Weaning a reflux baby can be a tricky journey, but this simple guide will help you along the way. Weaning my son was easy because he ate everything and had no allergies or health issues to consider. My daughter however has struggled with severe reflux from 6 weeks old. She also has a cow’s milk allergy, so weaning her has been a challenge. This guide shows everything I have learnt along our weaning journey.
Is my Baby ready for Weaning?
Most babies begin their weaning journey at 6 months old. Medical professionals believe that before this age the baby gets all of his or her nutrients from breast milk or formula. By 6 months their digestive system and immune system are stronger, so they are less likely to develop food allergies or infections from food.
Common signs that your baby is ready to start on solids:
- Can sit up without too much support
- Has good neck control
- Can swallow food not just push it back out with their tongue (called the tongue thrust reflex)
- Can coordinate their eyes and hands, so they can put food into their mouth
- Shows an interest in food
- May make chewing motions with their mouth
I have read a lot of articles that suggest starting weaning early if your baby has reflux. If you are concerned about your baby’s weight gain and are considering early weaning then you should discuss this with a paediatrician. My baby has very slow weight gain, her reflux is severe and we later found out she has also has a milk allergy. With advice from the health visitor and GP I decided against early weaning because I have didn’t want to risk her developing other food allergies. With a lot of patience and perseverance she did begin to gain weight with breast milk, hypoallergenic formula and medication.
Purée Vs Baby Led Weaning/Feeding
Puree weaning is simply using a spoon to give your baby pureed vegetables or fruits as their first foods. If you start weaning early pureed foods are a good choice as they will be able to swallow these easily. Baby will then move on to mashed foods with slightly more texture and then chopped foods as they get older. You should also offer them finger foods alongside this.
Baby led weaning is where you let your baby feed themselves from day one, rather than feeding them purees with a spoon. If they start weaning at the WHO recommended age of 6 months they should be able to feed themselves small pieces of food rather than always needing to be fed with a spoon. Chip shaped pieces are the best shape to begin with as babies find them easier to grip. As they get older and develop a pincer grip (picking things up with their thumb and forefinger) they can have smaller pieces.
Most people use some combination of the two. With my son, who has no health issues, I used mainly baby led weaning from the start and he loved it. It made my life much easier because I could make a similar meal for all of us and he could sit and join in with a family meal. It also made eating out easy as I could just offer him food from my plate. I did feed him some foods with a spoon – mainly yoghurts because he would just throw it everywhere and get frustrated.
Introducing a Reflux Baby to Food
I waited to start weaning my baby at 6 months, even though she had severe reflux. She also has a milk allergy and we recently discovered she has a soya allergy as well. I was advised to start her on fruit and vegetable purees, so it would be a gentle start for her digestive system as she hadn’t yet been seen by a paediatrician to have a skin prick test to rule out other food allergies.
Starting her on purees was a really bad idea! Purees are essentially liquid food, but without the thickener we put into her formula to stop her vomiting. So as soon as she started having purees the vomiting became even worse. Now she was vomiting more often and the vomit was coloured by whatever vegetable or fruit she had eaten. So it was great at staining clothes and carpets! I quickly decided to skip the purees and move straight on to more textured food and finger foods. This made a big difference because she was having her formula with its thickener and solid foods. She seemed much happier and was hungry less often and the reflux symptoms soon settled back down. Now her reflux symptoms are manageable unless she eats something with milk or soya in it (trying to reintroduce her to small amounts – it’s not working yet).
Foods for a Reflux Baby to Avoid
Every baby is different and their reflux can be made worse by different things. These are some of the common foods to try eliminating during weaning to see if they are making the baby reflux symptoms worse:
- Citric fruits such as oranges, apples and grapes.
- Spicy foods
- Tomatoes and peppers
I eliminated dairy from my diet and my daughter’s diet and we saw an immediate improvement in her symptoms. It did take several weeks to see the overall improvement as we needed to wait for all traces of dairy to leave her system. We later discovered she had a cow’s milk protein allergy. Although her health improved massively she continued to have some really bad episodes of reflux, so we were advised to eliminate soya. This really helped her and her reflux became manageable. Even at 9 months she can still have a setback if she tries a new food that irritates her reflux.
All babies and young children should avoid these foods:
- Salty foods and adding salt to meals
- Sugary foods
- Honey before 12 months
- Whole nuts
- Some soft cheeses
- Raw or undercooked eggs
- Rice milks until 5 years old
- Raw jelly cubes
- Raw shellfish
- Fish that contains high levels of mercury
First Foods for a Reflux Baby
Offering your reflux baby non-acidic and non-spicy foods is a good start to weaning. I found offering quite plain food like pear, sweet potato or porridge made with her regular formula was a good introduction to food. It also gave me some basic foods that I knew didn’t irritate my baby that I could then start to add to other foods.
Foods I introduced at 6 months
- Pears were a favourite, steamed and mashed with a fork or in strips. Also good for adding to porridge or custard.
- Sweet potato mash made with oil and dairy free margarine or sweet potato roasted and in chip shapes
- White potato mash made with oil and dairy free margarine
- Porridge made with her regular formula then I changed to oat/almond milk
- Custard made with her regular formula then I changed to almond milk
- Plain chicken in strips
- Fish in small pieces
- Parsnip steamed and in chip shapes
- Carrots steamed and in chip shapes
- Peanut butter on toast fingers (recommended by the paediatrician)
- Scrambled egg
By the time she had these I felt more confident about her eating the different allergens. Since then I have discovered different food that she loves. I now cook/bake all of her dairy free/soy free food from scratch so I know exactly what is in it. I am enjoying adapting recipes for her and the family meals so we can all eat together.
Related Post: A routine for a baby with reflux 6-9 months
How a Baby can Avoid Dairy
Dairy is in a lot more products than you realise. I thought of the obvious things like yoghurt, butter, margarine, cheese, anything that has milk on the ingredients list. But there are a lot of other ingredients you need to check for when shopping for dairy free food. The list from the Allergy UK website is really helpful.
There are a lot of cow’s milk alternatives in the shops. If you don’t need to avoid soya there is a wide range of soy based alternatives that you can use to cook with. Don’t offer your baby soy milk as a drink until after 12 months old as it doesn’t contain the right nutrients for them.
As we need to avoid soya I have been using oat milk and have recently changed to using almond milk. Oat milk is fine fir cooking with, much better than using their hypoallergenic formula, but it can give whatever you are making a slight tastes of oats. I wasn’t sure about trying almond milk because I am not a massive fan of almonds. But I have used it in pancakes, cake and custard so far and couldn’t taste almonds, so this is my new favourite go to for milk.
Should I avoid giving my baby food with other allergens in it?
There are 8 common allergens in food:
- Tree nuts
Unless you know that your baby is allergic to any of them don’t avoid them. I was advised by the paediatrician to give all of the allergens that I could to my daughter at 6 months old. In fact I was told to introduce her to the 6 allergens she could have as quickly as possible and to try and introduce to all of them within the next week. Medical evidence now shows that children need to be introduced to the common allergens at 6 months to reduce the risk of them developing allergies.
What should my Baby Drink?
Baby should continue with breastmilk or formula until they are 12 months old. As they eat more solid food they may reduce the amount of milk they want. I introduced both of my children to a cup at 6 months and offered them water with their meals.
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