‘To wean’ comes from an ancient phrase that means ‘to accustom to’ or ‘to ripen’ in Hebrew. Hence weaning refers to the period, or the ripe time that the baby gets accustomed to food other than breastmilk or formula milk. Weaning your baby from milk to solids is an exciting time for both mother and baby. Breastmilk or formula is nutritionally sufficient for baby for the first six months of life. However, it is important to start introducing weaning foods after 6 months of age to meet the changing nutritional needs of the growing baby, particularly for iron.
Weaning food should be introduced based on the baby’s development readiness and should be done gradually. Here are some cues that you should look out for to ascertain the baby’s development readiness for solid foods:
- Able to hold head up and maintain a steady upright position, which is important for spoon-feeding
- Sits well when supported
- Makes chewing motion and is able to move food from front to back of mouth to swallow
- Disappearance of the tongue’s thrust
- Interest in food, perhaps eyeing your food or reaching out for it
- Dribbles and increased frequency of putting things into mouth
- Cries for feeds before usual time, which is a sign of hunger
Relax as your baby can understand your facial expressions long before he can understand language. If you look anxious offering food, baby may be worried that something awful is going to happen. Be patient and do not rush as this should be a new and enjoyable experience for both you and your baby.
Your baby may start with only one to two teaspoons of solid food in the beginning. Baby rice cereal makes a good starter food. It has very little flavour and allows your baby to experience a new texture. You can make it runnier by diluting it with breastmilk or formula milk.
Here is some useful equipment that will help you during the weaning process:
- Bibs (you may need a couple of these as weaning can be a messy affair)
- Plastic bowl and plastic cutlery
- A highchair
- Plastic sheet (to place underneath the highchair for mess avoidance)
Give your baby a little milk half an hour before he sits down to try his first food. He would be less upset if he can’t get the hang of swallowing the food. The first few weaning sessions are more about getting used to the sensations and the flavours than the eating part. Remember, practise makes perfect.
If your baby refuses a particular food, don’t give up. Try combining the flavour with a favourite one or offer it again to him some time later. However messy, encourage your baby to touch all foods. Inculcate a sense of adventure in him. This encourages him to be an adventurous eater in the future.