Weaning can be mighty challenging; there is no one-size-fits-all for getting your baby eating like a food pro. The intense pressure many parents feel to 'get it right' (and I've experienced this first-hand myself) can be all-consuming. Compounded by the fact that there is a world of conflicting information and advice out there, it's completely natural to feel defeated before you've even dabbled with those first foods.
Having spent over 27 years researching baby and child nutrition, developing recipes and providing practical support to weaning families, I know what babies need in order to lay the foundations for a lifetime of healthy eating. My new book Weaning Made Simple cuts through all the unnecessary jargon and outdated advice to provide exactly what you need to know and do - and busts plenty of weaning myths along the way. Here are some of the biggest ones you might have come across...
Myth number 1: I can't give my baby tap water
Tap water is perfectly fine for your baby from 6 months (so long as the supply is safe). It is only necessary to boil tap water to kill any bacteria if using it with formula.
Myth number 2: It's not safe to give my baby dippy eggs
Runny eggs are back on the menu! Eggs are one of the most nutritious foods available, and your baby can eat them runny when you start weaning at around 6 months as long as you follow the recommended egg safety standards.
Myth number 3: I should hold off giving my baby meat and fish
Red meat, chicken and fish should be introduced from 6 months, as they are rich in iron. Make sure they are cooked thoroughly and check well for bones before offering to your baby. Lentils and pulses are also protein rich.
Babies are born with a reserve of iron, and until 6 months, they will have been busy using the store of iron they inherited from their mom. But, it'll be running out by this point, so now is the time to introduce these iron-rich foods.
Myth number 4: I can't wean my baby as a vegetarian
There is no reason why you can't raise your baby on a vegetarian diet. You just need to be extra careful to ensure their diet is well balanced with sufficient iron (which you can source from foods such as egg yolks, beans, pulses, green leafy veggies, nuts and seeds etc) and protein (beans, pulses, tofu, eggs, cheese and full-fat yoghurt). Just remember - with seeds and nut you need to use them in ground or butter form.
Myth number 5: My baby can't eat the same food as me
With baby-led weaning, you can start with soft finger foods and small portions of family meals from 6 months. The idea behind it is that you take a step back and put your baby in control, allowing and encouraging them to go at their own pace while exploring a variety of foods, tastes and textures for themselves.
Myth number 6: I shouldn't offer my baby cow's milk before 12 months
Cow's milk should not be consumed as a drink until 12 months, but you can use it from 6 months in recipes and in their cereal, so long as your baby is getting their recommended daily intake of breast milk or formula.
Myth number 7: My baby can't manage textures
Your baby may not have teeth, but from 6 months they will be well able to manage soft lumps and minced or mashed meals, so don't hold back when it comes to increasing textures.
Myth number 8: My baby shouldn't play with his or her food
Encourage playing and exploring with flavors and textures as much as possible. After all, taste is just one of the five senses. Offer a finger food along with a dip or purée for a hands-on weaning experience.
Myth number 9: Bigger babies need to be weaned earlier
Babies who are big for their age do not need solids earlier than other babies - it's what's going on inside that counts. Babies are ready for solids when their digestive systems are developed enough to cope. That's not before 17 weeks.
Myths number 10: Babies loathe the clean-up job after a round of food exploration
It doesn't have to be so hard. Try taking your baby out of their highchair and clean them up while sitting them on your knee. That way, they are less likely to associate the negativity of having their face and hands wiped within their immediate feeding space.
Packed with 100 delicious weaning recipes plus practical information and easy-to-follow guidance for getting your baby to a great place as they reach their first birthday, Weaning Made Simple by Annabel Karmel is out now.