What? When? Why?
Weaning is all you hear about after the newborn bliss/chaos has well and truly settled. When to wean? Should you wait? What on earth is weaning!?
I found the idea of weaning a worry at first, there’s so much you need to do and ways to do it. It’s a lot to comprehend and tackle so I’ve put together a basic guide for any parents out there who need a gentle hug or point in the right direction to battle this weaning nemesis. (DISCLAIMER! This advice is only based on our personal weaning journey and what’s worked for us and Lola).
What is weaning?
So ‘Weaning’ is essentially the process to move your baby from consuming breast milk/ formula on to actual food. At first the food given to your baby is tiny (like a spoon full) and usually attempted once a day, gradually building up two and then three meals a day. All the while the milk your baby drinks is lowered (minimal to begin with) but judged by the amount of food that is eaten and of course in line with your health visitors guidance on milk consumption for your babies age/size. Eventually by the age of one year old (ideally) your baby should be eating and drinking like we do but also still having milk (cows milk over 12 months) if needed.
When to start?
There is no real answer to this. The main thing is ‘Is your baby ready?’ and ‘Are you prepared?’
A few generations ago weaning typically started from 3 months onwards, some parents would even give the odd snack or nibble before then and this was fairly normal. Back then it wasn’t uncommon if a mother thought they had a ‘hungry baby’ to start weaning immediately. Nowadays in the UK at least this outlook is very different.
Health advisors actually now recommend only to wean from six months onwards. This is apparently based on research and an influx in baby choking incidents and weaning mishaps when too young. HOWEVER if you take and gander now any baby food aisle in a supermarket most if not all brands will start selling food from four months.
From experience most parents including myself weaned between 4-6 months depending on size and behaviour of their child. We began weaning at just over four and a half months. Why? Because Lola seemed perfectly happy with her milk/bottle routine and was consuming every drop usually. Also because we were as parents equipped and prepared to start.
TIP: Don’t even consider weaning until your baby is happy and settled in a milk feeding routine. Routine is key!! Your baby needs to be consuming the recommended amounts of milk (breast/bottle) first and foremost. Focus on this primarily as well as a good sleep routine so that you can make the best judgement call on when your baby is happy and ready to start weaning. Speak to your GP or HV if you’re unsure about anything.
Also read NHS guidelines to look out for the signs your baby is ready and for more medical advice and tips.
Why do we need to wean?
Its important to introduce food and other forms of nutrition at an early age to develop their bodies in ways milk can’t. Not only can the minerals, vitamins, proteins and all that good stuff help your baby grow but this also enables them to use their mouth like they’ve never done before. Weaning is a slow process but your baby will be learning; how to sit in a high chair, to use a spoon, learning how to chew, taste, swallow, to test out their gag-reflexes and eventually how to have fun and enjoy eating.
As your baby grows their needs change and they will seek to become more independent and weaning is the first step to self feeding and is very important. Even from four months old any bad or negative experiences relating to food or eating can have an impact that continues on into adult hood. It’s therefore vital to wean effectively and carefully to give your baby the best start in life.
Weaning is also good for ‘hungry babies’ or babies who perhaps struggle with milk consumption or reflux. An introduction to food is inevitable but has to be carried out correctly. During the weaning process you will also (at a later stage) be encouraged to give your baby allergens i.e Eggs, Nuts, Fish as this is said to help reduce the chances of an allergy or intolerance occurring.
So yes weaning is quite a big deal and if I’m honest a lot of effort especially when you’re juggling bottle feeds, sterilising, pumping, sleep deprivation and all the joys of parenthood already.
TIPS & ADVICE
- Do your research: find out more about weaning so you fully understand what you’re about to start.
- Be prepared: get yourself as many tools and equipment you can that will help you wean efficiently.
- Only begin when you and your baby are ready and start small.
- Dont focus on the next stages of weaning just concentrate on introducing foods, spoons and high chairs.
- Enjoy it and make weaning as fun and as interactive as possible.
Things you’ll need
- High chair (wipe-able and space saving if possible)
- Feeding bibs (Cloth and plastic)
- Bowls, plates (suction ones from 9 months plus)
- Drink bottle (separate to their milk bottle – introduce water/juice with meals)
- Lunch bag/box
- Hand/face wipes
- Weaning storage pots/freezer containers
- Blender (hand/food processor)
- Time and patience