The art of weaning your baby
Moving from milk feeds to solid food is an exciting journey for most parents and can help lay the foundations for a child’s future health. There are different ways to wean, at present the general consensus is to spoon feed babies with purees, however, it would appear that more and more mothers are choosing to wait for cues from baby before starting to wean with baby led weaning (BLW) becoming more popular than ever. The benefits for this style of feeding speak for themselves which include promoting good eating habits along with developing the skill of dexterity. As a fully qualified nutritionist, here are some tips to help you on your way.
The History of Baby Weaning
To find out more about how we weaned our babies, we need to go back to the 18th century, before we could pop to the supermarket and pick up food for our baby. During this time, it was common place to breastfeed up until the age of two or three years old. Babies that couldn’t be breast-fed by the mother were either fed using a wet nurse (another woman with breast milk would nurse the baby) or goat’s milk, with some infants being suckled directly onto the goat!!!!
When babies were first artificially fed, it was with bread and water, then came the use of cow’s milk and the invention of the bottle. The first bottles were made from the horn of a cow, with a couple of pieces of leather sewn to the narrow end which had a hole in it. The baby sucked milk though the holes between the stitches of the leather. Next, came the invention of artificial milk formulas and baby foods. Due to the manufacturing of baby food, along with the addition of government guidelines, weaning methods started to change and babies started to be weaned earlier.
The Principles of Baby-led Weaning
Over the last decade BLW has become a really popular method to introduce solid foods, although it has been used in other countries for many years. Instead of weaning babies with purees you wait until baby gives you clues that indicate readiness to self-feed.
There are many benefits to baby-led these include supporting the development of
BLW gives babies an opportunity to explore the taste, texture, aroma and choice – to a certain degree – of different foods to eat. Another important aspect is the self-regulation of food; babies learn to stop eating when they feel full.
Readiness for Solids
Make sure that your baby can sit up and hold their head up unaided, co-ordinate eyes, hands and month, so that they can look at, pick up and put food in their mouth, all by themselves. Your baby needs to be able to swallow food – babies who are not ready will push the food out of their mouth, so that they make more of a mess and end up with the food all over their face. Other signs are dribbling, reaching for food and putting things in their mouth
The principles of BLW
- Wait until your baby is ready – your child should be able to sit unaided in a high chair. Baby sits with the rest of the family at mealtimes and join in when ready
- Continue milk feeds (breast milk or formula) on demand – your baby will gradually reduce milk feeds when they are ready. As a guide, generally between 10 to 12 months of age.
- Encourage baby to explore food by picking it up with her hands – it doesn’t matter whether or not they can manage to eat the food at first. It’s more about baby showing an interest in food.
- Start with soft foods – cooked vegetables, ripe fruits
- Food should be offered in pieces that are size and shape baby can handle easily -instead of purees or mashed food
- Prepare for mess – consider using a bib with long sleeves and covering the floor with plastic or paper
- Eat together as a family – give your baby some of the food from your plate
Benefits of BLW
Babies that are allowed to choose their own food appear to be less likely to be become overweight, therefore helping to develop a positive attitude to food promotes healthier food choices. BLW is also believed to have a positive impact on diet with an increase liking for vegetables. Baby learns to chew and swallow safely as well as reducing the likelihood of fussiness and develop a positive attitude to food. There is also the belief that it reduces the risk of allergies as baby picks its own food and tends to leave behind the food that it’s not able to consume yet.
Typical questions asked by parents
When do I wean my baby?
- Babies should be at least 6 months of age if you wish to use the BLW method of introducing solid foods. They should be able to sit up unassisted, have lost the tongue thrust reflex and should be able to grasp and hold onto foods
What are the best food to wean with?
- Start with cooked vegetables and soft fruits e.g. sweet potatoes, carrots, green beans.
How much food do I give at the start?
- Only start with a small amount once a day and let your baby take the lead. They will eat as much or as little so take your cues from baby.
How often do I feed?
- Start with feeding once a day and then build up to three times, don’t forget to continue with breast or formula milk. This will change over time take your led from your baby.
How do I know if my baby is allergic to something?
- BLW is believed to prevent allergy because baby is allowed to choose the food they tend to avoid certain foods until they are ready to consume them. However, introduce different foods slowly and one at a time. Make sure that you stay with your baby at all times while they are feeding and watch for any reactions to foods.
Would you like to find out more about how to wean your baby? Then join my 6-week interactive programme is designed for mums on any stage of the journey and will teach you all you need to know click here for more details
Jeraldine Curran – The Food Nutritionist – fully qualified nutritionist specialising in nutritional workshops, conception and pregnancy, individual consultations, corporate work and wellness retreats.