Weaning can be a tricky time in a young baby’s life, and certainly a messy one in a mummy’s life!
The important thing is to make food enjoyable and not a time of stress or negative emotions. The current thinking is that the baby leads the way by indicating his or her curiosity in different foods and whilst being kept nourished on their usual milk intake, they are encouraged to pick up and experience lots of different foods.
The question of whether to offer just finger foods or to puree other foods and spoon them in, this is the modern challenge for new mums.
In a recent survey, 60% of respondents said that most their good results came from a mixture of the two approaches.
Purees can have a very beneficial effect in several ways. When you cook and puree a food, you are able to combine several hard vegetables which may be difficult for a baby to bite, chew and swallow. For example, a mixture of sweet potato, turnip and butternut squash in a smooth puree would be tasty and delicious for a baby to eat and offer lots of vitamins. Perhaps preparing a bowlful and letting your baby eat with his or her hands would be a good compromise. Put a large plastic sheet on the floor under the chair and let them have fun with their food – just stay out of range!
Certainly a baby rigidly sitting in a high chair with a large bib and having spoonsful of pureed foods poked or persuaded into its protesting mouth, is the undesirable way of the old disciplinarians, but the same scene with the chair and the bib but a bowl that the baby is able to explore with their fingers and maybe taste some along the way, is a more modern compromise method. They will put everything in their mouths at this stage, so some of that lovely food will end up in the right place!
From a nutrition point of view, the more diverse the choice of foods you can offer your baby, the better the development of the developing gut microflora can be – and there is a growing awareness that this is a fundamental to good health, a widely diverse microbiome in the gut. Gut flora will bloom with the ingestion of lots of vegetable matter, particularly what is called resistant fibre, and these are found in most vegetables; pureeing can be a good way to make these foods more available to the baby’s digestive system and to physically ensure that they get down the little one’s throat without them choking.
So one does need to be aware that one is feeding the infant and also feeding the microscopic residents in the baby’s gut. Pureeing is a way of making food more digestible and more available but the pure pleasure and investigation involved in handling finger foods is something your baby will love. You may even be able to introduce dipping – cutting fingers of bread and showing your baby how to dip into hummus or a vegetable puree – there’s a challenge to achieve two goals!
As with most things, is it a moderation or combination which is most likely to be ideal; ensure that your baby is well nourished with a background diet of baby milk (breast or infant formula, as before), whist going through this transition stage and then you can lead them into the colour, texture, taste and adventure of solid foods in all forms, raw, cooked, whole, pureed and non-pureed. Something for everyone, microscopic as well!