Importance of weaning your baby to solid food
Feeding your baby solid food can take time. If you are unsure of how you should begin feeding your baby solids after giving him or her formula food, here’s everything you need to know!
As your little one grows together with you, sustaining his or her health and development with just breastmilk or formula feed is not enough. After a certain age, your little one will have to be introduced to solid food. This process of gradually moving your baby away from a milk-reliant diet and introducing them to solid food is called “weaning”. When and how solid foods are introduced is crucial to developing healthy eating habits and discourages the makings of a fussy eater. Let’s take a closer look at the importance of weaning your baby to solid food.
When is your baby ready for solid food?
Paediatricians and health experts recommend you start your baby on solid food when they are around six months old. It is at this stage that your little one will require extra nutrients not found in milk, including zinc and iron. You can start with pureed or mashed fruits and vegetables and move onto rice added to milk, mashed grains and cereals and so on. Once your baby turns six months, they will start exhibiting the following signs:
- Staying in a seated position, able to hold their head steady
- Using their eyes, hands and mouth to pick up food and feed it to themselves
- Swallowing their food instead of spitting it back out
If you’ve noticed your baby displaying these signs, you will be able to start the weaning process quite soon.
The different types of weaning
Weaning your baby can either be Natural (baby-led) or Planned (mother-led).
Natural weaning or “baby-led weaning” occurs when your baby starts to accept a larger quantity and wider variety of solid foods while still nursing on demand. With natural weaning, you must take note of your baby’s behavioural cues and go along at their pace. Babies who are weaned naturally usually tend to stop breastfeeding only between the ages of two and four years.
Planned weaning or “mother-led weaning” on the other hand, occurs when mothers themselves decide to start the weaning process. This could happen for a number of reasons – insufficient milk production, their return to work, and so on.
Finally, a “partial” or “gradual” wean combines the best of both worlds for you and your little one. Here, one or more solid food feedings are substituted with breastmilk from time to time. This works well for working mothers who still want to continue to breastfeed.
The importance of weaning your baby
Weaning can be a bittersweet moment for parents as they watch their bundle of joy “grow up”, but it is an exciting time as well. Your baby will get to try new things and learn essential skills they will use for the rest of their lives. Here are a few more reasons why it is important to wean your baby:
1. Your baby will experience new tastes
Up until the age of six months, your baby’s taste buds will only have been exposed to breastmilk and formula feed. But once you start weaning your baby and slowly introducing them to solid food, their world will be opened to a wide array of tastes, textures and smells. Most babies are extremely interested in solid food and will enjoy getting their hands on something new to eat.
2. You will learn about new food allergies
While variety is important, you must be cautious while introducing your baby to allergenic foods. There are a few foods that provide valuable nutrients but can also cause adverse reactions in your little one. These include cow’s milk, eggs, wheat, gluten, peanuts, fish and shellfish. Health experts advise introducing these foods to your baby only after six months and one at a time. This means, if you plan to introduce eggs to your baby, wait a few days before introducing them to fish, and so on. If you or your partner and your respective families suffer from a family history of allergies, it is best to discuss your baby’s diet plan with your paediatrician.
3. You will be able to relax your body
Breastfeeding allows mother and baby to create a unique and special bond with each other, particularly in the nascent stages. And while you will soon fall into a routine with your little one, constant nursing can cause some mothers to feel tired at times. When weaning your baby, you will be able to rest and let your body adjust to its new routine. It will also give you the chance to look after yourself and catch up on some much-needed rest or even a health check-up.
4. Your baby can eat what you eat
Once you have begun weaning your baby, you will find that feeding them solid food becomes extremely easy. When preparing food for yourself and your family, all you need to do is remove a small portion of it for your baby and puree or mash it up. Just ensure that you do this before adding in the salt and spices, as these flavours will be too intense for your baby at the early stages of weaning. You will fully understand the importance of weaning when you see your baby seated in his or her high chair sharing a meal with the rest of the family.
5. Take a break from feeding duties
When you are breastfeeding your little one, only the two of you will be able to experience the magical bond that this creates. If you express milk, your partner will be able to help out with feeding. However, once you begin weaning your baby, your little one can take his or her allocated spot at the family table and start learning to feed themselves. If it is still too early, any one of your family members can feed your baby, not just you.
6. Your baby’s personality will develop
Just like adults, every baby has their own little unique personality that will come out when you begin weaning your baby. For instance, your little one will let you know immediately what tastes and textures they like or dislike. Most babies are adventurous eaters and will eat anything you give them, while others require a little bit of coaxing. Some like to play with their food, while others like to eat it up right away. Whatever special traits your baby possess, be sure to enjoy every minute of it and encourage a little bit of playfulness during mealtimes.
Not only does weaning provide mothers rest from nursing, but it also gives your baby his or her required nutrients and positively contributes to their overall health and development. If you have any concerns regarding weaning your baby or their diet, be sure to reach out to the city’s top paediatricians available at mfine.