Weaning is so important for infant and child health- and yet I see lots of poor quality information on it. So, I've put together a blog with some key information on weaning.
What is weaning?
Weaning is the process of introducing a baby to solid food, while also gradually decreasing the quantity of milk, and essentially preparing them to eat a "normal" human diet.
Why is weaning important?
There is no iron in milk- although babies are born with a significant store of iron, this starts to run out at around six months and therefore as to be topped up at this age.
Babies grow so quickly, their energy needs are high and once they reach six months this is increasing so much that they need more than just milk.
When babies start to eat solid food, it helps with the development of hand-eye coordination and also with tongue and mouth development for speech.
And of course, how we wean babies has an impact on their diet and eating habits for a long time. Research indicates that children who were offered green vegetables as their first foods have a higher consumption of these at age 5, compared to children who were offered fruit or baby rice as their first food.
When is a baby ready for weaning?
Babies are generally ready to start the introduction to solid foods at around six months of age. But there are some things to look out for which can indicate that they are prepared for it:
They are showing an interest in food- trying to take your food/putting things in their mouth.
They are willing to chew- if you give them something semi-solid they try to chew, rather than just let it fall from their mouth.
They are noticeably more hungry- drinking more milk or looking for more milk after or between feeding times.
They are able to sit up and support their own head and neck.
They can grasp things with their hand- particularly between their thumb and finger.
How do you start?
Keep an eye out for this week's #WisdomWednesday post, which discusses why it is recommended to wean with green! Read more about it on Wednesday, but be aware that green vegetables are recommended for first food when weaning. These foods are bitter, so take longer for babies to accept. Early introduction of green vegetables helps infants accept these tastes and can improve vegetables consumption throughout childhood.
Spinach, kale, broccoli, courgette and green beans are all good veggies to start with.
First foods should be pureed, and they should be let down with plenty of milk (formula or breast milk). Start with a very liquid puree and gradually start to decrease the amount of milk as the baby becomes better at eating from the spoon and chewing.
Start with very small amounts of food. Initially it is about getting the baby used to eating from the spoon and tasting new flavours. This can mean starting with only a few spoons once per day, and gradually increasing this over time.
Things to remember:
The experience is very strange for babies-so they are certain to make funny faces and spit out most of what out what you give them! It can be frustrating, but it is just part of the process.
It will be messy!! Try not to worry too much about this- even if they only play with their food or spit it out, it is still exposure to that food. They are still learning what it looks like, feels like and tastes like.
Because all the foods you are presenting to your baby are brand new to them, the are very unlikely to accept them at first exposure. In fact it can take up to 15 exposures for infants and children to accept a food- don't give up, repeated exposure is a key to getting them eating!
Role modeling is important, even early in the process. Try to share meal times with your baby, when they see you eat they are more likely to eat too.
Stay tuned for upcoming blogs on childhood nutrition, including fussy eating and intuitive eating for children.
If you would like personalised information on nutrition for you and your family, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or head to the services section of my website.
Lots of love,
Little O x