Parents can make the transition from milk to solids for babies much smoother with the right mindset and approach. Weaning babies takes a little bit of planning.
By the time a baby is around four to six months old, she will have weighed twice as much as she did at birth. Her nutrient requirements have increased, and that means she will need more than just milk to help her grow. That’s right. It’s time to introduce new foods to the baby.
When to Start Weaning
Some babies can start at four months, but many experts believe it’s best to start when they are about six months old as their digestive systems will be more developed and stronger to take on different foods by then.
The British Food Standards Agency strongly cautions against weaning before six months. Its experts suggest that mothers offer more milk feeds to babies under six months of age if they seem hungry on their usual feeds instead of giving them solids. Those who wish to start weaning their babies before six months (but after four months) should consult their doctor first.
Watch for Signs of Weaning Readiness
A baby is probably ready for weaning if she can hold her head steadily in an upright position and sit with support. Also, observe if she seems interested in what others are eating. If she opens her mouth when she sees food coming her way, she is all prepared for new foods.
What to Serve
The first foods have to be nutritionally right, easy to swallow and digest, and not associated with common allergies. Experts from Mayo Clinic recommend single-grain rice, oatmeal, or barley cereals as the first foods. Start by mixing one teaspoon of iron-fortified cereal with four to five teaspoons of breast or formula milk. Do not serve it from a bottle. Instead, help the baby to sit upright and feed the baby with a small spoon once or twice daily.
Be prepared for it to be a messy affair initially, and don’t be overly upset if the baby hardly swallows any food. She needs the practice to get it right. If the baby isn’t interested at first, don’t fret. Try again a few days later.
Introduce other Foods
Once the baby has learned to eat cereals, try introducing pureed meat, vegetables, and fruits. However, parents should introduce new food one at a time. Wait a few days before letting the baby try another food. This not only gives the baby ample time to get used to and accept the new food, but it also helps identify any food that the child may be allergic to.
Parents should also present each new food in as many forms as possible. This is because the baby may not like a particular food in one form but may enjoy it more when it is prepared differently. Also, parents should refrain from omitting certain foods just because they themselves dislike the foods.
What Foods to Avoid when Weaning Babies
There are some foods that must not be given when a baby just starts eating solids. These include:
Allergy triggers such as nuts, egg whites, gluten grains, fish and shellfish
Hard foods that may cause choking such as nuts, seeds, raisins, crisp raw vegetables, and fruits
Sugary foods such as candy, cakes, and sweetened desserts
Salty foods such as canned soups, processed meats (sausage, bacon, and salami)
Beverages such as carbonated soft drinks, tea, and coffee
When to start weaning babies, what to serve them, and what to avoid giving them – these are the main things that parents need to know to help their infants move from milk to solids. It will be messy at first, but if parents are patient and keep mealtimes fun, the transition will be a gradual but smoother ride.