When & How to Wean a Baby

Baby Weaning–Signs, Foods & Introduction to Solids

Weaning is an important stage in the growth cycle of a child, as it is the first step in introducing the baby to foods other than the mother’s milk. It is a slow process that requires a lot of patience and understanding. Read on to learn more about weaning and when the right time is to introduce your child to solid foods.

What Does Weaning a Baby Mean?

A weaning baby is a child that is getting accustomed to the process of having foods other than mother’s milk. It is important that you know what foods to give your baby as he grows.

Weaning usually starts when the first solid food is introduced to the diet of the baby. This process is also called “complementary feeding”. The baby weaning age is around six months. Until then, the baby gets all the nutrients and energy from the mother’s breast milk, which protects the baby by strengthening his immune system and protecting him from illness and infection.

Weaning is a big step in the development of a child, and is a special moment in his growth. If you need to know when to wean your baby, it is advisable that you let him take the lead in terms of accepting solid or other liquid foods before encouraging him. Read on for a thorough weaning baby guide.

Signs That Indicate Readiness to Start Weaning Baby

Remember that the baby should be given only breast milk or formula till he is six months old. The process of weaning the baby off breastfeeding should be gradual. It is important that you watch out for the signs which indicate that the baby is ready to start weaning. These include the following:

  • rolling over
  • holding head upright
  • sitting up independently with back support
  • development of hand-eye coordination
  • persisting hunger even after feeding
  • thumb sucking at night

These actions require more energy, thereby increasing the baby’s appetite.

A sudden increase in appetite can also be due to a growth spurt. In such cases, do not start the process of weaning. Most likely, the appetite of the baby will return to normal very quickly.

Babies who are not ready will push the food out of their mouth, and will not be able to swallow. It is a good idea to visit the paediatrician before starting a weaning diet for babies and ensure that you take the following precautions.

Infographics: Signs Your Baby Is Ready for Weaning

Signs Your Baby Is Ready for Weaning

Precautions When Weaning Your Child from Breastfeeding

Weaning the baby off formula or breast milk can be a tricky process. Every child is different, and needs to be treated differently when it comes to weaning. Some babies may wean earlier than the others, while the process of weaning might be abrupt in others. Weaning a baby off breast milk can lead to engorgement and discomfort for the mother. This can be reduced by feeding breast milk to the baby in a mug until your child has reduced breast milk consumption. In addition, ensure that:

  • The food given is of smooth texture, and does not contain any chunks. Chunks can cause choking in a baby who has not learnt to chew his food before swallowing.
  • Instead of giving the baby a bottle to suck on, try using a spoon or a free flow beaker. This will also help prevent tooth decay.
  • The food is cooled to room temperature.

In addition to these precautions, understand what food is healthy and what food can be dangerous. Read on for information on what the right and wrong foods for a 6-month-old baby are.

Proper Baby Weaning Foods

Nutritious food for a six-month baby includes fruits that contain natural sugars, mash-able vegetables, purees, and fresh juices. Food made at home is recommended over canned options. In case you are buying packaged food, make sure you avoid ones which have too many preservatives, added sugars, and sweetening syrups. Baked savoury items are best avoided, too!

Maintain a baby weaning food chart, and slowly introduce different tastes and textures to your baby, so that you can keep track of the baby’s likes and dislikes, the nutritional value of the food, and the transition from liquid to solid food. This also helps ensure that apart from the primary caregiver, the others in the household understand the food habits of the child.

Before acquainting your baby to solid food, you need to get acquainted with the baby‘s weaning habits, and the steps that will make the transition smooth for both of you.

Essential Baby-Led Weaning Steps

Baby-led weaning is all about introducing table food to the baby instead of purees fed with a spoon. While you can mash, cut, or chop the food, the rest of the work is to be done by the baby. This puts the baby in complete control of what he eats. This however, does not mean that you walk away from the baby after giving the food. You still need to stay close by and monitor the baby and his reflexes, and attend to the baby’s cues.

Most kids will only eat as much as they need. This helps the baby understand his body’s cues and determine how much nourishment his body needs.

It should be kept in mind that the baby-led weaning method is not advisable for developmentally delayed babies, as this will result in nutritional deficiencies. Some points to keep in mind while following baby-led weaning are:

  • Do not rush the process. Let the baby take his own time.
  • The baby needs to be able to sit upright by himself before baby-led weaning starts, else he could choke on some food particles.
  • Babies should never be left alone while eating.
  • Stick to home-cooked food.
  • Avoid sugars and salts.
  • Take a step back, and let the child experiment with the food.
  • It will be a messy process, so brace yourself for some cleaning.
  • Try giving foods that are easy to pick up and hold.

Allowing the baby to lead does not mean you let the child choose the food. It is important that the child follows a healthy and balanced diet. Make sure you pick nutritious meals.

A Balanced Baby Weaning Diet

The diet of a child is very different from ours. Ideally, an adult requires more fibre than fat to digest complex foods faster, while a baby requires more fat than fibre. Too much fibre in the diet will prevent the absorption of nutrients from other foods that are required at this stage. Make a weaning baby schedule according to the age of the child, and avoid adding any sugar or sugar syrup to the diet. Also, avoid salts, as the kidneys are not capable of absorbing excess salts.

