finger foods. Ensuring they are given a varied diet will prevent any micronutrient deficiencies, but watch out for iron and vitamin D. At 7 months, they should not be eating snacks or salty/sugary foods or drinking anything else other than water or milk. Eating with your baby and creating a positive, calm environment will be helpful when introducing new foods. Last but not least, it may take a long time for your little one to start eating different foods so patience is the name of the game.
This post was written by Katie Avis BSc (Hons), MSc, ANutr. Katie is the co-founder of e.k.nutrition, an Instagram platform on a mission to share evidence- based nutrition information and healthy recipes, in a digestible and user friendly format. Follow her on Instagram @e.k.nutrition.
Feeding Bytes https://feedingbytes.com/2017/02/iron-rich-finger-foods/
NHS: You baby’s first solid foods https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/solid-foods-weaning/
SACN report on Feeding in the First year of Life https://www.nhs.uk/start4life/weaning/what-to-feed-your-baby/around-6-months/
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