Weaning is referred to the gradual introduction of solid food to a breastfed infant, to help the baby get additional nutrients besides breast milk.
Ideal age to begin weaning
The ideal age for weaning your baby is said to be the completion of 6 months. In some cases, weaning can begin as early as 4 months of age. During the last decade, nutrition experts worldwide have encouraged exclusive breastfeeding for babies upto the age of six months. This is based on the understanding that breastmilk is a source of vital nutrients for the baby at this stage, and meets all the nutritional requirements of an infant aged below 6 months. Moreover, the digestive system and kidney of an infant aged below 6 months is believed to be incapable of digesting protein heavy food.
Knowing when your baby is ready
A baby who is ready for solid food often shows tell-tale signs of eagerness to try the food. Some common signs or checklists to assess that your baby is ready for weaning, are as follows:
- Poor weight gain at 6 months
- Placing toys and hand in mouth
- Your baby shows interest in what you eat. This could be mere curiosity. This could also be a sign that he/she wants to have a try at the food.
- Your baby appears hungry, even after a full feed.
- Night waking and demanding a feed by an infant who is otherwise a sound sleeper.
- The baby makes chewing motions. This is also important, as the baby should be able to move the food inside the mouth to enable proper digestion.
Checklist before starting solids
Prior to giving your infant solid or pureed food, run through this checklist to ensure that the baby can handle the weaning diet
- Your baby can hold his/her head straight. This means that the baby has adequate neck support to keep the head steady.
- Ability to swallow food. It is essential that the baby should not spit out food
- Good coordination of eye-hand-mouth movements. This is in cases where you want to encourage self feeding.
- Be watchful if there are food allergies running in the family. For specific food that causes allergies, it is better to be cautious.
- If your baby was born preterm, take your pediatrician’s advice before starting on a weaning diet.
- Your baby should have completed at least four months of age.