When is the best time to wean your baby?
Confused? I was. The shops are full of baby foods with labels telling you ‘4 months+’ so surely if reputable food companies say you can wean from four months then it’s ok to start then, right?
Myth 1- A baby is ready to be weaned from 4 months
According to Government and the World Health Organisation your baby should be six months old before introducing solids. The main reasons are;
Your baby gets all their nutritional needs from breast or formula milk for the first six months of their life.
Waiting until six months gives the baby’s digestive system time to develop fully so it can cope with solid foods.
If you are breastfeeding, having breast milk alone up to the age of six months will protect your baby against infections.
Yet I, and many of my mum friends, had a sneaking feeling that milk alone was no longer enough to satisfy my baby and that she needed food before she hit the official recommended weaning age.
Why are baby food manufacturers allowed to say their food is appropriate from four months? The recommended weaning age changed from four to six months in 2003 but no laws were passed to stop manufacturers from marketing their goods to the younger age range. An international ‘voluntary code of conduct’ was set up, restricting this kind of thing, but the UK decided not to follow it. I can only assume that the impacts of introducing solids to a baby who is less than six months old can’t be severe enough to merit a change in the law!
Source: ‘Baby-led Weaning: Helping your baby to love good food’ (2008), Gill Rapley & Tracey Murkett
In the end I hung on right up until six months. It was such a relief when my daughter did start weaning and she loved it. She got the hang of it so quickly that she grabbed the spoon off me after her third mouth full and fed herself! I felt a bit emotional about her not needing me as much anymore but of course I had a sense of satisfaction to see my baby growing up.
Myth 2: Your baby will sleep better once she weans
Please, don’t pin your hopes on this. My little pickle continued with her terrible sleeping habits way over the age of one. I know we all need hope to cling to, so apologies if I’ve shot that one down in flames!
The NHS cite ‘waking in the night when they have previously slept through’ as a frequently mis-read sign that a baby is ready for weaning, along with chewing fists and wanting extra milk feeds. If this is the case, they probably just want more milk. Or to chew on their fists.
Myth 3: Bland foods are the best weaning foods
Read any literature on baby-led weaning and it’ll blow this one out of the water. If breast milk and formula represent a perfectly balanced diet for a baby (protein, fat, carbohydrate, vitamins and minerals) why would you want to start filling them up with baby rice, which has low nutritional value and means their stomachs will be too full to fit in anything more nutritious? Offering your kid lots of different flavours and textures from the word go is a great way to avoid fussiness later on in life. I put my hand up to being a fully signed up baby-led weaning* advocate, but even if you’re choosing to puree, sticking to tasteless slop seems a bit cruel, doesn’t it? Offering finger foods alongside purées is a great compromise if baby-led weaning is a bit hard core for you.
Tackling weaning for the first time can be daunting, especially with all the horror stories circulating about choking (which we’ll cover this in a later blog) but it’s hugely rewarding and fantastically entertaining to watch your baby getting to grips with it all. It is a generally messy affair (hence why I designed the Full Cover Long Bib...) but just go with it. Bring on those strawberries and the bolognese!
*Baby-led weaning is the process of letting your baby feed themselves. Sounded like madness at first but there are so many benefits. Read ‘Baby-led Weaning: Helping your baby to love good food’ (2008) by Gill Rapley & Tracey Murkett if you fancy giving it a go.
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