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Second stage weaning: seven to nine months

During the second stage of weaning, the amount of milk your baby drinks will gradually reduce as his intake of solids increases. It is, however, important that he still receives a minimum of 540-600ml (18-20oz) a day of breast or formula milk. This is usually divided between three milk feeds and milk used in food and cooking as milk-based sauces are introduced. At this stage of weaning you should be aiming towards establishing three good, solid meals a day, so that by the time your baby reaches nine months of age, he is getting most of his nourishment from solids. During this time it is important to keep introducing a wide variety of foods from the different food groups (carbohydrate, protein, dairy, fruit and vegetables) so that your baby's nutritional needs are met (see page 17).

Most babies are ready to accept stronger-tasting foods at this age. They also take pleasure from different textures, colours and presentation. Food should be mashed or ‘pulsed' and kept separate to avoid mixing everything up. Fruit need not be cooked; it can be grated or mashed. It is also around this age that your baby will begin to put food in his mouth. Raw soft fruit, lightly cooked vegetables and toast can all be used as finger foods. They will be sucked and squeezed more than eaten at this stage, but allowing your baby the opportunity to feed himself encourages good feeding habits later on. Once your baby is having finger foods, always wash his hands before a meal and never leave him alone while he is eating. Between eight and nine months, your baby may show signs of wanting to use his spoon. To encourage this, use two spoons when you feed him. Load one for your baby to try and get the food into his mouth. You use the other spoon for actually getting the food in! You can help his co-ordination by holding his wrist gently and guiding the spoon into his mouth.

Foods to introduce

Dairy products, pasta and wheat can be introduced at this stage. Full-fat cow's milk can also be used in cooking, but should not be given as a drink until one year. Small amounts of unsalted butter can also be used in cooking. Egg yolks can be introduced, but must be hard-boiled. Cheese should be full fat, pasteurised and grated, and preferably organic. Olive oil can be used when cooking casseroles.

Tinned fish such as tuna may also be included, but choose fish in vegetable oil or spring water, as fish canned in brine has a higher salt content. A greater variety of vegetables can also be introduced such as coloured peppers, Brussels sprouts, pumpkin, cabbage and spinach. Tomatoes and well-diluted unsweetened fruit juices can be included if there is not history of allergies. All these foods should be introduced gradually and careful notes made of any adverse reactions.

Once your baby is used to taking puréed foods from a spoon, vegetables can be mashed rather than puréed. When he is happy taking mashed food, you can start to introduce small amounts of finger food. Vegetables should be cooked until soft then offered in cube-sized pieces or steamed and then mixed to the right consistency. As soon as your baby is managing softly cooked pieces of vegetables and soft pieces of raw fruit, you can try him with toast or a low-sugar rusk. By nine months, if your baby has several teeth he should be able to manage some chopped raw vegetables. Dried fruit can also be given now but it should be washed first and soaked overnight.

Breakfast

Sugar-free, unrefined wheat cereals can now be introduced; choose organic ones fortified with iron and B vitamins. You may want to delay introducing these if you have a family history of allergies -check with a health visitor or GP or a dietitian. Try adding a little mashed or grated fruit if your baby refuses them. Try to alternate the cereals between oat-based and wheat-based, even if your baby shows a preference for one over the other. You can encourage your baby with finger foods by offering him a little buttered toast at this stage. Once your baby is finger feeding, you can offer a selection of fruits along with lightly buttered toast.

Most babies are still desperate for their milk first thing in the morning, so still allow him two-thirds of his milk first. Once he is nearer nine months of age he will most likely show signs of not being hungry for milk and this is the time to try offering breakfast milk from a beaker.

Lunch

If your baby is eating a proper breakfast you will be able to push lunch to somewhere between 11.45am and 12 noon. However, should he be eating only a small amount at breakfast he will need to eat slightly earlier. Likewise, a baby who is having only a very short nap in the morning may also need to have lunch slightly earlier. It is important to remember that an overtired, over-hungry baby will not feed as well, so take a cue from him as to the timing of lunch. During this stage of weaning you will have established protein at lunchtime. I usually find that during the early stages of introducing protein, cooking it as a casserole with root vegetables makes it much more palatable as many babies baulk at the strong flavour of protein which has been cooked on its own then mixed with vegetables. Whenever possible, try to buy organic chicken and meat, which is free from additives and growth stimulators. Pork, bacon and processed hams should not be given as they have a high salt content. You should still continue to cook all food without additional salt or added sugar, although a small amount of fresh herbs can be introduced at around nine months of age.

