Breastfeeding is the best decision you can make for your baby. It offers all the nutrition they need from birth, and even allows them to share our antibodies. The WHO recommends that baby should be exclusively breastfed until the age of six months, and weaning should not start before 17 weeks old. Every mother knows her own baby best, and you may decide to start weaning a little earlier than the six months guideline. Whenever you choose to do it, there are a few different ways to do about weaning.
Before you start weaning, there are a few signs you should look for in baby. If your child is breastfeeding more regularly and seems unsatisfied after a feed, this could be a sign of a growth spurt. However, if accompanied by an interest in our food and the ability to sit unsupported, your baby is probably ready to try their first foods.
A great place to start is with baby rice. Mix up one spoonful with some of your own expressed breast milk, and offer one spoonful after a feed. This can be done at any meal, but it may be better before bed or after an evening feed when they are settled and calm. Do not try to feed baby if overtired or very hungry as they may not be very co-operative or interested. Increase the amount offered until baby has a few spoonfuls a few times a day, usually after a breast feed. When this becomes routine, you can begin to swap in a few new flavours and eventually new textures.
Babies love apples, pears, bananas, strawberries, butternut squash, sweet potato, carrot, broccoli and many other types of fruit and vegetable. These can be stewed or boiled and then mashed up or puree depending on the type of food you choose. Offer one type at a time, and be careful to watch out for allergic reactions. Once you have ascertained that baby has not reacted, offer something different. Sometimes, food you offer such as baby porridge or food from a jar may contain cows’ milk. There are a number of proteins in cows’ milk that can cause allergic reactions in children this is known as Cows’ Milk allergy. Symptoms can include reflux, diarrhoea, constipation, a skin rash, or even wheezing. Breastfed babies do have sloppier nappies than their formula-fed counterparts, but if you see any of these symptoms in your child, speak to your healthcare professional for further advice.
WARNING: Some babies develop a sweet tooth, so be sure to offer vegetables just as often as you offer fruit, otherwise you risk baby becoming fussy.
When baby is established on a regular eating routine, you can begin to reduce breastfeeds during the day (recommended 6 months) if you want to, and offer juice or expressed milk in a sippy cup with meals. Make sure you do not offer baby a portion any bigger than the size of their fist to prevent overfeeding. As soon as baby’s hand-eye co-ordination improves, offer some finger foods such as bread and butter, carrots, cucumber, little sandwiches or even the spoon with puree so that they can learn to feed themselves.
Weaning is messy, so make sure you invest in plenty of bibs, or even a weaning apron (like a back to front jacket) to prevent stains ruining their lovely clothes. It is also lots of fun. Have a look online for a bounty of delicious recipes that you can replicate at home. If you do your own home cooking, freeze a few portions in ice-cube trays or small plastic shot glasses for another day.
What is baby led weaning? Baby-led weaning is when baby self-feeds from day one. This cannot be started before six months, and it is not always suitable for formula-fed babies, so consult your health visitor if your baby is combination fed. Baby is presented with different foods which they will pick up and, if they enjoy it, eat. If they don’t like it, they will quite simply discard it and pick up something else.
Many mums continue to breastfeed in the morning, at night, and through the night if needed for a while. When you choose to stop is your decision, and you have to do what is right for you and your child.
” This article was written by Bianca Ridley, a nutritionist who is currently working with Nutricia, the largest specialist nutrition company in Europe. You may contact Bianca through her email email@example.com“