Weaning for Infants: Signs, Approaches, Food Suggestions

What is Weaning and what are the signs?

There will come a time when your child is ready to stop being breastfed and is ready to try wonderful foods! This process is called weaning. It is when an infant’s diet gradually switches from breastmilk to solid foods. When to wean is a personal decision by every individual and is different for every child. It might be the right time when your child is gradually showing more interest in solid food and less interest in breastfeeding. While some may want to stop breastfeeding at once.

It is important to talk to your baby’s paediatrician to check your baby for signs of solid food development. These signs are not related to a specific age but generally occur around 6 months ( adjusted for preterm birth, giving or taking a few weeks). Signs that a baby is ready to eat solid food are seated with minimal support, good head control, inserting objects into the mouth and grasping small objects. 

What can my baby eat?

Weaning begins with the introduction of your baby’s first bite of food and is no longer being fed with breast milk or formula milk. After about 17 weeks, 4 months and 26 weeks (4-6 months), your baby begins to show signs that it is ready to wean itself. Six months is recommended as babies must need additional nutrients not contained in milk such as iron and zinc (6-7) before this age (6-7).  

Fortified cereals with meat, poultry, beans and iron-fortified beans are recommended as the first food for your baby to breastfeed because they provide important nutrients. Remember that the aim of the first baby food is to introduce the child to the flavours and nutrients of the food they will eat and suck.    


What is not necessarily a sign they are ready for solid foods?

Just because a baby is interested in their mother’s food, it does not necessarily mean that she is ready to eat solid food. Waking up at night is normal behaviour for babies and not a sign that they are willing to eat other foods, especially if they have slept for a long time.

Remember, the occurrence of asphyxiation is more likely when babies choke on a piece of food that gets into their mouths if they don’t expect it. They want the food to be finger-sized so that the baby is not forced to put a whole piece in its mouth and so that it is easy for a 6-month-old child to put it in its chubby little hands.    

If you start with solid food, your baby will need a smaller amount of food than the normal amount of milk feed. It is a new experience for your baby to learn taste and texture and new skills, but it does not replace your milk. Breastfeeding until your baby learns to eat other foods will help them get the food they need. Therefore, a mother who is still breastfeeding should continue to have meals for lactation purposes and also lactation beverages to help give your baby all the nutrition they need.


Things to consider before giving solid foods

The most important thing is to get them accustomed to the new taste and consistency and to learn how to take and swallow solid foods.

Studies show that babies who are exposed to a variety of foods in the first year of life are more likely to accept new foods, while babies who eat bland, texture-free foods are less likely to prefer them later in life. If you offer your baby different foods, they will try many new flavours and get a range of nutrients.

To prevent picky eating and ensure that you provide all the nutrients your baby needs, focus on serving a wide range of iron-rich foods, including beans and lentils, red meat and organs such as liver and poultry, nuts and kiwis, and low-calorie fish such as salmon and sardines.   

One big advantage of the parenting model is that you can eat the same food at the same time or when the first meal is served as part of a family meal, you model the enjoyment and skills of your baby with eating.   


Weaning and breastfeeding

One way to make it easier to eat solids for the first time is to give a little breast milk or formula to your baby and then switch to smaller half packets and then finish with more breast milk and formula. Be sure to drink lactogenic beverages such as Roselle Black Dates Drink and Lemongrass Fenugreek Drink to increase your breastmilk. You can get these helpful beverages for free which come together with every meal from ReLacto!

As long as your baby gets all the nutrients it needs from formula and breast milk you should not be alarmed if does not eat as much as he should in the first few months of his first year of life. Studies have shown that giving solid food at bedtime affects sleep patterns, but does not help babies sleep through the night.    

A New Approach to Weaning

Nowadays more and more parents are shunning purees and jars of baby food to promote a practice called baby-led weaning, which offers finger food and gives babies more control over how much they put in their mouths. Baby-led weaning allows babies to chew, chew and swallow. This practice, which is popular in the UK and increasingly popular in the US, requires babies aged around six months or older to jump straight from finger food to solids when introduced, avoiding either purees or pureed food. 

One of the advantages of baby-led weaning is that it encourages independent eating much sooner which will likely help babies decide when they are full and are less likely to be overweight in the long term. It also reduces the need for mothers to do separate cooking. 


Conclusion

Weaning is a vital process in which your baby transitions from breastmilk or formula to food. Whether you choose baby-led or traditional weaning, or a mix of both, the general recommendation is to try giving your baby soft fruits, veggies and cereals at around 4-6 months. You can then progress to other foods.

Keep in mind that you might want to avoid certain foods and keep an eye out for allergies and choking. To improve the chances of successful weaning, make mealtimes relaxed and enjoyable, allow your baby to make messes and include them in family mealtimes as much as possible.


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