Ask the Expert: What are the best foods to give to my weaning baby?
Q: I WANT to wean my baby, but I don't know how to start or what foods to give her. Have you got any tips?
A: Young Gums food blogger and Insta-mum Beth Bentley (younggums.com), author of Young Gums: Baby Food With Attitude (Ebury Press £14.99), says: "Don't feel overwhelmed at the new responsibility of cooking for your baby. There are nourishing, creative meals you can cook in moments with a few basic ingredients, often with just one hand.
"Go big and broad with flavour. It's a myth that young babies need, and like, only bland, plain foods. Of course, most will enjoy mild, creamy tastes like banana or avocado, both of which are wonderful first foods, but a six-month-old baby can safely eat a staggering range of ingredients and flavours too.
"In fact, there's scientific evidence that a weaning baby is more receptive to new flavours than they'll ever be again. Of course, there are some foods that pose a safety or allergy risk, but babies are braver than we think. My book is full of dishes you and your baby can share: Coconut curries, tagines, pot roasts, stews, nourishing baked treats, pancakes, ice cream.
"Keep things easy at the beginning. I recommend focusing the first couple of weeks of weaning on simple, one or two-ingredient meals. This will give you both a low-stress way to get used to mealtimes, plus the opportunity to pinpoint any possible food reactions to discuss with your health visitor.
"Nutritious first meals are mashed banana or avocado, steamed sweet potato, butternut squash, carrot, or apple, or porridge oats whizzed to powder in your blender then gently simmered in your baby's usual milk, perhaps with a little smooth almond butter.
"You don't need to choose between spoon-feeding and baby-led weaning. You can do both, even in the same meal. There are good things about both strategies: Finger foods help develop motor skills, independent choice and familiarity with what foods look and feel like, plus the important skill of chewing first before swallowing.
"Spoon-feeding is a nice bonding experience with lots of eye-contact and chat, plus giving your baby a hand getting some food into their mouth can help avoid them becoming frustrated. Some meals are soft and spoonable, some are interactive, tactile and colourful. Many are both at once.
"You need less equipment than you might think, and it doesn't need to be expensive. I started with a £5 stick blender and a vegetable steamer I made by clamping a metal sieve between a pan of simmering water and its tightly-fitting lid."