slon 3 The How, When & Which of Weaning?

The How, When & Which of Weaning?Is your baby ready for semi solid food?

New insights show it might be the best opportunity to introduce such foods between 4 – 6 months of age. Certainly not earlier, but it is also good not to be too late either.
You should follow baby’s cues to determine whether your baby is willing to accept solid food, and always discuss with your paediatrician before making any major change to your baby’s diet.
Here are some developmental milestones that will let you know when to start talking to your paediatrician about introducing semi solid food:

  • Baby is able to sit up or /and hold their head steady.
  • They can swallow food. Babies who are not ready, will push their food back out, so they get more round their face than they do in their mouths.
  • Baby shows interest in eating through body language. For example, leaning forward to look at you when you are taking a bite, or fuss and wriggle.
  • Baby seems hungry even after having breast milk or formula. Often this starts to happen after baby has reached 6Kg, or double the birth weight, but in some cases could start happening as soon as the 3rd month.
  • You may notice that baby begins to stare at what you’re eating—colourful food is key at this stage!

To begin with, how much your baby takes is less important than getting them used to the idea of eating.

They will still be getting most of their nutrition from breastmilk or formula. Babies don’t need three meals a day to start with.

Gradually, and under the guidance of your paediatrician, you will be able to increase the amount and variety of food your baby eats until they can eventually eat the same as the rest of the family, in smaller portions.

Why weaning early can be risky

Both the European & North American Societies for Paediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition (ESPGHAN/NASPGHAN) state that exclusive breastfeeding for about 6 months is a desirable goal, and that complimentary feeding (solid foods and liquids other than breastmilk or infant formula or follow-on formula) should not be introduced before 17 weeks and not later than 26 weeks. This is because babies aren’t ready for solid food before then.
There are several reasons for this:

  • Digestion: Babies under 4 months can’t make all the enzymes needed to digest a variety of foods.
  • Coordination: Babies need to be able to hold their heads steady and swallow their food. Babies under that age usually would not have developed this posture and coordination yet.

Risks of illness and allergies

If babies are introduced to solid foods too early, they may be at more risk of:

  • Respiratory illness, celiac disease and wheezing – Even if you decide to start weaning your baby before the age of 6 months, you should not introduce any wheat (gluten) containing foods before the 6th month.
  • Developing allergies – When you do start weaning your baby make sure you phase different foods. Start with single types and add variety gradually to make sure you are able to identify any source of allergy if your baby has a reaction.
  • Being overweight – introducing solid foods too early in life, especially foods with high protein and high fat content, is associated with an increased percentage of body fat. And obesity in infancy has been linked to obesity in adulthood and increased risk of metabolic syndrome later in life.

Why four to six months is around the right time for weaning

By the time they are four to six months old, the stores of iron babies are born with are running out – they need to get new iron from food.

Babies also need to take more and more milk to meet their needs – solid food is more concentrated.

Coordination-wise, your baby is more likely to be ready, too:

  • His jaw and tongue will have developed enough to cope with eating and swallowing food – making weaning a lot less messy.
  • The process of dealing with food helps a baby’s mouth and tongue to develop.

Plus, most babies will have begun to cut teeth.