Weaning is the switching from milk to solid food. According to the department of health, the best age to wean a baby is six months, when they are ready for solid food. If one can stretch a little longer, that’s even better. Babies that are breastfed are less prone to colds, eczema and asthma. Weaning is important as it gives the baby a chance to explore a variety of flavors and start enjoying different foods.
There are two ways to wean your baby:
- Baby-led weaning. Here you need to follow your baby’s cues.
- Mother-led weaning. Mom decides to wean the baby.
Signs that your baby is ready for weaning
All babies will develop at different paces and these signs can be indicators that your baby is ready to start weaning:
- Putting toys and other objects in his mouth
- Watching with keen interest when you and others are eating
- Wanting his milk feeds earlier and more frequently
- Less sleep than usual
- Unusual crying
- Chewing fists
Nevertheless, big babies grow more quickly and may need to begin weaning earlier than smaller ones. For smaller babies, milk seems enough for them and can begin weaning at six months. Babies are different, so if yours is ready for solid foods and is above six months just start weaning and see how it goes. Do not wean your baby before 17 weeks because his digestive system will not be mature.
How much should I feed my baby?
Weaning is a gradual process, and to begin with you will continue giving them breast milk for most meals and then a small amount of mushed food for the other. At first, your baby will be getting most of their energy and nutrients from your breast milk, so do not mind so much about the specific amounts. Research shows that babies between 6 and 12 months should still have 500 to 600ml of milk daily. Just offer one or two teaspoons to get your baby used to tasting and swallowing more solid textures.
As your baby may want to feed himself, you can offer him soft finger foods from the get-go. These can include cooked carrot or a soft fruit. This will give him an excellent chewing practice and the opportunity to develop hand-eye coordination. You only need be ready for some messy feeding times as part of the fun! It is normal to be unsure of the food to give your baby, as this may differ as your baby grows.
The risk of baby chocking
Start with those that are easily digested and unlikely to cause any allergic reactions. As babies learn to eat, there can be a risk of chocking. You should watch out for foods like:
- Small rounded fruits like grapes
- Foods with bones
- Hard foods
- Foods with skin like sausages
As safety precautions, you can chop foods onto small pieces, lightly cook vegetables first and remove all bones and skin before giving your baby. Make sure your baby is seated upright and facing forward in a highchair. Always be watchful when your baby is eating to notice any difficulty swallowing.
What drinks are suitable for baby?
After breast milk or formula, you can offer your baby cooled boiled water. Avoid fruit juices as they encourage a taste for sweat drinks. Cow’s milk is not suitable as a main drink till your baby is at least one year old. You can cook with it till then.
How do I go about it?
Introduce foods slowly, so that you can notice those that are likely to cause allergic reactions and discomfort. Examples of these are root vegetables. If your baby doesn’t digest certain foods now, you can try it again later because their digestive system is till maturing.
Always choose the right time of the day to feed your baby. A time when they are relaxed and alert, not distracted. Your baby will not be in the mood for food it they are sleepy. Do not rush, so make sure that you have plenty of time. Ensure that the food is cool enough-test it before offering it to your baby. For babies under 12 months should not be given food with salt or sugar. Also avoid honey, smoked foods soft and blue cheese. Mixing fruits and vegetables is a great way to getting started
If your baby doesn’t seem interested after a couple of attempts, you can leave it for some days and try it again. If your baby is sick any efforts to try weaning him will be futile. Babies often want to nurse more frequently when they are unwell. Breastfeeding a sick is both comforting and a good source of nutrients..
So what have we to say about weaning your baby? The time when to wean is a matter of personal decision based on the relationship between you and your little one. You only know when the time is right.