Weaning is a major milestone that occurs when baby is introduced to solid food in addition to breastmilk or formula milk. To ease you into the world of weaning, we have details on what you need to know about your sweetie’s first meal and beyond.
You may start when baby is around 6 months. Four months is the absolute earliest you should wean ― before this, your little one’s gut and kidneys are too immature to process solid food. Even the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months, citing evidence that babies weaned earlier were more at risk of gastrointestinal disease.
Bubba takes his cues from you, so don’t get all worked up or he may think there’s something to fear.
Talk to your paediatrician if you feel baby is ready for solid food earlier. If your kewpie is healthy and gaining weight at his usual rate, you may be advised to hold out until he’s nearer 6 months.
What if baby hits the half-year mark without showing any interest in food? Beyond 6 months, babies can’t get the nutrition they need from milk alone, so it’s important to start weaning at this stage, even if it’s a slow process.
During the early stage, bubba’s food shouldn’t be much thicker than milk, but as he grows more comfortable with solids, start to bulk up his food. Offer baby rice mixed with expressed breastmilk or formula, or a purée of a single fruit or vegetable (such as pumpkin, carrot, apple or sweet potato), thinned with your baby’s usual milk.
Infographic: Syahirah Maszaid
If it’s time for baby’s first taste of solids, this is how you begin…
1. Stay calm You and baby need to relax. Try lunchtime where you can monitor any adverse reactions to what baby eats throughout the afternoon. There should be no distractions, such as time pressures, and your child should not be too tired.
If baby is too hungry, he won’t be in the mood to try anything new. You can take the edge off his hunger by giving him part of his normal feed first.
2. Warm up the food Kill bacteria in homemade baby food by heating it up until it’s piping hot. Then leave it to cool to an ideal serving temperature. Test the temperature by first stirring thoroughly to disperse any hot spots, especially if you put it in the microwave. Dab a tiny bit of food on the inside of your wrist or back of your hand to check that it’s at a comfortable temperature before giving it to him. Warmed baby food shouldn’t be reheated as it breeds bacteria. Only heat a few spoonfuls to minimise waste. Manufactured baby food can be eaten cold or after warming.
3. Offer encouragement Place a small amount on the tip of a weaning spoon and wait for baby to open his mouth. He may struggle with the spoon at first, so take it slow. When a baby feeds from the breast or a bottle, he pushes his tongue forwards, but with a spoon, he will need to keep his tongue towards the back of his mouth. During feeds, baby may gag, but it’s highly unlikely he’ll choke. Remember to give lots of encouragement.
4. Keep smiling Your baby’s used to getting milk in a continuous stream and the stop-start process can be frustrating. If he cries between mouthfuls, keep smiling. Bubba takes his cues from you, so don’t get all worked up or he may think there’s something to fear. Don’t go overboard with distractions, like offering toys, as it only creates confusion between mealtime and playtime.
5. Don’t force feed Some babies take to weaning with ease while others manage only a tiny taste. Force feeding could lead to eating problems. Baby will let you know when he’s had enough by turning away, crying, clamping his mouth shut or pushing the spoon away.
As the stores of iron your baby was born with will deplete beyond six months, it’s important to persevere with weaning, even if junior is not interested in or refuses to eat his meal.
6. Keep going As the stores of iron your baby was born with will deplete beyond six months, it’s important to persevere with weaning, even if junior is not interested in or refuses to eat his meal.
Once baby is used to being spoon-fed for one meal, try introducing a second, then a third meal each day. Aim for your child to have three meals a day by nine months, plus a morning and afternoon snack which will eventually replace milk feeds, providing he is taking in enough in his meals.
At around 7 to 8 months old, your baby’s digestive system is maturing. Offer mashed rather than puréed food. Combine different flavours. Introduce finger food (banana, carrots or teething rusks) at 8 months, but always supervise baby when he is self-feeding. By introducing a variety of foods early on, you’re less likely to encounter a picky eater at the toddler stage.
By 12 months, baby will likely replace his morning and afternoon milk feeds with a snack. But he will still need around 500ml of milk a day to provide the calories and calcium needed to fuel his rapid growth.
What and when to feed your baby
Before 6 months|
* Avoid fish, eggs and foods that contain wheat or gluten, soft or unpasteurised cheeses, as these have been linked to allergies.
From 6 months onwards
* You can give wheat products (bread or pasta), meat, fish, beans and pulses, citrus fruit and dairy products such as cheese and yoghurt.
* Eggs must be well-cooked to avoid the risk of salmonella. Full-fat milk can be used in cooking but not as a drink (it doesn’t have the same balance of nutrients as breastmilk or formula).
* Never add salt. This includes jarred sauces, such as ready-made pizza sauce, as these have high salt content.
* Avoid low-fat and high-fibre products, as baby needs plenty of calories.
* Avoid tea, coffee and fizzy drinks as these inhibit the body’s absorption of iron.
* Avoid honey as it can cause botulism ― a form of food poisoning.
From 12 months onwards
* Honey and lightly-cooked eggs can now be given safely.
* Use salt and sugar sparingly.
* Full-fat cow’s milk can now replace breastmilk or formula.
* Avoid nuts as baby can choke on them.
What weaning babies can eat
Rice: A good source of carbohydrates, it provides energy and B vitamins.
Bananas: Full of energy-giving carbohydrates and B vitamins.
Carrots: Packed with vitamin A for healthy vision, skin, growth and to fight infection.
Eggs: Easy to prepare, they’re a great source of protein.
Chicken: A primary source of protein containing all eight amino acids. A rich source of vitamins A, B3, and B6, and zinc for building immunity.
Spinach: Rich in calcium, vitamin A, iron and magnesium, it contributes towards energy and bone health.
Broccoli: Packed with calcium, iron and vitamins C and K for bone health and healing.
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