Wean in 15: Weaning Advice

A guide to help your child start weaning and how much food your child needs.

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kk: From The Parents Club, I’m Karsen Kolnicki. This is your briefing.


kk: Today, we’re discussing Wean in 15. Written by Joe Wicks.

In this episode, the cookbook author and dad Joe Wicks helps parents with everything you need to take your baby from breastfeeding, through first foods, to enjoying family mealtimes.

He draws from his experience of weaning his daughter Indie while working with leading registered nutritionists to create the most comprehensive baby bible for modern parents. He cuts through all the confusing information with simple, trustworthy knowledge on things like when to start weaning, how much food your child needs, and adapting your own meals into purees and finger foods.

kk: Vincent Phamvan on the key takeaways [pause] and what you need to know.


kk: Vincent, let’s jump right in. How do you start weaning off breastmilk or formula?

vp: Well, first, let’s talk about the goal here. The goal of weaning is to help your baby develop a healthy relationship with food.

So think of it less of trying to kick an addiction to breast milk or formula and more of complementary feeding. So when you start to feed your baby solid foods, you’re able to provide nutrients that add to the ones they’re already receiving from breast milk or formula.

A baby is “weaned” when their intake of breast milk or formula goes away completely. But it’s not just something that stops cold turkey. It happens over time.

kk: What are some of the steps to developing healthy eating habits?

vp: There are a few parts here. You have to help your baby develop the skills, habits, and attitudes that go into healthy eating.

So some of these include basic things like chewing, swallowing and handling food with fingers and utensils. Others are a little more complex, like having scheduled meal times during the day.

Variety is important too, so you want your baby to be open to a wide variety of nutritious foods. Babies need to develop their palate. Breastmilk or formula is smooth and sweet. So introducing other foods will be a new experience. Think about the different textures and tastes.

So it’s definitely more of a journey and process that builds a healthy relationship with food and a great diet.

kk: How do you know when a baby is ready to wean?

vp: It’s different for every baby. When my daughter was 9 months old, she loved asparagus, broccoli, and salmon. Oh, and shrimp, she loves shrimp. Sometimes my wife and I joke that she’s a pescatarian.

But everyone’s baby is different. And that’s okay.

Wicks’ main message here is that you should let your baby wean at his or her own pace and in their own way.

No two babies are the same, and that’s especially true with weaning.

Some babies are ready to begin a couple of months earlier, some a few months later.

Lily is 19 months old now, and she still drinks breast milk once or twice a day. Many babies continue nursing until the age of two or even older than that, which is what the World Health Organization recommends.

Every baby will make progress at a different speed. And that’s okay.

kk: It sounds like it’s best not to compare your baby to other babies their age.

vp: Yes, Wicks recommends not trying to force anything to happen too fast. Instead, just watch for signals and when they’re ready. That’s called responsive feeding.

kk: So what are the signals that you’re looking for?

vp: Right, so your baby will show you when he or she is ready to start weaning.

There are three main signs to look for. First, they need to be able to maintain a sitting position while holding up their head and neck.

Second, they need to have enough hand-eye coordination to be able to see food, pick it up, and put it in their mouth on purpose.

And third, they need to be able to swallow food. The tongue has a thrust reflex, where babies may push more food out of their mouth than they let in. So they need to lose that reflex.

Once these three signals are met, then your baby is ready to start weaning.

There are two more points here though. If your baby is showing signs of readiness before the age of six months old, it’s best to check with your pediatrician first before proceeding. And it’s also best to hold off on offering solid food before your baby is 17 weeks old since they’ll most likely not be ready developmentally.

kk: Okay, they need to be able to sit up, see food, pick it up, and swallow it. What should a parent do next?

vp: So the next step is to go slow and proceed gently. It’s a gradual process, especially in the first few weeks.

In the first month of weaning, it’s important to expose your baby to new tastes and textures.

You’re still offering breast milk or formula, the same amount as before, actually. This will be the primary source of nutrition.

But as you introduce solid foods, the goal is to just become familiar with the new tastes and textures. The more daring, the better.

It’s a little counterintuitive because you would think that success would be getting your baby to eat as much as possible, which may result in feeding them more of the food they prefer. That would be usually sweet things like apple puree and baby rice.

