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 we have learned 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 had very slow weight gain, her reflux was severe and we later found out she has also had 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 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 start with as babies find them easier to grip. When 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.
What do I need to Buy for Weaning?
There are so many weaning products to suit all tastes and budgets. You don’t need to spend lots to find great quality products
If you are on a budget or just want a highchair that is so easy to keep clean then go for the IKEA Antilop. You can also get highchair inserts for it to make it comfier for a baby that has only just learned to sit up. If you have a bigger budget then the Stokke Trip Trap is amazing as it grows with your child – can actually take the weight of an adult. It comes in a lovely range of colours, it is small and discreet and has good support for a baby.
When they start weaning I prefer to use a silicone bib as they are so much easier to keep clean. They only need a quick wipe or a rinse under the tap and they’re ready to use again. They are also really useful for taking out as they catch the food and any drink and stop their clothes getting wet or stained. It can easily be rolled up and popped in a changing bag.
If you want to limit the amount of food thrown on to the floor then a suction bowl is really useful! The munchkin bowls come in three different sizes and are good if you are trying baby-led weaning. They attach to the highchair tray with a suction cup and are easy to remove. We used the soft tip spoons for the first few months of weaning as they are really gentle on the gums. Then we moved on to using a fork and a spoon.
There is a wide variety of sippy cups – cups with lids, spouts, plastic straws, silicone straws, open cups, with or without handles. We have tried a lot of sippy cups because my baby is fussy and there is a few we really like.
At 6 months we used the Munchkin Miracle 360 Trainer Cup and liked how easy it was to hold and drink from. They are a lovely design and great colours so it is easy to find in your bag. If it gets thrown on the floor there is only a small splash and not a whole cup of water. You do need to take it apart and wash the lid properly after each use to make sure it stays clean. Also if it is in a bag and gets knocked around it can leave splashes of water.
We use the Naturebond silicone baby feeder. It is so easy to clean under the tap and I have put it in the steriliser for a deep clean when it has been dropped on the floor. I find these much easier to clean than a mesh feeder and it is great for putting bits of your meal in when you are out to keep your baby entertained. It is also good when baby is teething if you put in cold apple or carrot for them to chew.
To make their first foods it is much easier to use a steamer and blender in one. I used the Philips Avent combined steamer and blender. It is just the right size for making a batch of baby food and you only have one pot to clean. You are able to blend the food as much as you like to choose the right texture to suit your baby. You can also choose different flavours to combine.
When you have made your batch of baby food you need somewhere to store it. A silicone freezer tray works really well as you can freeze the food in small portions. When you want to feed your baby you can easily pop out as many cubes of food as you like. You can also com freeze them in batches and combine different flavours to vary their meals. Having a clip-on lid makes the trays more practical as you can stack them in your freezer or if your baby has allergies you can prevent contamination.
Another storage option is to put any purees into pouches using a squeeze station. This makes the food easy to store in the fridge or to freeze. IT is also really handy for taking baby food out with you. This can be good if your baby has allergies and you need to take your own food with you.
This isn’t an essential item for everyone. I had this on my wishlist for a while but I wasn’t sure how much we would use it. However buying free from bread is expensive and making sure shop-bought loaves have no dairy and soya is complicated. So I decided to go for it and get myself a breadmaker. I bought the Panasonic breadmaker with a gluten free programme and the whole family love it. We make gluten free loaves, normal white loaves and pizza dough every week. The children love it and I can bake loaves with vitalite spread to make sure they are dairy-free. It has been a fantastic investment for us.
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 soy allergy as well. I was advised to start her with 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 with purees was a really bad idea! Purees are 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 for cooking with, much better than using their hypoallergenic formula, but it can give whatever you are making a slight taste 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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