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The Process of Weaning

 

The transition away from breastfeeding or a formula diet to solid foods is a process known as weaning. Until about 6 months, babies are completely unused to any form of nutrition aside from milk, so the process is one of learning and adjustment. Slowly introducing food from varying food groups, increasing variety with time, ensuring nutritional values and expanding your baby’s palettes are all key factors to keep in mind during weaning.

What is weaning?

 

To put it simply, weaning is the process of gradually replacing your baby’s completely liquid diet that they have been on since birth with solid foods, with the eventual goal of an entirely solid diet. Weaning is not exclusive to breastfed babies, as babies that are primarily bottle fed are also accustomed only to milk or formula, and their bodies and minds must adjust to the world of solid foods. Weaning your baby is a major developmental milestone, and is the first step in the transition from infant to toddler. The timing, and exact methods vary for each baby – the most important thing is to be patient, pay attention to their needs, and try different things until you find the right fit. While different cultures often have a ‘traditional first food’ when a child is ready to start eating solid foods, nutritionally speaking there are a number of suitable options. Baby cereals such as oatmeal, rice or barley, cooked into a soft mush are a great first food. Steamed or boiled fruits and veggies that are mashed or pureed are also great options, such as sweet potatoes, bananas, avocados, apples, pears, green beans or butternut squash. Don’t worry about variety, there is plenty of time to introduce different food groups as time goes on – just give them time to adjust to chewing and swallowing on their own first.

What is the right time for baby weaning?

 

Knowing when to introduce your baby to solid foods can be tricky, but there are key signs to look out for to let you know when your baby is ready. Rushing the process and getting your baby on solids too soon can lead to choking, stomach aches, or obesity. Pediatricians say between four-six months of age is the right time to start weaning your baby, but in most cases, babies should be receiving their nutrition exclusively from breast milk until the six-month mark. Some of the key signs that it’s time to start the process of baby weaning are:

 

  • Baby can sit in a high chair on their own comfortably
  • Baby looks at other people’s food with interest
  • Baby can move food to the back of their throat and doesn’t spit out

 

If your baby displays these signs, you can slowly start supplementing their all-milk diet with soft foods, and gradually phase out milk as their main source of nutrition. Start with a half spoonful once in a while to make sure they are ready, gradually moving up to a spoonful at one meal a day. When you feel your baby is ready, you can start introducing solid food at every daily meal.

The basics of the food groups

 

When your little one is confident eating solid food, a variety of foods from four food groups should be included every day, so they get the full range of nutrients. Ideally these nutritious foods should be ones the rest of the family eat too:

 

The four major food groups are:

 

  • Starchy foods – potatoes, rice, oats, pasta and other cereals
  • Meat, fish, eggs, smooth nut butters and pulses such as lentils, dhal, hummus
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Dairy - Full fat yoghurt and cheese, along with full fat milk for cooking.

When to introduce what

Stage 1: 4 to 6 months – Introduce the first weaning food

 

Most mothers begin with cereal, root vegetables or fruit, mixed with their baby’s milk in a soft, mushy consistency, but any of the foods listed below can be baby’s first taste of solid food.
 

Food Texture
 

Begin with a runny purée for the first few tastes. Then move on to thicker purées or well-mashed food as your baby becomes used to taking food from a spoon.

 

Skills to learn:

 

  • Taking food from a spoon
  • Moving food from the front of the mouth to the back for swallowing
  • Managing thicker purées and mashed food

 

Appropriate Foods

 

All vegetables

 

All fruits

 

All cereals such as rice, oats, wheat and corn based

 

Lean meat, poultry or fish – well cooked

 

Eggs – well cooked

 

Dal, lentils, hummus, chick peas and other pulses

 

Nuts – ground or as nut butter, e.g. ground almonds and smooth peanut butter

 

Plain fromage frais and yoghurts

 

Grated cheese melted onto warm foods.vegetarian foods.

Stage 2: 6 to 9 months  – Introduce soft finger foods

 

You can include all the foods above, in addition to moderate amounts of liver for protein. Be careful however, as Vitamin A levels are very high in liver and could affect your baby in high concentrations.

 

Food Texture

 

Mashed food with soft lumps and soft finger foods. Meat may still need to be puréed but can be mashed if it is very soft.

 

Skills to learn:

 

  • Moving lumps around the mouth
  • Chewing lumps
  • Self-feeding using hands and fingers
  • Sipping from a cup

Appropriate Soft Finger Foods

 

Soft fruit pieces, e.g. mango, melon, banana, soft, ripe pear, peach, papaya and kiwi

 

Cooked vegetable sticks, e.g. carrot sticks, green beans, courgette sticks, potato and sweet potato

 

Cooked vegetable pieces, e.g. cauliflower and broccoli florets

 

Cooked pasta pieces

 

Crusts of bread or toast

 

Cheese cubes

 

Roasted soft vegetable sticks, e.g. potato, sweet potato, parsnip, pepper, carrot, courgette


Introduce drinks

 

Sips of water from a cup at meal times – meals should end with a milk feed or milk pudding
 

Well-diluted fruit juices from a cup, which aid iron absorption from vegetarian foods.

 

 

Stage 3: 9 to 12 months  – Introduce family foods

 

You can include all the foods above, and family foods that have been prepared without salt or sugar as long as they are physically capable of having them.

 

Food Texture
 

Minced and chopped foods, finger foods (such as raw fruit and vegetable sticks) and a variety of family foods, such as sandwiches or toast.

 

Skills to learn:

 

  • Chewing minced and chopped food
  • Self-feeding attempts with a spoon

After 12 months of age  – Aim for a balanced diet

 

From the age of one year, most toddlers can eat family foods, aiming for a balanced diet. This may include foods that are not recommended in infancy:

 

Honey

 

Foods preserved with salt, such as bacon and tinned foods with added salt

 

Unpasteurised soft cheeses

 

Foods with added sugar – they should be offered only at meal times to avoid dental decay.

 

What can they drink?

 

You can introduce full-fat cows’ milk into your toddler’s diet at one year. Semi-skimmed milk should not be introduced until your little one is two years old.

 

 

Please be aware that the information given in these articles is only intended as general advice and should in no way be taken as a substitute for professional medical advice. If you or your family or your child is suffering from symptoms or conditions which are severe or persistent or you need specific medical advice, please seek professional medical assistance. Philips AVENT cannot be held responsible for any damages that result from the use of the information provided on this website.