For many parents, weaning their baby is an exciting time, but yet it can be quite a stressful time as well since each baby is different and there are so many different opinions out there. When my son was just a few months old, I had someone who I just met for the first time tell me “you don’t have to wait until 6 months to start weaning. You can wean your son starting at 4 months cause he will sleep longer. You don’t have to listen to the midwife.” And my response was simple. I’m waiting until 6 months because I am a qualified nutritionist. And then she said nothing to me after that. The point here is that people may mean well, but you have to decide what is best for your baby. The World Health Organisation recommends that babies are exclusively breastfed or formula fed until 6 months of age and then you can start weaning.
I also recommend waiting until babies are 6 months of age for the simple fact that their digestions are still so delicate. Introducing food before the age of 6 months just increases their chances of developing food allergies as well as digestive troubles. Yes, many babies begin to sleep better through the night after they begin having solids (but many still won’t), but is their digestion really worth the price for a few extra hours of sleep? Here are my top tips for a healthier and happier weaning process:
- Do wait until your baby is 6 months old unless you have been advised by a health care practitioner. Your baby’s digestive system is very important for all aspects of their development so it is not worth the risk to introduce solids any earlier.
- Start with pureed foods only. The NHS says that you can give mashed food and it does not have to be pureed. But from the perspective of Ayurveda, the more smooth puree the food is to begin with, the easier it is for your baby’s digestion to digest and assimilate the food. Not only is your baby learning to eat at this point, but your baby’s digestion has to learn to process something other than breastmilk or formula milk.
- Start with vegetables. Vegetables not only provide a variety of tastes, but they are also easier to digest and are generally lower in sugar and/or are high in fibre. After vegetables comes fruit.
- Introduce one food at a time. No matter what the age of introduction of food, the possibility of food allergies is always there, especially if food allergies runs in the family. Remember, patience is key with weaning. Introduce one food at a time (or you can work with food families if you are familiar with this concept). You should introduce a new food once every 3 days. Therefore, the weaning process can take anywhere from 6 to 8 weeks.
- Introduce foods in the following order: vegetables, fruit, gluten-free grains, nuts, dairy (yogurt first), legumes, gluten-containing grains, and lastly is meat.
- You do not have to wait until they are a year old to introduce anything except for honey. Even cow’s milk can be given before the age of 1, but the main drink for your baby should still be breastmilk or formula until they are 1.
- If your baby has eczema, keep a closer eye on their food when weaning. If their eczema gets worse while weaning, consult with your GP or a nutritionist to see if they may actually have food allergies.
- Likewise, keep an eye on your baby’s digestion. Bowel movements will change with the introduction of solids, but make sure they are having a regular bowel movement. If they aren’t having regular bowel movements, you may need to slow down with the weaning and reassess to see what changes need to be made.
- Watch out for packaged baby foods. Although they all appear to be safe, not all are safe. For example Kiddilycious have added salt to their teething wafers, which makes it unsuitable for babies under 1 year old as babies under 1 should not have any added salt to any of their foods. Also be warned that Weetabix also has added sugar and salt. Check and read all ingredient labels.
- Avoid baby rice and cereals, which are the most processed of them all. You can give your baby normal rice and wholegrain cereals such as oats. Baby food doesn’t need to be processed or made in any special way. I simply cook or steam the food and then puree it in a blender. I have no special equipment for making baby food.
And of course, I can’t stress enough how important it is to be patient. Not all babies are ready to wean at 6 months and not all want food right away either. Remember, they have been used to only drinking milk that some babies don’t like anything new. It took my son nearly 2 weeks before he actually started eating more than a spoon or two, and now at the age of almost 9 months, we’ve introduced everything and I’m even able to give him finger foods. I also watch his bowel movements like a hawk. I worked with food families to introduce foods. If you are interested in this method, please do let me know and we can arrange for a consultation.
Health and happiness,