Guide to Baby Weaning & Complimentary Feeding
Introducing your baby to solid foods, sometimes called baby weaning or complimentary feeding, should start when your baby is around six months old.
At approximately six months old, an infant’s demand for energy and nutrients surpasses the amount provided by breast milk. To fulfill these requirements, complementary foods become essential. At this stage, the infant is also prepared to consume other foods, marking the onset of complementary feeding.
Introducing foods before four months old is not recommended as a baby’s gut is not ready to digest food. Look for these signs that your child is developmentally ready for weaning if your child:
- Opens the mouth when food is offered
- Brings objects to the mouth
- Head control and sitting steady
- Can look at the food, pick it up, and put it in their mouth by themselves
- Swallows food and does not spit it back
What are the 3 stages of weaning?
Weaning typically occurs in three stages throughout your baby’s first year. During the first stage, breast milk or formula remains the primary source of nutrition while introducing small amounts of pureed or mashed foods. It usually starts around six months of age.
In the second stage, which usually occurs between 7-9 months, babies can consume soft foods that are chopped or mashed into small pieces. Breast milk or formula is still an essential part of their diet during this stage.
The third stage of weaning occurs around 10-12 months, during which babies can consume a wider variety of foods in more textured and chunky forms. By the end of the first year, breast milk or formula should no longer be the primary source of nutrition.
How Should I Introduce My Child to Solid Foods?
Weaning should be started with single-ingredient food at first. This helps to identify food allergies. Consistency must be that of thick fluid initially. Wait for 3 to 5 days between each new food.
By the time they are 8 or 9 months old, your child can eat a variety of foods from different food groups like infant cereals, meat, fish, poultry, fruits, vegetables, grains, yogurts, and cheeses. Drinking cow’s milk or fortified soy beverages is not advised until your child is older than 12 months, but other cow’s milk products, such as yogurt, can be introduced before 12 months.
How Should I Prepare Food for My Child to Eat?
Initially, offer mashed, pureed, or strained foods because they are smooth and easy for the baby to eat. It can take time for your child to adjust to new food textures. Coughing, gagging, or spitting up is common.
We understand it can be worrying for you. But thicker and lumpier foods can be introduced as your baby’s oral skills develop. A child will need variety, and the mother should be prepared to experiment with new foods.
Some foods are potential choking hazards, like nuts, small hard round foods like grapes, seeds, etc. To help prevent choking, prepare foods that can be easily dissolved with saliva and do not require chewing. Feed small portions and encourage your baby to eat slowly. Always observe the child while they are eating.
How Often Should I Feed My Baby?
In the first year, how often you should feed your baby depends on whether you are exclusively breastfeeding or using formula. If your baby is exclusively breastfed, you should aim to feed your baby on demand, which may be as often as 8-12 times a day in the first few weeks. As your baby grows, the number of feedings may decrease, but it’s still essential to follow your baby’s cues.
If you have opted for formula, your baby may need to be fed less frequently, typically every 3-4 hours, but again, following your baby’s cues is crucial. As your baby grows and starts eating solid foods, the number of feedings may decrease, and the feeding schedule can become more structured. Remember, every baby is different, and there is no one-size-fits-all answer to how often you should feed your baby.
Tips For Your Baby Food Weaning
- Cereals and ground food grains mixed with milk
- Pureed vegetables and fruits
- Firm fruits and vegetables to be steamed or cooked and mashed
- Remove bones and hard portions from meat, fish, and poultry
- Cut fruits into small pieces after removing seeds
- Thick foods like sausages to be cut into thin portions
- Rice, wheat, ragi, and other cereals are to be cooked well and mashed before giving
Safety Tips to Keep in Mind When Trying Baby Weaning or Complimentary Feeding
If you have decided to try baby-led weaning, it’s essential to keep your baby’s safety in mind. Here are some tips to follow:
1. Make sure your baby is developmentally ready for solid foods and can sit upright with support.
2. Always supervise your baby while they are eating and remain within arm’s reach.
3. Start with soft, age-appropriate foods that are cut into small pieces or strips.
4. Avoid giving your baby foods that are choking hazards, such as whole nuts, popcorn, or chunks of raw fruits and vegetables.
5. Offer breast milk or formula before solid foods to ensure your baby is getting enough nutrients.
6. Don’t force your baby to eat if they’re not interested.
7. Clean and sanitize all feeding equipment and surfaces.
8. Be prepared for messes and have a bib and wipe handy.
Remember, if you have any concerns about your baby’s health or safety during baby-led weaning, don’t hesitate to speak with your pediatrician or a registered dietitian.
Avoid whole cow’s milk, hard, round foods that could cause choking (e.g., nuts, grapes, seeds, candies), and honey. Honey administration can cause botulism and excessive cow’s milk can cause iron deficiency called anemia.
Food Allergy Concerns
Increased risk is seen in the following categories
- Family history of allergies
- Eczema history
- Previous history of food allergy
- Severe eczema has the highest risk
Help your baby to develop good eating habits. Baby has to get used to sitting up, swallowing the different textures of food, and stopping in between and when full. These early experiences will help your child learn good eating habits throughout life.
We understand, mama, that this is challenging as a new mother. It can be scary when a child coughs or chokes on new foods. You might be worried about the quantity and quality of food, weight gain, and so. We are here to help you in case of any further queries.
Encourage the child to sit with the family during meal times. Research suggests that having meals together as a family regularly has positive effects on the development of the child and improves bonding.
Remember to give a variety of healthy foods rich in the nutrients your child needs. Do not force feed as it can cause anxiety and food refusal during meal times. Also, do not overfeed.