This is the process of accustoming a baby to a diet of solid foods which will eventually replace milk as the main source of nutrition. The process of weaning takes quite a few months, beginning when solids are first introduced and ending when a baby is on three meals a day and able to drink from a cup and use a spoon.
Breast milk and the infant’s own internal energy stores will meet most of the nutritional needs for the first six months. After six months, a baby needs more iron and other nutrients than milk alone can provide. All babies should be on some sort of solids by 8 months, as the risk of infection is higher in babies exclusively breast fed past this age.
Between four and six months babies begin to need more calories than the volume of milk which their stomachs can hold and will begin to want more frequent feeds. The early introduction of food is not intended to replace milk intake, simply to add to it. Chewing and swallowing also encourages speech development.
HOW TO WEAN
All foods should be organic or free range. It is important to wean slowly – over a period of a few months and in conjunction with a natural reduction in breast milk. This will allow time to monitor reactions to foods and reduce the risk of your baby developing an intolerance or allergy to a food.
When weaning it is useful to keep a food diary and note any reactions such as excessive sleepiness, running nose, asthmatic breathing, infection, hyperactivity, excessive thirst, unsettled behaviour, rashes, etc. Introduce foods one at a time leaving 3 or 4 days between each new food. If there is a reaction, stop the food last introduced and see if the symptoms go away.
Stage 1 (from 4-6 months)
Food should be smooth in texture, bland in taste and contain no artificial flavourings or added salt or sugar.
The first foods tried should be:
- Pure baby rice, made up with the baby’s normal milk or boiled water (not fruit juice)
- Pureed vegetables and fruit are also good options
- Root vegetables – potatoes, carrots, swede, turnips
- Pears, bananas, apricots
- NO citrus, berry fruits or tomatoes
Stage 2 (about 6-9 months)
Increase variety of tastes and textures (mashed and minced as well as pureed). As the quantity of solids increases, the amount of milk taken will decrease. Water can replace some of the milk feeds. Introduce drinking from a cup or beaker. Protein from milk will gradually be replaced with meat, fish, lentils, beans and cereals.
By this age, most babies can pick up small pieces of food and small lumps can be introduced to encourage chewing.
Finger foods can include gluten-free, sugar-free rusks, small pieces of cooked carrot or cooked green beans and small pieces of soft raw fruit such as banana or ripe pear.
- Lamb and turkey. If OK, move slowly on to other meats, chicken and fish
- Green vegetables (cabbage, broccoli, spinach)
- Pulses (peas, beans, lentils)
- Grains other than wheat such as millet, oats, barley (in small amounts to ascertain gluten tolerance)
Stage 3 (9-12 months)
Your baby may now be able to eat minced and chopped foods and will be eating a wide variety of foods. Offer more varied finger foods, including cooked potato and other vegetables, or small pieces of very soft meat and small cubes of soft fruit at each meal.
Stage 4 (at 12 months)
From a year old, your baby should be moving towards the same diet as the family and no longer needs specially prepared foods. This does not mean that all family foods are suitable. Fatty, fried, highly spiced, salty and sugary foods should not form a regular part of your baby’s diet.
Stage 5 (18 months – 2 years)
At 18 months to 2 years, your toddler will be eating the same food as the rest of the family. He/she will continue to need at least a pint a day of either formula, cow’s milk or suitable milk substitute once no longer breast feeding.
Encourage 3 regular meals and 2-3 milk drinks. Your toddler may also enjoy 2-3 between meal snacks including drinks and finger foods. Additional fluids given may include water or diluted unsweetened fruit juice.
Slowly introduce one at a time:
- Citrus fruits
- Wheat products (including bread, wheat cereals, pasta, etc)
- Well cooked egg yolk can be introduced from 12 months
- Dairy products including cheese, butter, full cream, boiled cows milk, yoghurt
- Avoid peanuts – other nuts, finely ground with seeds can be introduced.