What Are The Recommended Stages Of Weaning?
Weaning is the process by which a baby is introduced to solid food. Their diet no longer consists of just milk feeds as they require more nutrients which can be obtained from solid foods. The World Health Organization recommends that weaning should begin when your baby is about six months old. They should ideally be able to sit up and have good head control. It is not recommended to begin weaning any earlier than seventeen weeks as the baby’s digestive system is not ready to tolerate more than milk.
The weaning process can take longer if your baby was born prematurely. It will require careful monitoring head control and your baby’s signs of being ready. When they are ready to wean they will be able to hold their head in a steady position, can bring their hands to their mouth and milk feeds should be going very well. Most preterm babies are ready to begin weaning between five and eight months old.
Weaning is an exciting stage for any parent. It is particularly enjoyable when your baby is showing interest in foods. Perhaps you have noticed them eagerly watching you eating and they may begin to start chewing their hands and licking their lips. It can also feel like a daunting stage as this is a whole new stage which is very different from their milk feeds. You will be given a lot of different advice from family and friends regarding the best ways to wean your baby and it can feel extremely overwhelming.
According to the HSE, there are three different stages of weaning. Your baby should be sitting in an upright position when you begin the first stage. A supportive high chair is ideal.
Stage One is the stage where you will begin spoon-feeds. During this stage, the food will be smooth and without any lumps. You can use breast milk, formula or small amounts of cows milk to make up the feeds. A baby can tolerate cow’s milk in cooking from six months onwards. It is recommended that you introduce your baby to one new food at a time so you can monitor the baby for any intolerances. Offering small portions with a baby spoon works best for most babies. When your baby is managing small amounts well you can increase the volume and space out the feeds according to your baby’s demands. Baby cereals, pureed vegetables and pulses are popular options during this stage. You should not add any salt or sauces to your babies food.
Stage Two usually happens a couple of weeks after stage one has been mastered. It sees the food become thicker with some soft lumps. It is normal to notice your baby gag (not choke) a little bit as they experience this thicker form of puree. Stage two involves similar foods to stage one but the texture will be thicker and with some soft lumps. You can add eggs (well cooked), pasta, couscous and well-cooked meat to add some variety and build on the stage one offerings.
Stage Three aims to see your baby eating most family meals provided that they have been made without the addition of salt or sugar. The food should have a chunky texture with some bite-sized pieces. There should be a selection of finger foods being offered during this time such as toast, cheese, chunks of fruit or well-cooked vegetables.
Your baby should continue to drink their usual milk in between spoon-feeds and meals. The milk feeds will decrease as time goes on and many nutrients are obtained through the solid food. An alternative to breast milk or formula is cooled boiled water but cow’s milk should not be offered as a drink until after the baby has turned one.
Honey, nuts (whole), unpasteurised cheeses and salt are foods that should be avoided during your baby’s first year.
Written by Tracey Quinn staff writer at FFHQ who also blogs at www.loveofliving.ie.