When it comes to weaning a premature baby, age tends to be relative. Determining the proper age for weaning can be perplexing. Mothers may wonder whether to consider the corrected age which reflects the prematurity of the baby or to consider the chronological (actual) age. Doctors propose that a baby’s corrected age should be of importance than his chronological one. However, every single baby is different. Therefore, much may be subject to how early a baby was born and what was his health condition at the time of birth.
When to Start Weaning Premature Baby?
Parents should avoid weaning premature babies early as their digestive system can find it tough to manage diets other than breast milk. Some points to bear in mind about weaning premature baby can be:
1. Look for Signs
Allow your baby to be your guide when contemplating weaning your premature baby. Take into account the signs your baby may give you to indicate that he is ready to start taking solids. It may be better to initiate weaning once you feel your baby looks prepared to do it. Introducing solids at an appropriate time can help promote the strengthening and coordination of your baby’s jaw and mouth muscles and ensure his overall healthy growth.
2. Chronological Date
According to the newest guidelines weaning of premature babies can start around 5 to 8 months from their actual date of birth and not the corrected age.
3. Weaning off Preemie Formulas
You may want to delay switching to regular formula from preemie formula until your baby turns 12 months of age as preemie formula is specially designed to cater to the bodily needs of premature babies.
4. Weaning to Whole Milk
You can introduce a premature baby to whole milk when he turns the corrected age of one year or more. In case your baby was delivered one month early, you may like to wait until he becomes at least 13 months of age. In case he was delivered three months early, he may have difficulty digesting whole milk if you were to introduce it before he reaches 15 months of age. In any case, it is prudent to wait a bit longer before offering whole milk as preemies tend to be vulnerable to intestinal issues like gastrointestinal reflux which can result in pain and vomiting.
5. Consult your Paediatrician
It may be best to discuss with your doctor who can suggest appropriately regarding weaning your baby after examining the health and the developmental milestones covered by him.
Signs that Your baby is Ready to Wean
Certain signs that may show that your baby is ready to wean can be:
- He may display a keen interest in what other people are eating
- He is putting objects or even his hand into his mouth
- He appears less satisfied or hungry after a milk feed alone
- He seems to be eager for more frequent nursing than usual
- In case he starts to demonstrate a munching (chewing) up/down mouth movement when taking in non-food things
- In case he begins supporting himself in an erect position with slight or no support
How to Start Weaning a Premature Baby?
Most premature babies advance through the usual stages of weaning the way term babies do. However, some premature babies can take longer to adapt to weaning. Most babies may naturally take to sweet tastes readily but starting with veggies can benefit them ultimately. Encouraging intake of vegetables during the early stages of weaning can help in forming healthy eating habits for later.
The initial stages of weaning are merely about making your baby familiar to new and varied tastes and textures. Be patient and repeat steps if required while teaching your baby to eat with a spoon, swallow, chew his food. You can either offer purees or finger food or even a combo of two while trying to wean off your baby.
Common Problems and Tips to Keep in Mind
Some likely problems and tips to keep in mind can be:
- Offer solids in small quantities at first to account for any possible food allergies. Usually, food allergies are common in case there is a family history of it.
- Introduce various single veggie flavours without mixing them with fruit to make them sweeter. Your baby may not take to it at first but will get used to it eventually.
- Refrain from adding sugar or salt to your baby’s It is not required and can prove harmful.
- You may like to give cooled and boiled plain water to your baby a few times a day once he starts having solids. Avoid offering sugary drinks. It may be a great idea to have your baby drink from a cup or sipper rather than a feeding bottle.
- Expose your baby to a variety of diverse flavours from the start as this may not only help in curbing any likely food fussiness in the future but can also guarantee a good supply of nutrients.
- Irrespective of the age you begin weaning your baby try and introduce him to lumpy foods which entail munching latest by the age of 9 to 10 months.
- In case your baby suffers from digestive issues like reflux because of being born before the scheduled time, he may have more intricate feeding and nutritional needs. In such a scenario refer to your paediatric dietician for consultation and guidance.
- Weaning premature babies off oxygen in case they have been on breathing support from the time of birth can take months. In such a case, it is advisable to make any weaning decisions after consulting with a doctor.
Premature babies often need extra care and support. Breast milk is good for them as it provides the specific nutrients that their little bodies require in order to overcome the challenges of being born prematurely and grow into healthy toddlers. As a result, weaning premature babies can be a slow process but don’t worry you will sooner or later get there. Until then, enjoy exploring new foods with your baby!
Also Read: Bottle Feeding Tips for Premature Babies