When To Start Weaning

Posted on 2013-06-02 22:00:54

Dear Doctor, My child is about 5 months now and I am on a breastfeeding diet for her. I usually pump some milk for her as I go to work. However, this is not enough and I feel that it is time she started taking solid foods. However, I am scared that this might upset her. When is the right time to start weaning? What foods should I start with? Thank you New Mother.   Dear New Mom, It is only natural that a mom will feel worried about anything that goes into her child’s mouth for the first time. This is most common especially if the child is the first born when you have little or no knowledge about the weaning process. Weaning is a gradual process of introducing solid foods to an infant in addition to breast milk or infant formula. Initially the breast milk or infant formula supplies all the needed nutrients but these diminish with time. Solid foods are thus required to provide these nutrients especially for breast-fed babies where breast milk becomes insufficient of iron by six months. It should be clear to the mothers that even after introducing solid foods to the infant, the basis for their diet for the first one year is still breast milk or milk formula. Breast feeding should be made exclusive for the first six months and continued until one year together with solids and thereafter till the time the mother /baby wishes to. World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that infants be weaned at the age of six months because at this time their digestive system is well developed and ready to cope fully with solids. This also decreases the risk of the infant developing allergies and intolerances. Though each child is different from another in development process, there are some clear signs which together suggest that your baby is set for weaning alongside infant formula or breast milk. However these signs may not show together till the baby is six months old.
  • The baby can hold their head high and stay in a sitting position
  • The baby can easily swallow food- a baby who is not ready to eat solids will push the food back out
  • A baby who can co-ordinate (eyes, hands and mouth) will look at the food, pick it up and eventually put it in the mouth by itself.
There are some other normal behaviour which do not necessarily suggest hunger or readiness to start weaning. Behaviours such as need for extra feeds, the baby chewing their fists or waking at night when they have been used to sleeping all through are all normal. The very first foods introduced to an infant should be easy to digest and a food that is less likely to cause an allergy or intolerance. Rice is the best cereal to begin with since it is least likely to cause allergy. It can be mixed with water, breast or formula milk which gives it a milky taste hence a perfect transition to solid foods. Rice can be easily combined with a vegetable which has been strained such as carrots, pumpkin, or potato. Once a new food has been fed for about a week without any ill effect, then another type of food can be introduced to the baby’s diet. It is good to add vegetable first e.g spinach before a fruit. This is because the sweet taste of a fruit may cause the baby’s refusal to eat bland foods. Infants should be fed bland foods. Adding sugar can encourage sweet tooth (the baby develops a strong liking for foods that are sweet) while salt may cause harm to your baby’s kidneys. Since they are not used to sugar or salty taste, they need not miss it. A single ingredient/ food should be added at a time then wait for seven days before introducing another food because it can take that long for evidence of an allergy or intolerance to develop. Symptoms to look for in case of an allergy include vomiting, diarrhoea, wheezing and a rash. If one or more of these symptoms appear, the suspected food should be avoided for several weeks and then re-introduced later in small quantities. If these symptoms persist then consult a doctor. Always go for fresh foods and if you cannot access, then frozen foods are a better option. Foods to avoid
  • Avoid whole nuts, cow’s milk, chocolate, soy sauce, and egg white as these have a high tendency to cause allergy/ intolerance.
  • Avoid honey- it contains clostridium botulinum bacteria which causes botulism. This can be fatal to children under one year.
  • Avoid excessive amount of juices such as pear and apple. They contain large amounts of sorbitol and fructose which can lead to diarrhoea since they are digested slowly.
Weaning is a great experience and an exciting period for both the mother and the baby.it is a very big step for the infant as it explores a world of a variety of tastes which is a part of the joys of the world. Therefore as mothers it is our responsibility to ensure that we make the right food choices and give our babies the right healthy start which is greatly determined at weaning stage. Do you have a question on your child's nutrition,please ask our nutritionist today