Weaning is the process in which a baby is introduced to solid food. Very young
babies need no food other than milk. As they start growing and getting more
physically active, they begin to use up more and more energy. A milk-only diet
can no longer fulfil these energy requirements or give them all the different
nutrients they need.
Your baby will probably seem hungry after a feed and offering more milk won't
help. The amount of milk a baby's stomach can hold is limited.
should I start weaning my baby?
While it is not set in stone when you should wean your baby, you should aim
for between four and six months. (If you are still breast-feeding at this point,
you may take this opportunity to wean your baby off the breast as well.)
There are a number of reasons why you should wait until they are over four
- Children younger than four months cannot bite and chew.
- They don't usually like different tastes and textures.
- They are more prone to allergic reactions therefore it is safer to wait
until the baby's body systems have matured a bit more.
- Giving energy-rich foods too soon may result in the baby becoming overweight.
There are also a number of reasons why you should not leave weaning too late
(ie. after six months):
- Your baby needs to get used to the foods before he/she actually needs it.
By the age of six months, your baby will have used up the store of iron he/she
was born with. Therefore from this point on, iron will have to be included
in the diet. However if you wait until this store is used up and then your
baby doesn't take to the solids, there is going to be a period of time when
he/she is taking in no iron at all.
- Delaying weaning also means the process may prove much more difficult. This
is because babies are usually most willing to try new foods and flavours when
they are between four and six months old.
At around six months old, babies should be introduced to drinking from a cup.
This may take a while. Breast-fed babies, even if they drink readily from a
cup, may still want to breast-feed as well, especially when they are going to
bed. Similarly, bottle-fed babies are often very reluctant to give up their
bottle for a cup.
When your baby starts to take solids, they will often get thirsty. This is
the perfect opportunity to introduce a cup rather than giving them their usual
bottle. Get them used to drinking water. Apart from the fact that fruit juices
are sugary, your baby will get used to the sweet taste and may then refuse to
Two-handed plastic cups with a tight lid are the best containers for this stage.
If your baby wants to hold the cup by themselves, let them. This is an important
learning stage for your baby.
do I feed my baby?
You may find in the beginning, your baby doesn't even want to taste the food.
This is normal. Try letting them taste food in between their normal bottle or
Weaning is a gradual process so don't be disheartened if your baby takes a
while to get used to solids. Try giving them tiny tastes of the food (a fingertip
amount) at one feed a day.
You may find your baby just doesn't like the spoon so dip you (clean) finger
into the food and let him/her taste it that way. If they enjoy the food, they
won't be so suspicious of the spoon.
Each day try to gradually build up the amount of food. Then offer it at other
feeds. The more the baby eats, the less milk they will take, although they will
still probably look for a bottle or the breast after the meal.
kind of food should I give my baby?
First solids should be smooth and semi-liquid. They should also be bland or
else the baby will simply not eat it.
Introduce new foods slowly. Remember your baby has survived on just milk up
to this point, so different tastes and textures will take some getting used
Baby cereals are a good starting point, especially baby rice.
After this, pureed fruit and vegetables should be introduced. This is the perfect
opportunity to get your baby use to 'good' foods such as vegetables.
Pureed meat, poultry and fish should be introduced between six and eight months.
Your baby should be able to eat lumpy food by the time they are nine months.
It is important that you do not puree their food for too long. Remember, even
without teeth, babies can chew very efficiently.
Commercial foods are fine but try to introduce home-cooking as well. This means
your baby will become used to a wider variety of foods.
there any foods that I shouldn't give my baby?
- NEVER give a baby (or toddler) peanuts. Apart from possible choking, they
may inhale a fragment accidentally and the oil that peanuts contain can cause
severe irritation in the lungs.
- Do not give spinach, turnip or beetroot to a baby who is under six months
- Do not give a whole egg to a baby who is under eight months old.
- Never add salt to your baby's food.
baby is determined to feed herself but the food just ends up everywhere, except
in her mouth. What can I do about this?
While mealtimes may become longer and much messier, do not stop your child
from playing with their food. This is a step towards independence and they have
to learn somehow.
You must still help your baby. Give him/her their own spoon to play with while
you feed them with another spoon.
Mealtimes may prove less problematic in the future if initially they are fun
for the child. If they are forced, the child will probably equate mealtimes
with something they don't enjoy.
toddler refuses to eat foods that I know she enjoyed in the past. What can I
By the time a child is two, they know what they like and what they don't. This
can be a very frustrating time for parents because the child may simply refuse
There are a number of things you can try out:
- Keep offering a variety of foods, including things she will eat. Her hunger
or curiosity will get the better of her eventually.
- Remember a child will be much more willing to try something new if they
are really hungry. Therefore offer a new or healthier option when she has
the best appetite.
- Try giving foods in different ways. She may not like sliced carrots but
she may like mashed carrots. She may not eat a boiled egg but she may eat
- Make food look interesting. Some children react to food arranged in, for
example, a funny face.
- Try to have family meals. Your toddler is more likely to eat something if
she sees her family around her eating it too.
Remember at the end of the day, if she is hungry she will eat something. Do
not let her see how annoyed or frustrated you are. Otherwise mealtimes will
become a battleground.
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