But the goal is actually not to get him or her to eat today… the goal is to set up a positive relationship with a lifetime of healthy eating in the future. The food preferences that your baby acquires in the first few months of the weaning journey could stick with them for the rest of their life.

kk: It sounds like Lily may end up on the Mediterranean diet.

vp: That’s not a bad thing at all, haha. Harvard researchers have linked the Mediterranean diet to longer life expectancy. Anyway, when we first started giving Lily more adventurous foods, she would spit them out.

We knew if she had anything sweet, she would love it and eat all of it. But, our goal was to get her used to foods like broccoli, spinach, and kale. A lot of those have more bitter tastes than sweet ones.

So instead of helping your baby acquire a taste for sweet foods, you want to encourage a love for other tastes.

kk: Is there any way to guarantee that a baby grows up to love vegetables?

vp: No, not necessarily. But the best way at a good shot of this is to expose him or her to non-sweet vegetable flavors right from the start.

This is called vegetable-led weaning, which is simple and effective.

During the first few weeks of weaning, Wicks explains that the baby is more receptive to new flavors than later on. So this is the perfect time to start integrating as many vegetable flavors into their palate as possible.

kk: Does the research support this?

vp: Yes, the research shows that babies who are exposed to a variety of vegetables during the early stages of weaning are much more likely to eat them when they’re older.

You might start by serving a single vegetable puree per day. The best approach is to focus on one flavor at a time while making the food as soft as possible and easy to swallow.

So a good schedule would be something like broccoli on the first day, potato on the second day, green beans on day three, asparagus on the next day, rutabaga on day five, kale on day six, and avocado on day seven.

Then the next week, you’d switch it up to zucchini, cauliflower, eggplant, mushroom, spinach, cucumber, and peas.

kk: And what’s the best way to make the puree?

vp: It’s pretty simple, you just chop up your vegetables, boil it until it’s soft, drain the water out, and then mix it with some new water or your baby’s normal milk or formula, and then blend it until it’s creamy.

kk: That sounds easy enough. We’ll include an example of the exact measurements of vegetables, water, or milk in our Pocket Guide for this episode. Make sure to download the PDF file, which you can view right on your mobile device.

So, Vincent, once you make the vegetable puree, what’s the best way of giving it to your baby?

vp: Great question, the author recommends using a spoon, but there are a few different ways to do this.

You can choose between spoon-feeding, baby-led weaning, or a combination of the two.

Spoon-feeding is exactly what you think it is. You mash up or blend food, then feed it to your baby on the spoon. The advantage here is that they get used to using utensils. It’s also easier to introduce them to new flavors since you can blend pretty much anything.

The second method is baby-led weaning, which is where you encourage your baby to eat right away. This means giving him or her finger foods that they can put into their own mouth. So you’d want to use soft foods like well-cooked broccoli, green beans, or asparagus. This method encourages independence.

kk: How did Lily do?

vp: Well with Lily, we tried both. So it was really a hybrid. But there’s really no right answer here, parents should choose the one that works best for them and their baby. If you’re worried about your baby choking on finger foods, then you might be more comfortable with spoon-feeding.

We found out first-hand with Lily that babies have really good gag reflexes. Just make sure to stick to soft, small foods. Try to avoid hard foods like raw carrots or whole nuts. For larger round foods like grapes or cherry tomatoes, just cut them into slender pieces, and you’re good to go.

kk: Okay, noted. So start with vegetable purees for the first two weeks, then what about the second two weeks?

vp: In the second two weeks, Wicks recommends trying more adventurous combinations, like a zucchini, pea, and mint puree. You just cut zucchini into large cubes, boil it, and then add in frozen peas straight into the pot. Then just blend together with some mint. You can also add milk or water if you’d like.

kk: We’ll include that recipe in the Pocket Guide for this episode as well.

vp: That’s perfect. So the liquid is optional at this point, so you can experiment with thicker and looser combinations. If your baby is progressing quickly, you might be able to skip purees and move to mashes instead.

That’s when you mash the vegetables with a fork or a masher, which makes a thicker texture.

You can also mix together different flavors, like avocados and lima bean mash.

Think about adult meals at this point, and what you can mash together. Like cheesy zucchini and scallion rice. Or sweet potato and broccoli with little pieces of white fish.