Baby Food from 6 to 9 months

Here is a list of weaning foods to give your baby as he grows.

Stage 1 – When the baby is six months old.

  • Start with mashed or pureed vegetables (carrots, pumpkin, potato, sweet potato, sponge gourd or ash gourd).
  • Fruit purees like ripe and cooked apple, pear or mashed banana
  • Gluten-free baby cereals

Stage 2 – When the baby learns how to use a spoon.

  • Purees of lean meat, poultry, lentils, split peas, mixed vegetables, and green vegetables like cabbage and spinach
  • Slowly incorporate full cream milk, yoghurt, cream cheese, cottage cheese, or custard.
  • Do not include cow’s, goat’s or sheep’s milk as the baby’s primary food until he is a year old.

Stage 3 – Between 7 to 9 months (2 to 3 servings of starchy food, 1 serving of protein).

  • Mashed or minced lumpy food
  • Starchy foods like khichdi, semolina upma, semolina porridge, sago porridge, durum wheat, breakfast cereals or oats can be given.
  • Cornmeal, potatoes, rice, and millets
  • Boiled and cooled water
  • Diluted fresh fruit juices in cups during meals
  • Citrus fruits, fish, lean meat, poultry, lentils
  • Nut butter (check family history for allergies)
  • Finger foods like cooked green beans, carrots, cheese cubes, banana slices, or soft pear

Foods to Avoid During Weaning

There are multiple foods that you should avoid feeding your baby during the weaning period. Here is a list of the foods to avoid:

  • Salt: The baby’s kidneys cannot process the salt yet.
  • Honey: No honey till the baby is one, as it can cause infant botulism in babies.
  • Sugar: Sweeten the food with mashed banana or stewed dry fruits puree. No artificial sweeteners, as it encourages your child to develop a sweet tooth
  • Whole Nuts: They are a choking hazard and difficult to process.
  • Certain Fish: To avoid mercury poisoning
  • Tea/Coffee: Do not tempt the child with even the slightest drop of the beverages. Caffeine and tannin are unsuitable for babies, and prevent absorption of vital nutrients in their body.
  • Low-fat food: Any low-fat dairy or food products are unfit for the baby, as he needs calories.
  • Risky Foods: Foods like mouldy cheese, liver pâté, or soft boiled or raw eggs that can contain bacteria and are not killed in the cooking process

Healthy Baby Weaning Recipes

In case you decide to cook at home for your baby, here are some easy recipes:

  • Sweet potato and butternut squash mash

Peel and dice one sweet potato and one small butternut squash. Boil or steam it until tender. Mash together with a little of your baby’s usual milk till the desired consistency is achieved.

  • Apple and raspberry puree

Place raspberries (100g) and one large eating apple (peeled and cored) over low heat for 5 – 8 minutes until soft. Puree and sieve out raspberry seeds. Serve lukewarm.

  • Avocado and banana mash

Mash together one small ripe avocado and one ripe banana, and serve immediately.

  • Tender green peas puree

Simmer green peas (75g) until just tender. Puree with a little cold, boiled water or your baby’s usual milk and stir in some cooked baby rice (1 tbsp.).

  • Carrot and pumpkin mash

Steam or simmer two carrots (peeled and diced) and a small portion of pumpkin (peeled and diced) until tender and mash them together. You could thicken this up with some baby rice.

  • Fresh fruity yoghurt

Take any ripe seasonal fruit and peel or chop as required. Boil the fruit in water (1 tbsp.) in a small saucepan. Simmer until fruit is softened and puree. After cooling, stir into natural yoghurt (4 tbsp.).

  • Carrot and beetroot puree

Steam one carrot (peeled and diced) and one beetroot (peeled and diced) until tender. Puree in blender and adjust texture with boiled, cooled water or your baby’s usual milk.

  • Potato and spinach puree

Boil one medium potato in unsalted water until tender. Steam spinach (20g) over the potato in a sieve for the last few minutes of cooking. Drain and mash the potato with a little of your baby’s usual milk. Puree the spinach and add to the potato. Adjust the texture with boiled water or breast milk.

Getting the Baby Started with First Solid Food

As mentioned earlier, the weaning period is an important stage in the development of a child. One must also note that every baby is different and should be provided for according to his development. It is also advisable to take the baby to the paediatrician for regular checkups and opinions. It is a good idea to make a chart or table to track your baby’s development. This will help you pinpoint the problem if something out of the ordinary, such as an allergic reaction, occurs.

Every baby goes through various developmental stages, so do not worry too much about it. Your baby should sail through the weaning period with ease. While it is important to care for the baby, it is equally important for the caretaker of the baby to be healthy. Only a healthy individual can be attentive enough to bring up a healthy baby in a healthy environment. Focus on your diet as much as you do on your baby’s, and you are both sure to be rewarded with good health.

Also Read:

First Foods for Baby
1 Year Old Baby Food Chart

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