The slow and gradual transition from exclusively feeding a baby on breast milk or formula to solid foods is known as weaning. The process starts when your little one tastes food from another source other than the nurturing breast milk or formula they are accustomed to.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and other health bodies recommend that your baby be breastfed exclusively for the first six months. They also suggest that nursing should continue for at least twelve months before the baby is weaned off completely.
Why Should You Wait until Around Six Months?
- Babies acquire all the energy and nutrients they require from their first infant formula or breastmilk until they turn 6months.
- Waiting allows your baby time to develop and be ready to cope with solid foods.
- At six months, your baby is better at turning around food in their mouth, slightly chewing, and swallowing.
- Exclusively breastfeeding for this recommended period builds up your child’s immunity and protects them from infections and illnesses.
- Your baby can feed themselves because they can move things to their mouths.
Signs It’s Time to Start Weaning
When to start weaning is a personal choice guided by your baby’s cues and your needs. Be sure to check with your baby’s pediatrician, especially if your child was born pre-term.
Below are some signs that your baby is ready to start weaning:
- They can sit without support and hold their head upright and steady. This shows that their swallowing muscles are strong.
- The infant has doubled their birth weight.
- They can coordinate their movements, such as their eyes, mouth, and hands; this means that they can look at food, pick it from their plate and put it in their mouth.
- They can swallow food instead of spitting it out.
- The baby seems interested in the solid food you are eating and opens his mouth when others are eating.
If you notice these signs and your doctor gives you the go-ahead, you can start offering solid foods. Weaning time varies and can take a few weeks for some babies and months for others. To begin, consider dropping one of your baby’s liquid feeds and replace it with solid food.
How to Introduce Solid Foods
Please remember that solid foods are for complement nutrition in the early months, and a baby’s primary source of nutrition should remain an iron-rich formula or breastmilk. Therefore, you do not need to worry about the quantity they eat. Give your baby time to adjust. Eating is a new skill to them, and it might take a little longer for some kids to accept new tastes and textures than it is for others. Be patient and keep trying fresh foods, textures, and flavors.
It may take 10 or more tries for them to get used to certain foods. We encourage you to move at your child’s pace and take their clues to tell you when they are hungry or full.
Please do not force your little one to eat; they may use clues such as turning away from the food or closing their mouth firmly to say they have had enough. When they show they are full, stop, and try later.
Allow your baby to have fun by letting them touch and hold their food. If they can, let them feed themselves using their fingers or a spoon. Teach them how to eat by sitting together for family meals as often as possible.
The Foods to Start With
There is no particular order of introducing solid foods that offers any additional advantage for your baby. Traditionally, single-grain cereals, such as rice, barley, or oatmeal are offered first. Whichever grain you pick, ensure it is iron-fortified and made for babies.
During the first months of introducing solid foods, ensure your child’s daily diet encompasses various foods. Try different fruits, vegetables, cereals, eggs, meats plus formula, breast milk, or both. Recent AAP research shows that for exclusively breastfed babies, they may benefit from baby food that has meat. That is because it is a ready source of easy to absorb iron and zinc.
When weaning, consider introducing a new solid every four to five days and observe if they develop any allergy or adverse reaction. If you notice any allergic reaction to a food, such as vomiting, diarrhea, or rash, consult your child’s doctor on the best diet choices.
You are at liberty to give you baby finger foods as soon as they can bring things to their mouth. But to prevent the likelihood of choking, ensure the finger foods you offer are well-cooked, soft, tiny, and easy to swallow pieces. Avoid giving your baby processed foods that are meant for adults and other kids. These often contain salt or sugar that is harmful to their kidneys and teeth, respectively.
What to Expect After Weaning
When your baby gets on to eating solid foods, a few things may change, such as the color and consistency of his stool. Some foods such as green veggies may give the poop a deep-green color, and when his meals are not well trained, the stool may contain undigested pieces of food. Which is all normal, and it occurs because of his immature digestive tract.
The poop may also have a stronger odor occasioned by the added fats and sugars. Stool that is watery, loose, and full of mucus is not normal and may mean their digestive tract is irritated. If that’s the case, talk to their pediatrician and find the cause.
Last Words on Weaning
Weaning is a natural milestone for your baby and may come with mixed emotions for both of you. Sometimes you will enjoy their new independence and other times you will be a little sad that they are moving to a new stage. Although it is best to breast or formula feed for at least six months, there is no wrong time to wean; it all depends on you and your baby’s needs.