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You’ve been waiting for this moment. You knew it was coming, but you still can’t believe your little baby is old enough to start weaning from the breast or bottle.
Congratulations! This is a big milestone in your child’s development and it’s an exciting time for you as a parent too. Here are nine signs that baby is ready for weaning!
Let’s move in!
What is weaning?
Weaning is the process of gradually introducing your baby to solid food (weaning food) instead of breast milk or infant formula. Your child will learn to eat and drink new foods during this time.
Many parents wonder when their baby has outgrown his need for breastfeeding, which typically happens around age one. Breastfeeding can continue along with solid foods until a child is two years old or older.
There are many benefits to children who are breastfed as long as possible. However, it’s important that they have other nutritious foods in addition to what they are getting from you, so they grow up healthy and strong.
9 signs baby is ready for weaning
#Baby is ready to learn how to eat solids when they can sit up by themselves, lean forward and open their mouth in anticipation of a spoonful of food. They will try to grab food or put fingers in their mouth before it gets there.
#Babies also love to watch you eat and will be interested when you offer them your solid foods. By six months old most babies are very happy with finger foods too, especially if the family meal has been introduced.
#When your baby is ready, you will see them ‘test’ food by putting it in their mouths and chewing before they swallow. Babies don’t need teeth to chew textures such as pate or soft fruit and veg purees like avocado or banana, but they do need a lot of practice moving the food from the front of their mouth to the back of their tongue.
#Your baby’s gag reflex makes them sometimes bring up small amounts of food. This doesn’t mean that weaning isn’t going well – babies just need time for muscles and reflexes to mature and develop control. As long as your child is growing well, this shouldn’t worry you too much.
If your baby up one third of their feeds , this is a good sign that they are ready to be weaned.
#You may see your baby rooting around the floor looking for food if you have dropped some. They should also show delight when you first put solid foods into their mouth, just as babies do with breastmilk or formula.
All children love having their mouths filled initially, but eventually most will learn to enjoy the sensations of exploring (and making) different shapes and tastes too!
When your child can sit up well without help, move around freely on their legs and show interest in what you are eating, it’s time to start weaning.
#If your baby pushes away food instead of opening wide for another spoonful, this could mean they are full.
#As babies get older, they enjoy making decisions about what to eat and sometimes having a choice can increase their appetite. Letting your baby try different tastes is a great way of finding out which foods they like best. They will still throw some away!
#Babies often prefer finger foods to being spoon-fed, so you could start weaning with finger food meals instead of introducing it as an extra after another meal has been eaten.
This also helps babies learn how to chew properly before moving on to more difficult textures such as meat or fish. You may even be able to ‘piggy back’ onto family meals by offering what everyone else is eating too – but cut small amounts for them first so they can try it without the risk of choking.
If your baby is mobile, you’ll often see them looking around for food or putting things in their mouth that aren’t meant to be there. This is a natural stage in their development and a good sign they are ready for weaning.
#As long as your baby appears well, full from eating and content after feeding, they may simply not have an appetite at this point. Wait a few days before trying again – but remember babies don’t always eat when we expect them too so don’t put yourself under pressure!
Your child’s appetite will increase over time if you offer regular family meals with choices and give small amounts of food regularly throughout the day – rather than large quantities just once a day.
How to prepare baby for weaning?
Now you know that baby is ready for weaning. Preparing a baby for weaning is really easy. You just need to switch from exclusively breastfeeding to exclusive bottle feeding and your job is done!
Seriously, though…it’s a little bit more complicated than that. The time when you start introducing solid foods has a huge impact on the ease of weaning as well as on your lovely lady’s nutrition plan during her first year of life; what you feed your baby at this stage will influence how she feels about different kinds of food (and textures) throughout her childhood.
So, here are some tips and advice that’ll help you make it as painless as possible:
It’s Not That Big Of A Deal
Your baby should still be getting most of her energy from breast milk – ideally, you should keep breastfeeding at least until she is 13 months old.
At this point, it’s not a case of “either/or” – continue to feed your baby as much as she wants from the breast and give her formula or food in a bottle as well. In fact, as long as your baby continues taking breast milk , all those solid foods won’t turn her into a picky eater…she will simply expand her eating horizons!
Introducing new tastes to a baby may cause tummy problems (diarrhea, spit-up) because of the changes that take place in their digestive systems when they’re getting used to solids. So start slowly – just once a day, to begin with.
If your baby is gassy or irritable, don’t introduce any new flavors the next day!
Start with Small Amounts of Simple Foods
You can give your child small amounts of mashed food when she’s 6 months old…and by 8-9 months you should be able to move on to finger foods. Be careful not to overload her with big chunks or hard textures at this stage – she’ll choke easily.
Foods to choose are bland veggies (especially carrots), fruits (apricots are great for this time since they’re easy to swallow), pasta, noodles, ground meat and legumes. Just remember that these are only meant as backup foods in case your baby refuses to eat anything else!
