Weaning is the process of transition of your baby from breast-feeding or bottle feeding to commencement of nourishment with other food. In other words weaning refers to the period during which an infant gradually becomes accustomed to food other than milk
When to start Weaning
The World health organisation(WHO) recommends “After completion of six months of age, with introduction of optimal complementary feeding, breastfeeding should be continued for a minimum for 2 years and beyond depending on the choice of mother and the baby. Even during the second year of life, the frequency of breastfeeding should be 4-6 times in 24 hours, including night feeds”. Complementary feeding is defined as the process starting when breast milk alone is no longer sufficient to meet the nutritional requirements of infants, and therefore other foods and liquids are needed, along with breast milk
Why to start Weaning at 6 months
Breast milk is sufficient for the growth of your baby till 6 months of age. By 6 Months mothers milk output may start decreasing but baby’s physical(Height, weight) and mental development continue to progress at a very fast till the age of 2 years. Breast milk or formula milk alone is not enough to satisfy the growing needs of your baby. Moreover your baby’s intestine will be able to digest complex food substance from 6 months onwards.
What are important aspects in weaning food
As your baby gets older the consistency of the feed should be thickened, Frequency of feeds reduced and Volume per feed increased as below
Right consistency according to age
- 0-6 months- Breast feeds
- From 7 months- Semiliquid foods. Smooth and easy to digest.
- From 9 months- Semisolid foods. Food has got taste and texture.
- From 12 months – Solid diet ie., variety of food items.
You can try to increase the calorie density of the weaning food by adding fat
Frequency and Volume
As the baby grows the stomach capacity increases and baby can take larger amounts of feed and feed less frequently
- Till 6 months – Breast feeds on demand i.e. 9-10 times everyday over 24 hours.
- From 7 months – As your baby grows she can accept larger volume and thicker consistency at a time – feed her 7-8 times/day, few spoons/30ml-50ml at a time
- From 9 months – child normally eats 6-7 times per day, 75 – 100 ml or gm at a time
- From12 – 15 months – child eats at least 6 times per day 100 – 150 ml or gm at a time
- From 18 months – child’s eating schedule of 5-6 times /day gets fixed as 3 regular meals (Breakfast, Lunch and dinner) and 3 in-between healthy snacks(midmorning ,evening at 4:30 – 5 PM , and bedtime).
What to feed for my baby?
Natural, homemade food is always best for baby. Though infant cereals and baby food are also nutritious, it is better to gradually introduce baby to the real homemade food. Once your baby starts solids, you will find yourself trying to include a variety of foods into your baby’s diet. Here are some tips to make your baby’s meal time a pleasant experience for both of you.
- When introducing a new food, do so late in the morning as it will give you time to watch out for any allergic reactions. Ensure a calm environment during feeding times, and if possible Sit baby in a chair
- Remember to start one new food at a time
- Try out a combination of just two vegetables, as it will be easier to keep a track if your baby is allergic to some vegetable. It also makes digestion easier
- You may want to add a bit of ghee to your baby’s food to increase the calorific value.
- Allow plenty of time for eating, especially at first. Rushing or forcing your baby could lead to problems. Go at your baby’s pace and stop when your baby shows you they have had enough.
- Most babies know when they are full up, so don’t make them finish a portion when they don’t want to. Smaller, more frequent meals and healthier snacks will suit them better when they are young. Don’t worry if your baby hasn’t eaten much in a meal or a day, what they eat over a week is more important.
- Babies like to choose for themselves and sometimes take their time getting used to different foods so offer a small amount, lots of times to let them gradually get used to new foods.
Some Useful healthy Tips When Weaning
- Your baby must be supervised when eating
- Feed suitable textures according to your baby’s capabilities
- Avoid nuts, raw carrots, hard sweets and grapes as they might cause choking
- Cook thoroughly and make sure there are no bones when giving chicken, meat or fish
- Always wash your hands before handling your baby’s food
- Separate raw and cooked food
- All the vessels, bottles, spoons, katoris and other utensils are thoroughly washed in hot water before use
- When reheating food, always bring it to full boil
- Cover and refrigerate left overs promptly
- Discard unfinished food
Sample food itemsfor different ages
Upto 6 months – Only breast milk with Vit D3 Supplementation
Babies at this stage can have
- Fruits – A thin puree of fruits like apple, pears, peach juice can be started etc. All fruits in mashed form afterwards
- Cereals – Start with rice water, dal water and/or puree of rice and dal. As the baby grows these can be fed as porridge with formula/breast milk. You could consider using Jaggery to sweeten this porridge. Jaggery makes for a good sweetener and has iron.
- Boiled egg, chicken puree, fish, ghee, can be included as the baby starts accepting more feeds
- Vegetables – Non-gas forming vegetables like carrots, sweet potatoes, well boiled green peas and French beans in a thin puree.
Approximately 8 to 12 spoons along with 500 – 600ml breast milk, or formula milk.This is only a rough guide and individual babies may differ
9 to 12 months – Babies at this stage can have all of the above items and
Almost adult food- This is the phase where we introduce the little one to adult food! At this time, grains can stop being powdered to be given and can start on soft khichidi, rotis in milk and curds, etc.
How much to feed – Approximately 100g-200 per feed, 6-7 feeds a day and milk(Breast/formula) as extra. As the baby gets older you can stick to three main meals and three inbetween snacks(midmorning, evening and bedtime)
We can always aim to give fresh, seasonal and home cooked foods. If you feel your baby has not taken well to a particular food item, wait for 10 days before trying it again. If your baby dislikes a particular food respect his wishes and you may try to avoid that.
Author: Dr.S.Boopathi MD, DNB Paediatrics, MRCPCH(UK)