Mom and Baby: Second-Stage Weaning

The purpose of this stage of weaning is to establish a regular eating pattern and to increase the range of nutritionally rich foods you give your baby, so that her solids will become her main source of nutrients rather than breast milk. Once you feel that your baby is comfortable eating three meals a day, with finger foods and water in-between, you can start to offer breast milk or formula milk as an after-solids drink only. This is best begun first thing in the morning, when your baby will be at her hungriest. You can take advantage of this, and hopefully she will eat more solids. Gradually, breakfast can become the largest meal of the day.

New Foods

As your baby learns to swallow and chew and her teeth grow, you can gradually introduce new foods. It's important to remember that babies develop at different paces, and that some babies will be comfortable with new foods earlier than others. They key thing is that they should never be left alone with food at any time. Try foods that have a coarser texture; mince or mash purees rather than blending them, but always wash and peel fruit and vegetables and remove pips.

As your baby's digestive system matures and her appetite increases, you can add many more foods to her diet. Fish, lean meat, and poultry should be offered at least once a week to increase her protein and iron intake. (Always check fish for bones, then grill or poach, and always mash the cooked food). Babies can find the flavour of protein strong when a food is cooked on its own, so try mixing it with a blander food such as potato.

Iron is particularly important at this stage. If your baby is being given a vegan diet and is relying on pulses such as beans and lentils for protein, she will need iron from other sources too, such as green vegetables, especially broccoli, spinach and watercress, and pureed cooked dried fruit such as prunes and unsulphured apricots. Always make sure pulses are thoroughly cooked, because they are high in fibre and can be hard for babies to digest. Similarly, avoid giving babies high-fibre breakfast cereals at this stage because their digestive systems will not be able to cope.

Towards the end of this age group, if your baby is confident with chewing you can introduce wheat and wheat-based foods, such as pasta and cereals. These are great for encouraging babies to chew and use their jaw muscles. Bread, bread sticks, and unsalted rice cakes can also be cut into finger-size pieces - but check their labels for salt and sugar content before you buy. At this stage babies love finger foods; try pieces of ripe soft peeled fruit or cooked soft vegetables. Chop these foods large enough to hold and chew on, rather than bite-size to minimize the risk of choking - and always keep an eye on her. Now that your baby is having finger foods always wash her hands before her meals.

Small amounts of full-fat cow's milk can be given if incorporated into a dish rather than as a drink. And it is important to give your baby cooled, boiled tap water between meals.

Allergic Reactions

Occasionally, harmless foods such as nuts or cow's milk, can be perceived as aggressive by a baby's immune system. This triggers an allergic reaction. Some reactions cause mild discomfort, while others can be life-threatening. Allergies in children, particularly asthma and eczema, are on the increase. Seek advice from your family doctor or a state-registered dietician or registered nutritionist.