Article by Puja Chandra Nanda
Why Is Weaning Important?
Upto the age of 6 months, milk – breastmilk or formula milk provides adequate nutrition to the baby. As the baby crosses the 6 month mark, her nutritional needs evolve as she starts getting more active physically and mentally. This is also the time when most babies start teething and need chewy, textured foods to soothe their itchy gums.
Growing Babies need the following essential nutrients to support their healthy development:
- Calcium- is a mineral that is required for healthy bones and teeth. Dairy foods such as milk, cheese and yoghurt are the best sources of calcium. Other foods that are high in calcium are ikan bilis, sardines, dark green leafy vegetables and beans.
- Protein -found in chicken, eggs, fish, lentils, pulses and vegetables such as spinach, proteins form the building blocks of the body.
- Iron – is a mineral required for the production of red blood cells in the body and to support other vital bodily functions. Good sources of iron are red meat, poultry, dark leafy vegetables, iron-fortified cereals, wholegrains, beans and lentils.
- Vitamin C – is need to build immunity, boost cell functioning and to support iron absorption in the body. Vitamin C can be found abundantly in all fresh fruits, especially citrus fruits such as oranges, grapefruit, strawberries, papaya, broccoli, capsicum and tomatoes.
- Vitamin D– is essential for bone and teeth health. Vitamin D is found in fish such as salmon, mackerel, tuna as well as in eggs and cheese. Sunlight exposure on the skin is the main source of Vitamin D
- Vitamin K – is necessary for proper blood clotting to prevent excessive bleeding and wound healing. Vitamin K is found in fortified milk and cereals, green vegetables, beans and soybean.
- DHA – Docosahexaenoic acid is found in foods such fish, eggs and nuts. It is essential for the healthy brain growth and development.
- Probiotics– Probiotics are essential for a healthy gut. Yoghurt is one of the best sources of probiotics as it contains lactobacillus or bifidobacteria.
When to Wean the Baby to Solids?
The recommended age to wean a baby to solids is 6 months old. However, in some cultures babies are weaned off earlier. But parents need to bear in mind that weaning a baby to solids before he or she is ready or before the age of 4 months can be dangerous as the baby’s digestive system is not prepared for solid food. At the same time it is also not advisable to wait for too long after the 6th month milestone as delays might lead to food allergies and non- acceptance of certain food types by the baby.
To check a baby’s readiness for weaning, look out for following signs in him/her:
- Has good control over head and neck
- Can sit with support
- Is able to maintain a steady upright position while seated
- Dribbles a lot and puts things into mouth (this could also be due to teething)
- Shows a keen interest in food and tries to grab your food to eat
- Seems to be hungry even after regular milk feeds
- Is able to move food from front to back of mouth to swallow
- Reduced reflex to thrust out tongue
What Foods to Wean With?
6 – 8 months: Start with few spoons to get the baby used to the idea of non-milk feeds. Iron-fortified cereals, smoothly pureed fruits and vegetables are good first options. Slowly build up pace and frequency of meals.
8-10 months– You can now offer solid meals to your baby 2-3 times a day. Introduce food in lumpy consistency and also offer chewy foods and finger foods such as crackers and fruit and vegetable slices.
10-12 months: Your baby is a pro now. You can now introduce textured food, foods roughly chopped or minced. You can also introduce family foods which are not oily and are not high in salt or sugar. Also, take into account foods that are dangerous for babies and must be avoided in the first year (given below).
What Foods Should Be Avoided?
- Honey -Honey produces botulinum spores that secrete toxins that can lead to poisoning, muscle weakness and other developmental problems in babies. It should not be given to babies under the age of 1 in any form.
- Cow’s Milk – Experts say cow’s milk has enzymes and proteins that cannot be digested by babies and should be avoided till the age of 1.
- Egg White -Egg white can cause allergic reactions in children under the age of 1 and must be avoided.
- Seafood/ Shellfish– Shrimp, crab and clams can cause severe allergies in young babies and must be avoided.
- Foods that can be lodged in throat or be choking hazards – All food given to children must be peeled, mashed, diced or cubed to avoid getting lodged in the baby’s throat and cause a choking hazard. Some common foods are grapes, marshmallows, popcorn, candies and sweets.
- Nuts – can pose both allergy risk and a chocking hazard and thus must be avoided in a weaning diet.
Finally, you will need oodles of patience and enthusiasm to make your baby’s weaning journey a success! Experts suggest that parents should not give up if a child rejects a food offered. It may take up to 15 nudges to the baby to accept a particular food. Use the above guide mummies and have fun introducing a variety of foods to your little one and watch him react to the plethora of tastes and textures. Good luck!