Fish would be an example of a new flavor and a new texture at the same time.

kk: And how much food should a baby be eating around this time?

vp: There’s no standard recommendation, and different babies have different appetites.

You want to use what’s called responsive-feeding to guide how much food to give your baby.

So you just follow these steps. First, offer your baby some food, see what happens, and then adjust the portion sizes.

If he or she doesn’t eat everything during a meal, that’s okay. Just stop feeding them when they act full.

If they’re consistently eating less than you’re offering, then scale back the portion sizes.

As their appetite grows, they’ll naturally eat larger portion sizes. So at this point, you can just gradually increase the portion sizes.

Also, as your baby gets more nutrients from solid food, they’ll also gradually start drinking less breast milk or formula.

kk: Don’t most babies get most of their nutrients from breast milk or formula during the first year?

vp: Yes, breast milk and formula are the bulk of their nutrition up until the age of 12 months according to Wicks, so you don’t want to cut back on it too soon.

He mentions though that since breast milk and formula are so nutrient-dense, they could end up filling him or her up, which spoils their appetite for solid food.

kk: So how can you avoid spoiling their appetite for solid food?

vp: Well, one way is to nurse him or her at least an hour before mealtimes, or right after mealtimes.

So Erin, my wife, for example, would nurse Lily as soon as they woke up, but we’d wait about an hour before feeding her a scrambled egg and avocado mash for breakfast.

You can set up whatever feeding schedule works best for your baby, but what’s important here is to stick with a routine. So space out the meal times and nursing sessions with the same timeframes each day.

kk: Okay, so that’s the first four weeks of weaning. What do you do in month two of weaning?

vp: In month two, you do more of the same. Just keep increasing the complexity of the food that you’re offering to your baby.

This is the time to introduce more finger foods that are even more adventurous. So think things like kale chips, cheese and broccoli scones, and vegetable sticks with hummus.

If they’re not ready for solid foods, then you can stick with softer vegetables like steamed carrots.

kk: And in months three and four?

vp: In months three and four, even more adventurous. Like cauliflower, kale, and chickpea curry.

kk: Yum.

vp: Yum is right, but remember that since you’re cooking for a baby, you want to make it baby-friendly. Go light on the curry powder and squash up the chickpeas with a fork. Break the cauliflower into smaller pieces, and shred the kale while removing the stems.

It’s an adult-like dish, but you’re making it more baby-friendly.

Then months five to seven, you can slowly pull back on mashing the foods and focus on foods that are minced and chopped.

By month eight, you can introduce even stronger spices and incorporate larger pieces of vegetables and meats.

kk: It sounds like by month eight, you can really introduce a lot of different food groups. What’s a healthy diet for a baby?

vp: Well, a baby’s diet has four main food groups. The first is vegetables and fruit. The second is carbohydrates, which can come from potatoes, oats, grains, pasta, and rice. The third is proteins, like legumes, fish, eggs, and meat. And the fourth is full-fat cow’s milk in addition to breast milk or formula.

If you ever have any concerns or want help with major decisions, it’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor since they are trained medical professionals.

kk: It sounds like the key takeaway from this book is that by following the weaning journey, your baby can gradually progress from breastfeeding or formula feeding to eating a variety of foods with different flavors and textures. Once they start eating larger meals over time, you can naturally decrease their desire for breast milk or formula. And that this journey is unique for each baby, so as a parent, you can be responsive to their individual pace and needs.


kk: That’s it for your briefing. I’m Karsen Kolnicki. See you next time.


Wean your baby with help from record-breaking cookbook author and proud dad Joe Wicks, aka the Body Coach. Wean in 15 includes everything you need to take your baby from breastfeeding, through first foods, to enjoying family mealtimes. Joe draws from his experience of weaning his daughter Indie, working with a leading registered nutritionist to create the most comprehensive baby bible for modern parents.

Weaning can be a daunting prospect, but Joe cuts through all of the confusing information and shares the simple trustworthy knowledge that he’s found so helpful. Whether you’re a first-time parent or not, this book guides you towards getting the best for your little one, from figuring out when to start weaning and how much food your child needs, to adapting your own meals into purées and finger foods.

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