Family nutrition expert Annabel talks through how to make weaning a smooth process - and how to instil a love of good food in your baby
As milestones go, weaning is a very emotive one, and one which mums may struggle with - even mourn. Factor in some babies take longer than others, and it's easy to see the need for an empathetic and realistic approach.
Since launching the The Complete Baby and Toddler Meal Planner 25 years ago, Annabel Karmel developed some serious expertise in this area - even launching the Guide to Feeding Your Baby and Toddler App.
The mum-of-three has become a leading authority for delicious, nutritious meals for babies, children and families as well as being the UK's No.1 children’s cookery author.
However, her journey was prompted by the loss of her baby daughter, Natasha, who passed away at 13 weeks from a viral infection.
Although it wasn't a diet related illness, she was understandably cautious when it came to her second child, Nicholas, and so began her change of direction and subsequent passion and success.
Annabel has shared her wisdom about weaning with Mirror Online - when you should start, the signs , what to cook and how to navigate the following 12 months.
1. The right time
Breast or formula will provide all the nutrients your baby needs for the first six months, which is when the UK Department of Health states babies should start weaning.
Having said that babies do develop at different rates and the Department advises that if your baby is showing signs of being ready to move on from just breastfeeding or formula then you could try giving some simple solids.
Although do not start weaning before 17 weeks as your baby's digestive system will not be fully mature for the first few months.
3. The signs
If you spot signs of you baby being hungrier than usual -even after their milk feed, waking in the night or are able to support their head and neck well when in a sitting position, it may be an indicator that they're ready to move on to solids.
4. If baby is resisting
A mother's instinct is very powerful, so if you feel she is ready you are probably right.
If she doesn't seem interested after a couple of attempts, you could always leave it another few days and then try again.
Just be sure she is a little bit hungry but not ravenously so.
You may need to give her a little milk to take the edge off her hunger first. It’s important not to rush and go at your baby’s pace.
5. A detailed look at moving onto solids
At the very beginning, don't expect your baby to take more than 1 – 2 teaspoons of her baby rice or fruit or vegetable puree.
As your baby gets used to eating solids you may want to start gradually increasing the portion size.
However it's important that babies between the age of six and 12 months should still have 500 to 600ml of milk a day.
Breast or formula should be given as your baby's main milk as it’s richer in vitamins and iron than cow’s milk - however you can give cow’s milk with cereal or in cooking from six months.
Stick to full-fat milk as the calories will help fuel your baby’s growth and perhaps start to give some of their milk in a cup.
Mixing fruits and veg is a great way of getting started
6. What to avoid
Babies under 12 months should not be having salt or sugar. Other foods to avoid include pate, shellfish, smoked foods, soft and blue cheese and honey.
Eggs can be introduced from six months as long as they are thoroughly cooked through.
And nuts and seeds should be avoided, unless it's smooth peanut butter which is OK to introduce after six months if there isn't a family history of allergy.
7. The first stage
Transitions to solids are more about introducing food than giving a full meal.
Start with root vegetables that are easy to digest and unlikely to provoke an allergic reaction.
The best way to cook them to preserve their nutrients is to steam them so that they puree into a smooth texture.
Sweet potato, butternut squash and parsnips are great because they have a naturally sweet taste, a similar sweetness to breast-milk.
Choose fruits that are ripe and have a good flavour, so try tasting them yourself before giving them to your baby.
Good first fruits are apple and pear which can be steamed or cooked in a saucepan.
There are also some fruits like banana, avocados, peach and papaya which don't require any cooking at all and you can just mash with a fork.
Blending fruit and vegetables is a great way of introducing first foods. My favourite recipes are , Papaya, Apple, Pear and Cinnamon and Carrot puree. Banana and Avocado.
8. The second stage
Once your baby has mastered first tastes, it's time to move on to exploring tastes and textures.
Between six and nine months (when your baby's digestive system is maturing), you can start to increase the amount and variety of food you give your baby.
Babies are developing quite rapidly at this stage, so this is a window of opportunity to help them master the art of chewing and start introducing proteins such as meat and fish.
Beef with kale and butternut squash
Start by making the consistency of the puree thicker and by dicing vegetables that little bit chunkier. Avoid salt, sugar and honey but flavour purees by using garlic and herbs.
Chicken is an ideal first meat as it blends well with root vegetables and fruits. It’s also packed with protein and vitamin B12 to help babies grow.
Fish like salmon is also really important as it provides the essential fatty acids needed to help aid your baby's brain, nervous system and vision development.
Great, straightforward stage 2 recipes to try are my Beef with Kale and Butternut Squash, Lemon Sole with Squash, Kale and Peas, Sweet Potato with Broccoli and Peas and Blueberry, Pear and Banana puree.
Family nutrition expert and acclaimed author Annabel Karmel talks through 8 tips on how to make weaning a smooth process - and how to instil a love of good food in your baby