Weaning your baby on to solids can be confusing, especially for new moms, and, like most things baby-related, it comes with a million questions and even more answers, which usually vary from one to the other on top of everything else! Below is a list of all your questions about weaning answered by us.
First thing’s first:
What Is Weaning?
Weaning is just a fancy name for starting your baby on solid foods.
What is the right age to start solids?
If your baby is breastfed, experts recommend that you start weaning when your baby is six months old, and 4-6 months old if formula fed. Don’t give your baby any solid foods before he or she is four months old (17 weeks).
How do I know my baby is ready for solid foods?
There are signs that indicate your baby is developmentally ready for solids:
- Baby can sit up well without much assistance
- Baby does not push out or resist solids when you try to feed him some
- Baby is eager to take part in mealtime and shows an interest in your food
- Baby imitates eating behavior like chewing or smacking their lips
What time of the day should I introduce solids?
When your baby is most relaxed is a good time to introduce solids. Most moms find it works best between 10:00-15:00 (afternoon feeds). It’s best to avoid dinner feeds as you don’t want baby to be sleeping and you not notice a reaction!
Do I feed baby before or after milk feeds?
Initially offer solids after a milk feed, or between feeds. Once baby is eating solids three times a day and is eating a good portion at each meal, you can begin to serve solids first.
How much should I feed my baby?
Start by feeding baby 1 to 2 teaspoons twice a day. After a week or two, you can introduce a third feed.
After the next few weeks, you can increase the thickness of the puree and the amount of food to about half a cup.
Remember that your baby will stop eating when he-she is full. Don’t force baby to eat any certain amount. Let the amount of food you feed baby be led by them.
What is baby-led weaning?
Baby-led weaning is when babies start, right from the very beginning, with finger foods, and skip purees and spoon feeding. There are many potential benefits to baby-led weaning, including improved dexterity, early oral-motor skill development, ease for parents, and decreased picky eating. Led weaning can also be a little worrying, especially for new parents, mainly because of the perceived risk of choking. There will be lots of gagging, which is okay, because babies have an awesome gag-reflex that helps them move food that has landed up too far back, back to the front of their mouths. It is very unlikely that your baby will choke, but make sure you do a CPR / First Aid course first, just in case and for peace of mind!
The truth about Rice Cereal:
While you may have heard that you should start your baby on rice cereal, don’t be so quick to take this advice. Since it’s usually made from white rice, there isn’t any nutrition in it. As a result, it’s fortified with synthetically produced vitamins, like ferrous sulfate (iron), folic acid (vitamin B9) and ascorbic acid (vitamin C). Some manufacturers are offering organic rice baby cereal, but it’s not much better. Organic baby cereal may be from brown rice but it’s processed into a flake so that it’s quick to prepare (which spikes blood sugar levels) and smooth for baby’s palate. Rice cereal is also high in the toxin arsenic. Arsenic is naturally found in soil and water, however, it can become concentrated due to pesticides used on fields during farming practices. The runoff contaminates the soil and local water with arsenic. This irrigation water is then flooded over the rice fields for long periods of time. Arsenic accumulates in the soil and water, and rice absorbs more arsenic compared to other crops. Even organically grown rice is susceptible to high levels of arsenic contamination because of the necessary growing environment, and the high levels of pesticide runoff in our modern environment.
Babies can’t even digest grains yet. Amylase is the enzyme that’s necessary to digest starches and grains, like rice baby cereal. Babies begin to produce salivary amylase as early as 6 months when rice cereal is typically introduced, however, they don’t develop pancreatic amylase, the powerhouse of carbohydrate digestion, until approximately 8 months. It makes sense that giving a 4-month-old baby rice cereal could be problematic! Pancreatic amylase doesn’t actually reach adult levels until age 10 at the earliest.
So what food should I start with then?
Ripe fruits like avocado and banana, mashed up, easy peasy. Apples, pears, peaches, and plums are good too, but should be cooked first and cooled because of their high pectin content. Much tastier and more nutritious than any cereal anyway!
You can also introduce some vegetables like cooked and pureed sweet potato and butternut soon after this.
Some moms recommend starting with vegetables before fruit as it could make baby more likely to want the sweeter things in life later on, but this is just a theory, and I didn’t notice anything like this in my little one. He enjoys his butternut much more than his banana!
At the end of the day, all babies are different and most of the advice you are going to get can just be used as guidelines. You will very quickly figure out what is best for your baby and what works for them, even first-time moms. Do some research, but most importantly trust your instinct, because you are the one who knows your baby the best at the end of the day!