For the control freaks out there, this is not for you. Perhaps you should try Gina Ford. This is a general rules, practical, what-worked-for-me type of guide.
There are tonnes of guides out there that will give you a list of signs to watch out for – ability to sit upright, loss of tongue thrust instinct, interest in adult food, seeming to be hungry all the time etc. Watch out for them but I would say, unless your baby appears really impatient, just wait the full 6 months, especially if you are exclusively breastfeeding. They have a lifetime of solid food ahead of them, but only so much time when they are fully beastfed. Even if you supplement or are exclusively bottle feeding, there is a host of reason to delay solids till 6 months and tonnes of resources out there to convince you of the truth of this. Still, each baby is different and guidelines are guidelines. Even if you waited patiently the full 9 months, there is no guarantee your baby will be ready (mine wasn’t initially) and conversely if you baby is indeed ready a day shy of 6 months, don’t be so rigid and insist on the magic 6 months!
The baby is just part of the equation though. You, the adult feeding him/her, is the other part and feel free to pick a day most convenient for you. I found saturday most convenient because it gave me 2 days to oberve how she took to food before buying ingredients and batch making for the rest of the week and leaving instructions with the grandpa (her main caregiver) on what to give her.
2) When (time of the day)
The next “when”. I followed Gina Ford’s advice of starting with the 11am, which turned out to be a good thing because even now that she is taking 3 meals, she eats best at the noon feed, which must mean she’s hungriest or somehow most inclined to eat solids at that time. I very quickly moved to 3 feeds a day though.
There are 2 main ways, the baby led weaning way and the puree way. And there’s nothing to say you can’t mix the 2.
With baby led weaning your baby will learn to self feed much faster. The claim is also that they will be better eaters because the theory is that they are given bits of the parents’ food but I find that in my context if I were to do that she will either end up consuming way too much sodium or having only rice and bread, neither of which is healthy. There are also a lot of things that baby just can’t manage on their own for a long time like green leafies, unless you puree them, so baby led weaning excludes a lot of foods. But end of the day, as long as you try to include as much variety as possible, it should be fine. The basic idea is to cut up soft foods into chip shaped sizes initially then smaller cubes as they gain more psycho motor skills, and be prepared for the mess. There are few rules with BLW. The basic premise is that babies will be able to eat it if they are ready, and not if they are not (eg not being able to pick up a grape if they are still likely to choke on it). I would recommend a huge dose of common sense though, like not giving baby a peanut anyway, just in case the theory fails and baby does manage to pick it up.
With purees, just steam then blend. Simple, especially if you have a steamer blender like the philips one. Other methods of cooking are also fine but again use common sense, frying is probably a bad idea, baking things like sweet potatoes is probably a good idea. I would avoid the microwave if possible simply because I’m still not convinced what it does to the food and it is very likely that at least some of the nutrients that would be retained by steaming would be destroyed by the microwave.
I initially poured through the lists of what to introduce when but after a while threw them out and just went with gut feel. I would say avoid shellfish and peanuts for the first year and no salt and sugar. For the rest, anything goes, just ensure variety.
5) How to start
Most traditional texts say start with rice cereal. My belief is there is no reason why you can’t start with something else. I would recommend something that is not sweet though, wouldn’t want the baby to come to expect solids to be sweet. Most texts also say that the consistency should be very runny but I found this difficult to handle and generally just flows out whereas with a thicker consistency my baby is more able to keep it in her mouth and eventually bring it back to swallow. The trick though, is to ensure there are no lumps initially. So even if you’re starting with avocado, better blend it. My mashed avocadoes had lumps which Sophia didn’t appreciate.
Clearly I started with purees, if you are going with baby led weaning, just strip down baby to diapers or put on an apron styled bib, leave a few pieces of food on the high chair tray and wait. It may help if you walk away.
6) After the beginning
For the first 3 weeks, I would go with veges and grains only. No fruit, no meat.
In week 4 introduce some chicken stock if you’re going with purees
After week 5, bring on the meat as mains and fruit as dessert/breakfast.
Once baby is eating substantial amounts, I try to ensure that for dinner half her portion is meat and the other half vege. For breakfast she gets fruit with wholegrain cereal.
Most asian families progress to porridge after baby is about 8 months old. I’m not a fan because proportionally there is too much carb, even if a lot of ingredients are added. If you are keen of going down this track (which I personally did for a while too), I recommend using wholegrains as the base instead of white rice and vary the grains – quinoa, amaranth, millet, rolled oats are all good choices.
There. Here’s the weaning guide according to Elaine.