Never, ever… Give Up
If you think weaning is hard on your child (he isn’t eating as much as he used to and has become irritable), or on you (you’re exhausted from all that extra effort). Well, it’s actually harder for the baby.
You see, an infant is programmed to want breast milk; when there’s nothing else available she will cry and fuss and refuse everything you give her – even if she was already fed not too long ago. Bear with it: she may need a day or two before she’ll feel like herself again and if you keep trying, chances are likely that it’ll take more than a couple of days.
Take It Slow… To Prevent Stomach Problems
If you try to force your little one to eat everything overnight, she might wind up getting diarrhea or vomiting. This is serious and can lead to malnutrition …so let it take as long as it needs to for her system to adjust.
And remember–if you introduce one new food at a time, it’ll be easier on the baby’s digestive track!
How to introduce new foods during the process of weaning?
The process of weaning should be done gradually to introduce new foods. It is important not to give up on one food before trying another one, in case the first is rejected. The idea being that if a child rejects something once they are likely to reject it again later.
Introducing new foods during the weaning process can be challenging so run through some ideas below for inspiration…
- Wean your baby onto ‘family’ food – try making or buying your favourite recipes, then reintroduce these family favourites every few weeks after introducing different vegetables and fruits. This will help change your baby’s taste buds slowly but surely! Remember, no spices until 1-year-old though!
- Start weaning early, start weaning your baby off the breast or bottle onto mashed vegetables and other soft foods before attempting to introduce finger foods.
- Introduce ‘daytime-food’ only during the day when you are home with your baby so he can learn what it tastes like in a controlled environment. Once your baby is happy eating this during the day, try offering it at an evening meal too.
- Give your baby time to get used to the idea (and texture!) of food by starting with tiny tastes or one fork-full before giving more each time you offer it.
- Talk about new foods and encourage your little one to watch you eat so they know what is on offer for them!
- Do not be tempted to give up on a particular food once your baby has rejected it – lead by example and show them that trying something new can be fun!
- Read books together about different children trying different foods which will help open up inspiration for new foods and flavours.
- Do not give in to pressure to feed your child junk food or lots of savoury snacks – try instead to keep healthy things like fruit, vegetables, yoghurts and cheese as the basis for feeding sessions (or at least ensure they form the majority).
- Use dip/sauces sparingly (and explain why) e.g.: ‘Don’t like peas? Let’s try this special sauce for them…’
- Introduce a ‘taster plate’ where you put one piece of each item onto your child’s plate (so they can choose what they do and don’t like); alternatively make a fruit salad/shake with several different fruits on which your child can dig in with a spoon!
What are some common misconceptions about weaning?
1. “I’m a bit old/young to start weaning now”
There is no ideal age to start weaning, as all babies are different and most will be ready at some point between 4-6 months of age.
In fact, there is evidence suggesting that delaying the introduction of solid foods might actually increase the risk of food allergies in infants 1% – 6%. Experts recommend that solids should be introduced from 6 months. Also see our article on baby led weaning which can help you decide when to start if you are concerned about starting too late.
2. “Babies need milk until they are one” or “you should always finish what on your plate for baby”
A common misconception. Babies are not mini adults, they have different nutritional needs to children and adults. As long as your baby is eating other foods alongside breastmilk or formula there should be no need to worry about the number of bottles that you give. Don’t feel obliged to finish what’s on your plate for baby – this can lead to overfeeding and undernutrition in the infant.
3. “Did I feed too much/little? My breasts/bottles are empty”
It can be easy to misinterpret sensations of fullness in early life, especially if you are anxious about breastfeeding, but remember that it takes time for breastmilk production to match an infants intake (1-2 hours).
A well fed baby will not be hungry again until he/she has had time to digest the milk, so don’t worry if your breasts feel empty after feeding frequently. Your baby might also grab at your breast more than usual when they are teething!
Bottles can work in a similar way – some babies may drain the bottle quicker or slower than others depending how quickly the milk flows through the teat.
4. “All formula is created equal”
Many parents believe that all formulas are of equal quality and this could not be further from the truth! See our article on which Baby Formula to buy for more information about choosing formula for your baby.
5. “If I give my baby too many solids she won’t drink enough breast/formula milk”
Your baby should be offered a bottle or breast whenever she appears hungry and there is no set time that you need to wait before offering the next feed. It takes time for babies stomachs to get used to solid foods and often they might not want to eat as much at first, but this will increase over time.
Babies do not starve themselves because they are offered solids – if your baby was hungry she would let you know. Breastfeeding and formula feeding mothers should listen to their babies hunger cues and decide when and how often to offer feeds based on this.
The decision of whether or not your child gets any solids does not need to affect the amount of milk that you offer.
Weaning can be a big change for both mom and baby. But, weaning doesn’t have to be scary or difficult – it’s all about preparing your little one and yourself.
Some of the most important things you’ll need are patience, understanding, and plenty of nutritious food options that satisfy their growing tastes. If you’re not sure where to start with this process, don’t worry! Refer this article from the beginning and I hope this will definitely help you.
Remember this not an expert’s advice. Parents must recommend their doctor before following any tip.