Weaning is the stage of a baby’s life when the baby’s food habits are changed from breast milk to other foods and sources of nourishments. This change requires patience on the part of the mother or the caretaker and also the baby. The decision to wean to other food sources is personal, but it is recommended that baby is given other foods, liquids and solids, between the age of 6 months to one year of age.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies are fed with only breast milk for the first 6 months of life. Earlier weaning gives you and the baby time to adapt to the new kind of food.
Weaning a baby at six months old reduces the risk of stomach and chest infections, better developed digestive system and kidneys. Research suggests that introducing new foods early in life can reduce food allergies like asthma and eczema. Earlier weaning also makes it easier for the baby to give up breastfeeding.
How would I know if my baby is ready for weaning?
Parents can look out for some signs so that weaning can be started at the right stage.
- Baby is able to sit up
- The tongue thrust reflex is less noticeable, the sucking reflex becomes less prominent
- Baby is able to chew or bite
- Baby is able to pick up food and put it in mouth
Dos and Don’ts for weaning:
- Ensure that the food is served in clean bowls with clean spoons.
- Choose the time when the baby is slightly hungry, but not too hungry that the baby is irritated.
- Make the environment more relaxed and play with the baby, food in the spoon and bowl while feeding the baby.
- Mash the food or give semi-solid on the first few days.
- Introduce the food by giving 2-3 spoons a time as a single serving.
- Do not give feed the baby its regular milk soon after the introduction of the new food as a meal.
- If the baby refuses to eat, do not give up, but continue to feed 2 more spoonfuls before stopping.
- Do not switch over to baby’s regular food if the baby has refused or not eaten its fill. Let the next milk-time be a little earlier.
- Mix the new food with breastmilk or the food that the baby is already taking.
- Heat the food thoroughly and allow it to cool to a temperature that is comfortable for the baby.
- Let the baby take time to ingest the food.
- Introduce various tastes but one at a time.
- Do not put semi-solid foods into the baby’s bottle to feed it as it can cause choking.
- Never reuse uneaten food.
Some of the introductory foods for your baby that can ease the weaning process include:
- Boiled and mashed carrots, potatoes or broccoli
- Mashed fruits such as banana
- Steamed or stewed and mashed apples, pears
- Boiled and mashed beef, lamb or chicken at a later stage
- Bread, pasta and breakfast cereals can be given after a month of weaning with mashed foods
- Cheese and yogurt can be given during snack time
By the time the baby starts to grow teeth, the following foods work well to handle the teething problems.
- Bread crusts and toasted bread
- Rice cakes
- Cubes or slices of soft fruits like melons and bananas
- Cooked vegetables like peas, broccoli, carrot, cauliflower etc
- Cheese cubes
- Cooked pasta – in different shapes
Other points to be considered:
- Make the feeding time a happy time for the baby.
- The baby can be seated on the table along with the family and small pieces of cooked vegetables or chicken can be given for the baby to pick up and eat like everyone else does.
- Make sure your baby is getting a balanced meal with more of carbohydrates.
- Include fruits and vegetables in at least 2 meals a day.
- Include one or two servings of soft cooked meat, fish, egg, beans, lentils and tofu or cottage cheese to ensure enough protein intake.