Weaning - When? Why? How?
1st September, 2012
Written by: Sara Patience MSc (merit) RNutr RHV RN
Based on World Health Organisation evidence (2001), reviewed and adopted by the UK, the Department of Health recommends babies are weaned when they are developmentally ready and when milk feeds (breast or formula) are no longer exclusively nutritionally adequate. These things occur when the majority of babies are 6 months old.
Babies need to be able to:
Sit up and support their head.
See food, pick it up and put it in their mouth.
Weaning early is not recommended as baby’s kidneys and gut are still immature, there is an increased risk of allergy or choking.
If you feel your baby is ready to wean before 6 months you should take advice from a Registered Health Visitor.
Nutrition: Weaning occurs because milk feeds become nutritionally inadequate to meet a growing babies needs.
Development and Social: Babies need to learn to chew. Eating meals with the family teaches baby sociability and should give them pleasure.
If you wean from 6 months you can start with puree and a spoon or you can start with soft mashed foods and let your baby pick foods up or you can use a spoon. Start with one meal a day and increase to 3 meals a day usually by 8 months. Pick a time of day when you and your baby feel relaxed, usually lunchtime, stay calm and accept there may be some mess! You may need to give a small milk feed before offering solids to prevent any ‘frantic’ hunger. You can cook food for your baby right from the start just be careful not to add salt or sugar. There are a few foods your baby cannot have at 6 months.
If you wean before 6 months seek advice, you will need to use purees and there are more foods that you need to avoid. Also remember that unlike adults babies need a high energy and lower fibre diet.
Each baby increases the amount and frequency of solid foods at their own rate, by 9 months your baby should be eating family foods, breakfast, lunch, dinner and a couple of healthy snacks.
A key skill for parents/carers, particularly if you are spoon-feeding, is knowing when your baby is full up. Keeping their mouths closed or turning their heads away are good signs. If your baby indicates that they do not want anymore then stop feeding. Babies are good at regulating their appetite and know when they are full. The amount they take will vary day to day but over a week babies will take the right amount of food for their needs.
First Foods may include: baby rice, soft cooked vegetables or fruit such as potato, sweet potato, apple or pear. Banana, soft peaches or avocado can be mashed without cooking. Slowly build up the range of foods your baby enjoys, the more foods they eat the wider range of flavours will be accepted and a greater range of nutrients will be eaten. If you want to add milk to mix use breast of formula initially for a recognisable flavour, you can go onto use full fat cows milk in cooking from 6 months but not to be given as a main drink until your baby is 1 year old.
Remember! Weaning is not just about supplying nutrition but also about learning to enjoy a wide variety of foods in a happy social setting.
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