Are you having a tough time weaning off your baby? I will be sharing with you in this post when and how to wean a baby. Obviously, we shall begin this process only after the baby is ready for solid foods.
Baby-led weaning is not something new to some of you. Perhaps you are one of the successful mothers who manage to wean off your baby through this technique. I know some of us still use spoon-feeding and some babies even carry on to be spoon-fed until they are three to four years old or older.
Why baby-led weaning method works in the process of weaning? It is because it is most natural way for babies to wean and it is good to develop their motor skill which will become useful throughout childhood and beyond.
When and how to wean a baby
When is the right time to wean?
Some experts say you can start giving solid food when baby is about 4 – 6 months old but WHO actually recommended only offer babies solid food around 6 months old with 2-3 times meals a day in addition to breast milk. 4 months old babies are probably too young as they are not able to sit on high chair unassisted, their neck is not strong enough and they have not got enough teeth to chew on soft food.
Do not rush to wean your baby. There will be a suitable time for your baby to start on the solid food. Look for signs if your baby seems to be interested in the food you are holding, they are able to sit without your assistance and have a good neck strength. Then it could be the right timing to introduce solid foods.
Normally most babies will be able to self feed when they reach about 6 months old. Some babies will be a bit slow and they will get to this stage eventually when they reach more than 9 months old. It is utterly fine.
How to wean a baby?
Baby led weaning
Weaning process shall be done slowly and in stages. Breast milk or formula milk is still the main source of nutrient for the babies until they reach 1 year old.
Baby led weaning is a natural method of letting baby self-feeding. This is a way to wean your baby independently. A baby who is weaned independently may be ahead of their peers (those who are spoon-fed) in terms of eye coordination, chewing skills and dexterity.
They have the chances to explore the taste, textures, aromas and colors of the foods. Babies who are self feed also learn how to stop eating when they are full. Some spoon-fed babies have the tendency to eat more than their body need as parents will sneak in a couple more spoonful of food into their mouth even babies have shown they have eaten enough.
Safety first – stay away from choking hazards
When babies start to explore solid food, stay away from the choking hazards such as whole grapes, raw carrot, sausage, raw vegetables, sticky rice and nut etc.
Infants can only eat pureed, mashed and semi-solid foods beginning at 6 months. By 8 months most infants can also eat “finger foods” (snacks that can be eaten by children alone).
It does not mean that self-feeding you shall leave your child sitting on a high chair and left him/her alone to do so. We all shall keep an eye on the child 100% during his/her meal time.
Variety of food
You shall choose foods which are high calorie and equipped with iron, zinc, protein and healthy fat. Why they are important to your babies especially under 5 years old?
1. Zinc is important to maintain normal functioning of immune system and support normal growth and development of a child especially under 5 years old. Zinc is a mineral found in a variety of foods such as red meat, whole-grain breads and cereals, dried beans, and seafood. Deficiency in zinc in your baby’s diet will restrict child’s growth and decrease their ability to fight against infections.
2. Iron is important to make red blood cell to carry oxygen to the baby’s body and muscle. Iron also important to support proper neurological development during infancy and early childhood. Low iron will cause anemia if baby does not consume enough food with iron to cope with rapid growth. Besides taking breast milk and iron-fortified infant formula, babies can consume iron rich food such as eggs, broccoli, iron-fortified cereal, red meat, spinach, potatoes, chickpeas and cashew nut. For better iron absorption in babies’ body, take fruits with high vitamin C such as kiwi, oranges, strawberries etc. Puree them into yummy baby food.
3. Protein is important for the child’s growth to thrive. It is important for bodily functions, including recovery and repair of tissues in the muscles, skin, organs, blood, hair and nails. Children who lack of protein intake may experience health issues, including fatigue, poor concentration, slowed growth, bone and joint pain, delayed wound healing and decreased immune response. Besides milk is a good source of protein, babies can have eggs, oats, cheese, yogurt, broccoli, chicken meat, fish, peanuts and so on.
4. Health fats are important for neurological development and brain function during infancy and early childhood. For babies who just begin to start solid food can introduce a little of avocado, flax seed, olive oil, seed, yogurt, or salmon fish which are rich in healthy fats in their daily diet.
Food prepared for easy grasping
During the self-feeding period, it is easier for babies to grasp and manage the food by themselves by cutting fruits and vegetables into long and thin strips.
It is OK to let your child practices to eat on their own and you are going to face messy situation where foods are everywhere on the floor, on the face, clothes and on high chair. Bear with it as babies will slowly become less messy overtime. A sleeved bib will be a good consideration during feeding time.
Weaning process will be successful if your child is slowly getting their major nutrient from the daily food intake and become less dependent to the breast milk or formula milk when the time is right. Do it slowly, do not resist discontinuing breast milk or formula milk just yet even though it is called weaning. Slowly reduce the breast milk or formula milk intake by introducing more snack time in between the 3 meals.
I have written an article about “Good eating habits for kids“, click on the link to access it if you wish to read further.