4½ to 12 months
Around four and a half to five months, breast milk will no longer be enough to meet your baby’s changing nutritional needs. He/she will need to be weaned off milk onto solids. This means continuing to have milk feeds while introducing complimentary solid food.
How will you know your baby is ready?
We look at cues and in our book Weaning Sense, we list ready
cues and these include:
- Being able to sit supported
- Keep neck and head steady
- Showing an interest in food when it is eaten around him/her.
This means from about 4 months make a conscious effort of eating food around your baby.
- Another cue may be needing more milk feeds. Solids won’t solve the immediate hunger needs so do increase the milk feeds while you get going on solids.
So what foods do you start with?
Forget baby cereal. It’s really a bad idea to go from a high fat diet like breast milk to a high carb diet like baby cereal. It requires the baby’s metabolism to do an about turn and nutritionally it’s the opposite of what your baby’s body needs. Babies can only handle a certain volume of food. It’s important to retain fat during weaning. Small volumes of fat pack a calorie punch. Your baby’s body is accustomed to that. Do not give sugar in any form, fruit juice included. Remember this is your and your little one’s individual journey. It’s unique to the both of you. The closer to four months you start you would naturally introduce solids slower as your baby will take a little longer to learn the skill of solid eating at 4 months vs a baby of 5 or 6 months.
So initially start with one ‘meal’...
… preferably in the morning and then increase to two meals then three meals over a period of 1-4 weeks depending on your baby’s age. Keep in mind that milk is still the primary food source so in the beginning your baby shouldn’t reduce the amount of milk he/she drinks. Food should really be given for exposure and experience to practice the art and skill of eating.
Let your baby touch and feel the foods. Smell the aroma and see the food. This will make the food seem safe before he/she eats it.
If your baby ‘spits’ out the food it may be that the tongue thrust is still very strong. This will disappear over time with practice.
If your baby becomes distressed. STOP! Remember, this needs to be a pleasant fun journey so maybe wait a day or two then try again. Sometimes just little tastes of foods off your plate are a great way to kick off the solid journey in the beginning.
By six months your only goal should be to have 2-3 opportunities in the day where your little one can taste some complimentary foods and enjoy them. Anything from 15-30ml per opportunity is totally fine.
We all belong to a culture and our own households have a culture. Culture determines many things, especially when it comes to food preferences. It might be the way food is chosen and prepared. The way food is eaten and what foods are avoided. All have an influence from culture. Food preference also plays a role. So introducing your baby to solids is a delicate dance between cultural norms, personal choices and good nutrition.
Remember your baby is growing up...
… in your home, not mine, not your paediatrician’s or best friend’s house – yours! So allow the cultural influences to infiltrate the weaning journey.
Nutrition is important so keep these three principles in mind:
- Choose foods as close to nature as possible – so minimal processing, additives or added ingredients. Pretend you are living off the land – what would you have access to and use these as starter foods.
- Choose seasonal fruits and vegetables, whole grains as unrefined as possible
- Don’t be afraid of protein foods like eggs, groundnuts, fish and other animal meats. Early exposure (between 5-7 months of age) to these protein-rich foods can actually decrease the risk of allergy to these foods.