Once protein is well established, your baby's milk feed should be replaced at lunchtime with a drink of cool boiled water or welldiluted juice from a beaker. You might find that he drinks only a small amount from the beaker and may look for an increase of milk in the 2.30pm milk feed, or an increase of cool boiled water later in the day.

If you are introducing your baby to a vegetarian diet, it is important to seek expert advice on getting the balance of amino acids right. Vegetables are incomplete sources of amino acids when cooked separately, and need to be combined correctly to provide your baby with a complete source of protein. If your baby is still hungry after his main meal, offer a piece of cheese, a breadstick, chopped fruit or yoghurt.

Tea

Once your baby is finger feeding, tea can include a selection of mini sandwiches, rice cakes with spread or breadsticks. Some babies get very tired and fussy by teatime. If your baby does not eat much, try offering some rice pudding and fruit or a sugar-free yoghurt with fruit. A small drink of cool boiled water or well-diluted juice from a beaker can be offered after tea. Do not allow too large a drink at this time as it will put him off his last milk feed. His bedtime milk feed is still important at this stage. If he starts cutting back too much on this feed, check you are not overfeeding him on solids or giving him too much to drink.

Daily requirements

During the second stage of weaning it is important to work towards establishing three proper solid meals a day. Iron is a significant nutritional consideration at this time. This important mineral is essential for your baby's mental and physical development and for the formation of red blood cells. All babies are born with a natural store of iron in their bodies, but by the time they reach six months of age most of it will have been used up, so it is very important now to include iron-rich foods, such as red meat, green leafy vegetables, dried fruits and iron-enriched breakfast cereals, in his diet. To help improve absorption of foods rich in iron always try to serve them with vitamin C-containing fruits and vegetables, e.g. citrus fruits, berries or a small beaker of diluted pure fruit juice. Once you have established protein at lunchtime, it is important to drop the lunchtime milk feed - giving milk to drink with protein reduces iron absorption by up to 50 per cent.

Your baby still needs 540-600ml (18-20oz) of breast or formula milk a day, inclusive of milk used for mixing food. If he starts to reject his milk, cut right back on his 2.30pm milk feed to ensure that he takes a good milk feed first thing in the morning and at bedtime.  Offer him extra yoghurt and cheese, and include milk-based sauces and puddings in his diet to ensure that his daily milk requirements are met.

Weaning guidelines

Between the ages of seven and nine months your baby should have 2-3 servings of carbohydrates a day. These should be in the form of cereal, wholemeal bread, pasta or potatoes.

Choose less-refined sugar-free cereals such as Weetabix or Ready Brek, which are rich in iron and vitamins. These can be served with fresh mashed or grated fruit.

Your baby needs at least two servings of vegetables and fruit a day, with, ideally, more vegetables than fruit. Fruit need no longer be cooked or puréed. Start off by offering it grated and mashed, progressing to small pieces of soft bite-sized pieces.

Your baby will need one serving of animal protein a day, a serving starting at approximately 25g (1oz) and increasing to around 50g (2oz). When serving a vegetarian meal, make sure you follow the guidelines for combining vegetable protein to ensure that your baby receives a complete protein meal. It is always wise to speak to your health visitor or a dietitian before giving a wholly vegetarian diet to your baby.

Remove all fat, skin and bones from meat and poultry and avoid meats such as ham, pork and bacon which are too high in fat and salt. Continue to cook meats with vegetables in casseroles but these can now be pulsed together in the blender instead of being puréed into a totally smooth consistency.

From six months onwards vegetables can be mashed instead of puréed. Once your baby is happy taking mashed, but not lumpy, food you can start to introduce small amounts of finger foods. Vegetables should be cooked until soft then offered in cube-sized pieces or steamed and then mixed to the right consistency with cool filtered water. Once your baby is managing softly cooked pieces of vegetables and soft pieces of raw fruit, you can try him with pieces of toast or a low-sugar rusk.  By nine months, if your baby has several teeth, he should be able to manage some chopped raw vegetables. Dried fruit can be given now but it should be washed first and soaked overnight.

Egg yolks can be introduced, but must be hard-boiled. Tinned fish such as tuna may also be included, but choose fish in vegetable oil or spring water, as fish canned in brine has a higher salt content.

Once your baby is self-feeding it is important to wash his hands thoroughly before and after meals. He should never be left unattended once he is self-feeding because of the risk of choking.

