When it comes to the right way to wean, what exactly is the ‘best’ thing to do? Aah, the age old topic, sparking many a discussion between mummies who all want to do what’s right for their baby! So why does what we feed our babies, and from what age spark such massive debate? I wish I knew! What I’ve been doing over the last 2 weeks is reading, researching, and talking to other mums. My findings are such that I’ll be doing this in two parts. First, weaning age and style. Next blog, what we feed our children, healthy, unhealthy, jars, home made, etc.
So here’s what I’ve found out.
Currently, the official NHS guidelines state that for the first 6 months, all your baby needs is breast milk or infant formula. Solid foods, therefore, should be introduced at around this age, not before.
Signs of a baby being ready to wean on to solid foods are:
- Being able to maintain a sitting position, with complete head control
- Being able to co-ordinate eyes, hands and mouth, so they can pick up a piece of food, and put it to their mouth unaided
- Able to swallow food. Young babies not ready for solids will push any food back out with their tongue.
Signs that may be mistaken for a baby being ready to wean:
- Chewing fists
- Waking in the night when they’ve previously slept through
- Wanting more milk feeds.
So basically, the NHS says we should all be holding off on the solids until our babies are at least 6 months old. Yet we know that many of us don’t. Why?
Here are some reasons I was given for early weaning:
- My others were weaned earlier; they’re fine. Why do they have to keep changing things?
- He seemed hungry
- The health visitor said she was having too much milk and I should cut it down, so I topped her up with baby rice instead.
- 6 months, that’s ridiculous, I’m not waiting that long!
- I know my baby, he was ready
- She kept staring at my food and crying so she obviously wanted some
- I wanted him to sleep through the night
Some valid sounding reasons there! All I’ll say on the subject, is that guidelines are there for a reason. Things change due to new research and evidence, and if you want to sleep at night, consider goldfish instead of a baby? (I am joking, please don’t turn up at my door with torches and pitchforks!)
So, is their a right way to wean?
This is my personal experience. After spending hours pureeing for my older two, who I began to wean at 17 weeks as per the guidelines at that time, I found it knackering and thankless; they spat the majority of it straight back at me. So for my younger two, I embraced the 6 months, baby-led approach with open arms. My findings long term are that my older two have bowel problems (IBS for one, chronic diarrhoea for the other) and my younger two are very healthy. Probably coincidence, but you know what they say about smoke and fire!
So for me, baby-led from 6 months just “feels” better, and is the method I would advise to any mum who asks for my advice.
Starting baby-led weaning
Now when I say baby-led weaning, I don’t mean just sit your baby next to the fridge and see what happens! The idea is, you pop some nice, baby fist sized portions of food (steamed veg and soft fruit are a good starting block) on their highchair tray or table, and let them play. They’ll mash it, bash it, squidge it between their fingers, and maybe, just maybe, they’ll eat some!
At this stage it’s not really about the eating, it’s about learning and exploring, and developing a love for food. Before you know it, your little cherub will be chowing down on bolognaise and shepherds pie (I cannot stress this enough, coverall bibs and plastic sheeting on your floors are the best fashion accessories for new weaners) and you’ll be amazed at how much they can put away!
Now I know that the baby led approach isn’t for everyone, either. Here’s what some said:
- No way, it’s such a choking hazard! (if you decide to try BLW, it’s worth learning the difference between gagging and true choking)
- The mess! My carpets!
- I don’t like the thought of letting them eat with their hands, it’s teaching them bad habits
- But how do you know they’re eating enough?
So for these mums, puree, then mashed, then the slow introduction to finger foods works better. And if it works, then that’s great! Keep at it!
In conclusion, I think what we all need to remember is that we all do what we feel is right. Right for our baby, and right for ourselves. The important thing is that no matter which decision you make, ensure it’s an informed one. Read, research, talk to others, and carry on safe in the knowledge that you’re doing an awesome job. Even if Nancy next door is doing it differently.