Weaning your baby can seem like a minefield. There may be well-meaning advice given about what may be best for you and your little one, the guidelines seem to change all the time and there are many myths surrounding when a baby is ready to wean. Here Daisy teacher Chloe Sena helps you to sort the facts from the fiction when it comes to weaning.
Firstly, let’s start by saying, you know your baby. You are their mother and motherly instinct can be a powerful thing – follow it!
Now let’s try to de-bunk some myths surrounding weaning so you know how to best prepare yourself and your baby for the next exciting chapter in your lives together.
The guidelines are to wait until baby is six months. It did used to be 4 months and in some cases, early weaning may be necessary but the guidelines now suggest that you wait until 6 months and even then, it should be a gradual process of dropping milk feeds slowly. It isn’t that the guidelines change for no reason, they are the result of much research into infant developmental stages.
Why Six Months?
By six months a baby’s immune and digestive system are more mature so they can cope better with solids. Also, the gag reflex reduces from six months, which means rather than spitting out a lot of food, with more ending up around their mouths or clothes, they will start to actually eat more.
What if your baby is chewing his fists and watching you eat, is he not ready for solids? No, this is a developmental stage where the baby is learning more about himself and the world around him. These signs do not mean he is ready for food.
If your baby has started waking in the night when they used to sleep through, does this mean they need food? Again, this is not the case. As baby moves through one developmental stage to another and begins to learn new skills like rolling, and sitting up, it can disrupt their usual sleep patterns. Again, this doesn’t mean they are ready for solid food. It means you may need to increase their milk intake by giving them more milk feeds.
Signs of Readiness
Now let’s look at the signs that DO mean your baby is to start solid food.
Your baby should be able to sit upright and hold their head steady. They should be able to coordinate their eyes, hands and mouth so they can look at a piece of food, pick it up and put it in their mouth. Finally, they should be able to swallow food. If a baby can’t swallow food easily, they tend to push the spoon/food out with their tongue. If you are planning on weaning before six months, speak to your health visitor for advice on how to start.
It is important to point out that even though weaning may have started, a baby’s main source of nutrition should be from milk until 12 months old. Choose a time of day when you and baby are relaxed, and give them some milk first so they are not too hungry. You may be wondering about going back to work, and baby needing to be on 3 meals a day before they start nursery – this isn’t the case and your baby will adapt to the routine you set for them and what fits into your lives. It may be that your baby doesn’t eat much at first, again this is normal and not something to worry about, your baby won’t be the only one. Remember the adage ‘Food is for fun, until they are one.’
Types of Weaning – Puree or Baby Led?
Puree-led means a baby is spoon fed. You start with fruit and vegetables, gradually increasing different textures before introducing finger foods around 7/8 months old – no later as if a baby is fed only puree for too long, it can affect their development. It can mean babies may not able to self-regulate their food intake so are more likely to over eat and not learn the sensations of being full. It is therefore very important to follow baby’s cues and not keep giving them food if they have had enough.
Baby-led weaning is giving finger food or the same as what you eat, with no spoon feeding. It helps a baby develop their pincer grip and also means that a baby can self-regulate their appetite more easily. It also means families can sit down together and eat. Be prepared for the mess though! Mums often talk about the fear of their baby choking but gagging is often mistaken for choking and gagging is an important part of baby learning how to eat and is a protective mechanism. Again, there is a phrase “Loud and red, let them go ahead. Silent and blue, they need help from you!”. With baby led weaning, there is less control over what baby is eating and some mums may struggle with this.
Whatever way you choose to wean, follow your baby’s lead and do what works best for you both. Ignore well meaning advice if it doesn’t sit right with you, and just allow yourself to be guided by your baby. Weaning will be a lot more fun if you take the focus away from how much baby is eating, and instead allow them to explore in a sensory way the many different textures and tastes food has to offer in a relaxed environment. This is a sure-fire way to foster a healthy attitude towards food that will take your baby right through their life.
Love Daisy x
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