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Weaning

Weaning: Overview, suitable weaning foods, progression of weaning, practical tips and safety during feeding | KKH

Weaning - What it is

Weaning Your Baby Onto Solids

The term 'to wean' comes from an ancient phrase that means 'to accustom to'. So weaning refers to the period during which an infant gradually becomes accustomed to food other than milk (breast or formula). Up until 6 months of age, breast or formula milk alone is nutritionally adequate. Thereafter, it is important to start introducing weaning foods after 6 months of age to meet the changing nutritional needs of the growing infant, particularly of iron. Nevertheless, the best cue to determine readiness should come from the baby. The following are some signs of developmental readiness that you should look out for:

  • Able to hold head up and maintain a steady upright position, which is important for spoon-feeding
  • Sits well when supported
  • Makes chewing motion and is able to move food from front to back of mouth to swallow
  • Disappearance of the tongue’s thrust
  • Makes chewing motion and is able to move food from front to back of mouth to swallow
  • Interest in food, perhaps eyeing your food or reaching out for it
  • Dribbles and increased frequency of putting things into mouth
  • Cries for feeds before usual time, which is a sign of hunger

Infants who exhibit poor growth or iron deficiency anaemia may be weaned earlier, as advised by their doctor or dietitian. However, the introduction of weaning foods should not be earlier than 4 months of age. The renal and gastrointestinal functions are generally mature to metabolise nutrients from food by 4 months of age. On the other hand, weaning should not be delayed beyond 6 months of age, as it can increase the risk of feeding difficulties later on and the baby may not be able to get adequate nutrition from milk alone.

Suitable Weaning Foods

Iron-fortified plain rice cereal is recommended as the first weaning food. This can be mixed with breast milk or formula milk to the required consistency. There is no particular order for food introduction. Foods to be introduced should be dependent on the baby’s nutritional needs. Attention should be paid to the texture and consistency of the foods offered. It is also important to introduce one new food at a time, waiting 3 – 4 days between new foods to observe for any adverse reactions.

Progression Of Weaning

At 6 months - getting started

The first food should be a smooth puree and of a bland taste. The consistency should be slightly thicker than milk. If the food holds its shape on the spoon, it is considered too thick for the baby. Start with one feed a day and gradually increase the quantity, and it is important to follow the baby’s pace. The baby's milk feed can be offered first to satisfy hunger. The initial aim is to get the baby accustomed to spoon-feeding. Milk should still remain the main source of nourishment.

At 7- 9 months - progressing on

As the baby gets older, he will be ready for foods with soft lumps and thick consistency. The baby may be having 2 or 3 meals. Begin to introduce foods with textures, i.e. lumpy foods that require some chewing, after around 8 months of age, as this is an important developmental stage for the baby to improve oral skills and muscles. Begin giving finger foods to facilitate chewing and self-feeding skills as well.

From 9 months onwards - transitioning to family foods

Foods offered to the baby should not be blended anymore. Roughly chopped or minced foods can now be given. Family foods, without salt, seasoning and sugar, can also be offered, which increases the variety of foods the baby is exposed to. After a year of age, it is encouraged to have the baby join in the family meals, and there is no need to cook separate foods for the baby.

Practical Tips For Easy Weaning

Trying to wean a baby can be challenging and stressful for the parents. Some parents sail through this stage, while others find themselves fraught with difficulties. This is an important stage of emotional and behavioural development for the baby and much patience is required. Here are some tips to consider for easy weaning:

  • Let the baby set the pace and do not try to force-feed. Wait for baby to open his mouth when the food is offered. If he refuses, try again later or on another day when baby is less hungry or tired. Allow plenty of time for feeding, especially at first
  • Start with small quantities and increase according to the baby
  • Be prepared that the baby may not accept new tastes readily. He may take a few small spoonfuls and stop. However, do not confuse rejection with permanent dislike, therefore the food should be offered again. It is known that it can take up to 15 or more exposures for the baby to accept a new taste
  • Do not be fussy about neatness during a meal and avoid cleaning or wiping the baby too often. A mess during mealtimes should be expected

Safety During Feeding

To prevent choking:

  • The baby must be supervised when eating
  • Ensure the baby is sitting in the correct posture (preferably in a high chair if possible, or sitting on lap with support in an upright posture)
  • Feed the appropriate texture and consistency, according to the baby’s readiness.
  • Avoid foods that can potentially be a choking hazard, e.g. whole nuts, whole raisins, raw carrots, hard sweets and grapes
  • Ensure a calm environment during feeding times

For good hygiene in food preparation:

  • Always wash your hands before handling your baby's food
  • Separate raw and cooked food
  • Cook meat thoroughly
  • When reheating food, always bring it to full boil. If using microwave, stir the food well and test the temperature before feeding to avoid “hot spots”
  • Cover and refrigerate leftovers promptly
  • Discard unfinished food. If more than one meal is prepared, portion the amount for one meal and keep the remainder
 6 months8 months10 months
On risingBreastfeed/150–180ml milkBreastfeed/180–240ml milkBreastfeed/180–240ml milk
Breakfast1 dsp of iron-fortified infant cereal
Few tsp of water
3 – 4 dsp iron-fortified infant cereal
Few sips of water
3 dsp of oatmeal
¼ of an egg (well-cooked)
Few sips of water
Mid-morningBreastfeed/150–180ml milk (some babies may skip this feed)¼ - ½ small banana
Few sips of water
½ small banana
1 baby biscuit
Few sips of water
Lunch1 dsp of iron-fortified infant cereal
Few tsp of water
½ bowl rice porridge with 2 tsp finely minced meat and 1 dsp of finely chopped broccoli (medium consistency, with small, soft lumps)
Few sips of water
1 bowl rice porridge with 1 dsp minced meat and 2 dsp of cauliflower and carrots (thick consistency, with small lumps)
Few sips of water
Mid-afternoonBreastfeed/150–180ml milk1 mashed potato
1 dsp mashed carrot
1 dsp of mashed baked fish. 4 tsp scraped papaya
Few tsps of water
Breastfeed/180–240ml milk
¼ small apple
1 small cube of cheese
½ slice of bread
Few sips of water
DinnerBreastfeed/150–180ml milk½ egg-size potato
1 dsp carrot (mash with small amount of breastmilk or formula milk to appropriate)
4 dsp of macaroni (soft and chopped to small pieces)
1 dsp of fish2 dsp of spinach. Few sips of water
Breastfeed or 180 – 240ml milk
BedtimeBreastfeed/150–180ml milkBreastfeed/180–240ml milkBreastfeed/180–240ml milk
NightMay wake for 1–2 night feedsMay wake for 1 night feed 
RemarksAverage 750ml of milk per day if on expressed breast milk or formula milk  

Conclusion

Weaning is an important stage in a baby’s development. Every baby is different, so do not compare one baby with another. Mealtimes should be enjoyable for both parents and the baby. Being relaxed and patient can help to make mealtimes less stressful for both the parents and the baby

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Weaning - How to prevent?

Weaning - Causes and Risk Factors

Weaning - Diagnosis

Weaning - Treatments

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Weaning - Post-surgery care

Weaning - Other Information

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