When to wean and start introducing solids are questions facing all breastfeeding mums. How does a new mum know when to introduce solid food into her baby’s diet and what sort of food can a baby eat?
At present the World Health Organisation recommends that all babies be breastfed exclusively for six months. A long time, you may think, especially in the middle of a colic episode or growth spurt! However, there are real concerns for the welfare of babies that have led to this advice.
However, some parents may choose to introduce solids at around 4 months. It is really a personally choice and whether or not you feel your baby is ready.
When to Start Introducing Solids?
In the past many babies were fed solid foods at very young ages. It is now believed that their bodies were unable to cope with the demands this placed on them; a dramatic increase in the incidence of allergies and food intolerances meant guidelines were reviewed and altered.
The main danger that comes with introducing solid food too early is that babies may receive too much salt in their diets as their organs are not developed enough to process salt effectively, leading to potential kidney problems in later life.
So, if you follow the advice of the World Health Organisation, you will see that it makes sense to put off giving food other than breastmilk for the first six months.
So how do you encourage a six month old baby to eat solids? The main thing to remember is that you should introduce solids gradually and remember to make it fun as it is a part of their learning experience.
When your baby is ready for solid food he will begin to demand feeds more often, and may never seem satisfied for very long. He will start to take an interest in your meals and may even try to help himself! He will begin lip-smacking and chewing as he mimics you. A real sign that solids are imminent is the development of teeth.
Speak to a health-visitor if you think your baby is very hungry. If your baby is under six months you may find that he is just going through a prolonged growth spurt. If this is the case, his hunger will normally settle down after a few days when your milk supply has increased.
Slowly Introduce One Food at a Time
When your baby reaches the six month target, and you are sure that he is ready for solid food, try a teaspoonful of watery baby rice or baby porridge. Try to keep foods very bland and runny at the beginning.
Once he is used to solid foods, and is older than six months, you can move onto adult cereals like Weet-Bix.
It is wise to only introduce one food at a time so that you can identify any intolerances or allergies. Sometimes these can take several days to take effect, so stick to one food for a few days before moving onto another.
Some babies are happy to have one solid feed a day at the beginning of weaning, whereas others require more frequent feeds. It is a good idea to offer the breast before and after each feed to maintain a good milk supply.
Cows milk and dairy products, eggs, fish particularly shellfish), nuts (especially peanuts), some fruits and foods containing gluten can all cause allergic reactions. So be careful with your choices…
From six months babies can digest protein so red meat, fish ,eggs, cheese, chicken and pulses can all be introduced.
The No-No’s – What Not To Do When Introducing Solids
1. Do not give peanuts or eggs till they are old enough
The new guidelines by the Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA) advise parents to feed babies peanut butter or paste and eggs by 12 months but not before four months.
2. No uncooked eggs
When your baby is ready to be introduced to eggs, you must ensure that it is thoroughly cooked and not be runny. Under-cooked eggs or runny eggs can contain salmonella which can make your child extremely ill.
3. No Honey
Honey contains bacteria that produces toxins called botulism which can make your child sick. If contracted, the baby will need to be hospitalised and appropriately treated.
4. No added Salt
Don’t add salt to your baby’s food as their kidneys are not developed enough to process excess salt efficiently.
If your baby is ready to share family meals, then it is recommended that you remove your baby’s portion before adding salt.
5. No sweets till later
It is best to introduce savoury foods prior to sweet foods as babies very quickly develop a sweet tooth! They tend to enjoy pureed carrots, broccoli, sweet potatoes, turnip and parsnip and any combination of these foods. Babies also love stewed apples and pears or mashed bananas and strawberries!
You will know when is the right time
Let the baby decide when he has had enough of any particular meal. Never force-feed the baby. He only needs a little bit of solid food each day. For some babies a few spoonfuls will be enough; for others a main course and dessert are required!
If he refuses to eat one type of food avoid it for a while and try something else. Return to the disliked food after a few days and try again. Some babies can be very fussy, whereas others eat whatever is placed in front of them!
Take it slowly when introducing solids as it can be a big change for both you and your baby. Weaning and introducing solids should be a fun experience for you both. After a very short time your baby will look forward to his solid feeds and will even start to let you know that he wants more!