Congratulations, you’ve managed the first few months as a new parent. Your baby is very happy with their milk feeds and you then hear about weaning!
What is weaning?
Weaning is the term used for the change from milk for food, to full adult diet. Weaning a baby takes quite a while as a baby has to get used to the taste and texture of food and also learn to use the muscles of their mouth and later their teeth, to masticate food. This all has to be coordinated with the swallowing reflex. A complicated process and one which has to be taken slowly.
When to wean
A baby is usually ready to start weaning from about 6 months old. Before this time milk on its own will be enough for most babies and also their digestive tract is not developed enough for food other than breast or infant formula. Normal cow’s milk is not suitable for human babies until they are about 12 months old because the protein molecules in cow’s milk are too hard to digest. Infant formula although derived from cow’s milk has been modified to be digestible.
How do I know that they are ready?
The signs that your baby is ready to wean are based on your baby’s stage of development. For example, they need to be able to hold a sitting position with their head straight and be able to coordinate their eyes, hands, mouth and swallowing reflex.
Although babies may chew their fists or start waking more frequently in the day and night for food, they may not have the muscular development to allow them to start solids.
All babies develop at different rates and going at your own baby’s pace and not getting too worried about it is by far the easiest way for the whole family. Avoid comparing notes with too many friends and relatives because every baby is different. Trust your baby to tell you when they are ready, start slowly and you will all be happy.
What types of food?
The first foods to try are very small amounts of a single food such as a fruit or vegetable. Introduce the solid on a small baby spoon or tea spoon but remember your baby may want to touch or hold the spoon themselves or put the food into their own mouth. Read your baby’s cues and just go with the flow. Again, they will tell you what to do. Some babies will prefer to be fed small amounts on a spoon, some will hate this and want to help themselves exploring all the different tastes and textures along the way.
You can start by giving it once a day before their milk feed and gradually build up to three times a day by the time they reach 10-12 months. You may also start to introduce your baby to drinking from a cup at this time.
Ultimately you want your baby to eat what you eat and allow them to experience many different foods. It should be considered that some babies can develop allergies and so when you start off you may want to give single foods just in case they have any reaction. You will then know straight away what has caused the reaction.
It’s important to give vegetables that are more bitter in flavour such as broccoli and spinach as well as sweeter things like mashed banana, blueberries, cooked apple. This will help them develop a varied palate and make it easier for them to eat the same foods as the family. Don’t be put off if your baby pulls a face when they try new things. Remember it is a new experience for them. It is often their way of experiencing the new tastes, smells and texture of food.
Gradually start to give more lumpy foods as your baby learns to use their new found skills. Just go at their own pace. When they have had enough, they will let you know by turning their head away and closing their mouth.
Stay relaxed, keep it fun and be prepared for some mess! It can be a good idea to put something down on the floor below the baby to avoid too much cleaning.
If you are interested on more information on weaning, we offer virtual, online and private home workshops.