What is weaning?
Weaning is the process of transitioning from breastfeeding or formula to new foods and drinks. It usually begins at around six months of age, but every baby is different and some may prefer to start later.
Why should I wean my baby?
Breast milk or formula milk is very important for your growing baby's first year, giving them all the energy and nutrition they need to develop healthily. However, as much as possible it's best to gradually reduce feeding breast milk or formula over time so that by around one year old your little one has stopped drinking these kinds of milk completely.
Not only does this give you more freedom in what you drink, but also helps your bottle-fed child learn how to eat other foods properly because they don't develop a taste for just one type of milk. In addition, breastfeeding or formula can be expensive and time-consuming so gradually weaning onto other drinks will help your wallet and schedule.
When should I start?
Ideally, you should try to introduce your child to solid food from six months old as long as they have the right development skills – so watch them closely especially if they are younger than this because it's best to wait until they're ready. After this time aim to gradually reduce their feeding either breast milk or formula so that by around 12 months old you have completely weaned them off their bottles – but again every baby is different, so don't worry if yours isn't ready yet!
At first, you may wish to replace one bottle-feed with a cup of milk or water at mealtimes to help your baby get used to the change.
What are the signs my baby is ready?
While every child develops differently you can look out for some hints that your child may be ready for solid food. They will probably be able to sit up straight, hold their head steady and push back if they fall over because these are all signs of good physical development. In addition, they should also recognize and know how to use a feeding spoon and be interested in what's going on around them – another sign that they're capable of eating solids.
How should I introduce solid foods?
Welcome your baby to solids by giving them their milk in a cup before introducing new foods. This will show them that while you're still feeding them, this is something very different and they're ready for it.
Begin with one meal where you just give them soft fruits or vegetables that are easy to mash up, then allow them to have breast milk or formula after eating it so that they can focus on the new food without getting full too quickly. You can gradually reduce how often you give breast milk or formula until eventually, they've stopped completely.
Then try mashed-up pieces of fruit and vegetables with either breast milk or water after every mealtime until your child gets used to the change. Once they get used to this, start giving them baby rice and move on to other foods.
How do I wean my child off formula?
Gradually reduce your baby's feedings by bottle over time and replace the feeding with a cup of milk or water at mealtimes. This should be done gradually so that your little one doesn't feel like they're missing out on food or bottles too much! Introduce new drinks instead of formula during the day such as diluted fruit juice or water until you've completely stopped their formula servings.
Once you've introduced new drinks in place of formula gradually reintroduce bottles while reducing how often they have it by gradually moving from once a day to every other day and on until no more liquids are given in a bottle.
What are the benefits of introducing solid foods earlier?
Introducing infants to soft fruits or vegetables at around four months old can help their digestive system become accustomed to food before they move on to baby rice. This way, rather than getting constipated, your infant will learn how to digest solid food properly. If you do choose to start weaning earlier it's important you do not replace milk feedings with water as this could cause tooth decay later in life.
What products are best to try first?
Bananas, avocados, and small pieces of cooked vegetables such as carrots or sweet potatoes are soft and easy to mash up for babies that aren't quite ready for baby rice. Once they've got used to these you can move on to breadsticks, soft fruits like bananas and apples before gradually introducing mashed-up meals such as pureed beans with vegetables.
A baby`s nutrition needs
To meet all the needs of a baby six months and under, the NHS advises parents to breastfeed exclusively for the first six months. After this time they recommend supplementing with 500-600ml of formula milk a day.
However, if you wish to wean your child off their bottles sooner it's important not to replace one bottle feeding with just fruit juice or water as these can provide too much sugar and cause tooth decay. Your child will still need all the nutrients they would from breast milk or formula so ensure they have a balanced diet including toast, breadsticks, and mashed-up fruits and vegetables throughout the day.
To continue providing all your little one`s nutritional needs it is recommended that after introducing solid foods parents give them 500g of cow`s milk a day.
While you don't want to make the portions too large, it's important not to be stingy with their servings either. Introduce new foods slowly and increase how much they have every day until they are eating an appropriate amount for their age.
Will my child become a fussy eater? If your baby doesn't like certain foods just try introducing them one mealtime at a time so that they're not being forced to eat something new all at once. Mealtimes should be fun and not stressful so if your little one is resisting their meals then take a step back and reintroduce the food after a few days or weeks depending on how long to adjust to the taste the first time.
What devices can help a mom?
In order to introduce your baby to soft fruits or vegetables, you could try using a food processor or blender to puree them into a chunky mash. A hand blender would also work if mixing it by hand, but bear in mind that this method may take longer and require more elbow grease!
A spoon can be used to encourage your little one to feed themselves – once they have the hang of feeding with a spoon it will become easier for them to guide their own hands-on how much they`re eating. Babies tend not to like having large lumps so ensure you mash up anything lumpy before serving.
What do I need to watch out for?
Don't force your baby to eat more than they want and make sure you don't give them an excess of salt, sugar, or honey when feeding them new foods for the first time. Also, keep a lookout for allergies by introducing one new food at a time so that you can tell when they're reacting badly to something they've eaten.
How long until my child is weaned?
It usually takes around four months before babies are ready for their parents to start weaning them off milk feeds but it is important not to rush this process or expect your little one to be eating like an adult after just a few weeks.
What do psychologists think?
The UK's National Childbirth Trust (NCT) states that children should be weaned gradually onto new foods and drinks. This is to ensure they get the right balance of nutrients while still receiving their mother's milk or formula for at least six months, but no longer than a year.
Get your baby used to different textures and tastes by giving them small amounts of food and mixed with breast milk or formula instead of trying to give them totally different meals at once.
If you want to wean your baby off bottle feeds then keep offering them bottles up until she is around 12 months old – this is the recommended age that the NCT suggests babies should stop having bottles completely.
Once they reach this age it's best to offer cups with either breast milk or water with meals so that they get used to the change slowly.
- Solid foods should be introduced at around six months
- Babies are ready for solid foods if they can sit up straight, hold their head steady and push back if they fall over
- Gradually reduce your baby's feedings by bottle over time and replace the feeding with a cup of milk or water at mealtimes. This should be done gradually so that your little one doesn't feel like they're missing out on food or bottles too much! Introduce new drinks instead of formula during the day such as diluted fruit juice or water until you've completely stopped their formula servings.
- Once you've introduced new drinks in place of formula gradually reintroduce bottles while reducing how often they have it by gradually moving from once a day to every other day and eventually no more liquids are given in a bottle.