When protein is well established at lunchtime, the milk feed should be replaced with a drink of water or well-diluted juice - try to encourage him to drink this from a beaker. Once he is happy to do this, introduce a beaker for his 2.30pm feed. By eight months, try to get him to take at least some of his breakfast milk from a beaker.

At mealtimes, it is best to serve water or well-diluted pure juice after your baby has eaten most of his solids; that way the edge will not be taken off his appetite.

Olive oil can be introduced in cooking between six and seven months and small quantities of herbs used in cooking from eight months.

A very hungry baby who is taking three full milk feeds a day, plus three good solid meals, may need a small drink and a piece of fruit mid-morning.

Small amounts of unsalted butter and full-fat cow's milk (preferably organic) can be used in cooking, but cow's milk should not be given as a drink yet as it is too low in iron.

By the end of six months your baby will probably be ready to sit in a high chair for his meals. Always ensure that he is properly strapped in and never left unattended. Between eight and nine months he may show signs of wanting to use his spoon. To encourage this, use two spoons. Load one for him to try and get the food into his mouth and use the other to actually get the food in. You can help his co-ordination by holding his wrist and gently guiding his spoon into his mouth.

Menu planners at seven to nine months

If you have followed the plans for weaning at 6-7 months, your

baby will now be eating protein at lunchtime. You now need to broaden his diet. It is very easy to get into the habit of serving the same favourite foods to your baby, but this could lead to him becoming very fussy about the foods he eats. I therefore advise that once your baby is established on the different protein meals, you should use the menu plans below as a guide to ensure that your baby receives a variety of foods and meals each week. The menus are to help you plan what your baby's meals might look like over a week. You can rotate them over a fortnight if you like, which will ensure your baby has a good range of different foods.

Menu A

Breakfast Breast-feed or 210-240ml (7-8oz) of formula milk

plus

Wheat cereal with milk and mashed fruit or

Oat cereal with milk and mashed fruit or

Mixed mashed fruit and yoghurt, toast fingers,

lightly buttered or

Wheat cereal with milk and finely chopped fruit or

Baby muesli with milk

Lunch Bumper macaroni cheese (page 92) plus

Chopped fruit and yoghurt or

Individual fish pie (page 93) and sweetcorn or

Chicken casserole (page 85) and green beans or

Lamb hotpot (page 94) or

Chicken risotto (page 79) or

Fish Lyonnaise (page 87), carrots and peas or

Individual fish pie and broccoli florets

Drink of water or well-diluted juice from a beaker

Mid- Breast-feed or 150-210ml (5-7oz) of formula milk

afternoon

Tea Thick courgette and leek soup (page 84) with rusks,

lightly buttered or

Creamy pasta with spring vegetables (page 80) or

Baked potato with mashed baked beans or

Leek and potato soup (page 95) with bread, rusks or

rice cakes, lightly buttered or

Corn chowder (page 91) or

Vegetable broth (page 86) and mini sandwiches or

Minestrone soup (page 82) with rice cakes, lightly

buttered

Drink of water from a beaker

Bedtime Breast-feed or 180-240ml (6-8oz) of formula milk

Menu B

Breakfast Breast-feed or 210-240ml (7-8oz) of formula milk

in a beaker plus

Wheat cereal with milk and finely chopped fruit or

Oat cereal with milk and grated fruit or

Mixed chopped fruit and yoghurt or

Baby muesli with milk or

Wheat cereal with milk and mashed fruit or

Oat cereal with milk and finely chopped fruit or

Mixed mashed fruit and yoghurt

Lunch Chicken casserole with diced potatoes and broccoli

or

Vegetable shepherd's pie (page 97) or

Lamb hotpot or

Fish Lyonnaise with courgettes and carrots or

Tuna pasta (page 81) or

Quick chicken and vegetable gratin (page 83), green

beans and diced potatoes or

Bumper macaroni cheese or

Chicken risotto with chopped Brussels sprouts

Drink of water or well-diluted juice from a beaker

Mid- Breast-feed or 150-210ml (5-7oz) of formula milk

afternoon

Tea Thick lentil and carrot soup (page 96) with mini

sandwiches or

Vegetable broth and mini sandwiches or Creamy pasta with spring vegetables or Thick courgette and leek soup, with rice cakes, lightly buttered or Spotty couscous (page 90) or Mixed root medley (page 88)

Drink of water from a beaker

Bedtime Breast-feed or 180-240ml (6-8oz) of formula milk


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