Since my college days I have always read that you should exclusively breast feed your child for first 6 months, but to my surprise it’s not the case according to new researches.
Surprising isn’t it?
So let’s understand a little more on when you can start weaning your child and why is it important to do so.
We all know that breast milk is best and safest food for young babies. But it is important that babies should be given other foods as well as breast milk at the right age, and in sufficient amounts to enable them to grow and stay healthy. The introduction of new foods in the baby’s diet is known as weaning.
The term “wean” means to accustom and it describes the process by which the infant gradually becomes accustomed to the full adult diet.
Weaning allows the infant to meet changing nutritional needs and to become less nutritionally dependent upon milk.
When the babies’ sense of taste develops he will be more inclined towards new foods tastes and textures. The main purpose of weaning is to attain growth and development.
Weaning is a difficult period in an infant’s life, because if food supplement or substitutes are not adequate in quantity or quality the child becomes malnourished. Hence these changes should be made gradually for they should provide a pleasant experience not a conflict for mothers and infants.
During the first 4 months of life, infants need only breast milk or formula to meet all their nutritional needs. After that it is essential for mother to give supplementary foods in addition to breast feeding because several developmental milestones takes place in the child, such as good control to head and neck, birth weight doubles, baby can sit up with some support, and showing interest in food when others are eating etc will indicate an infant is ready to eat solid food.
So anytime after 4th month when the baby starts showing interest towards other food, mothers can gradually start giving them supplementary foods.
Apart from nutritional requirements by the age of 6 months, something to bite upon is helpful in teething also. The child is also ready to develop the skills of eating from a spoon and drinking from a cup. Difficulties may be experienced later if the opportunity to learn these skills is not given at this stage.
Now let’s understand why the baby requires weaning before 6 months.
Birth weight doubles by 4 months of age and nutritional demands gradually increase and the calcium and iron stores also get depleted. The baby achieves head control and develops hand and mouth co ordination and starts enjoying mouthing.
By 5 months of age, the weight doubles and becomes around 6 kgs and the baby need 600-700 kcals/day and around 600 ml of breast milk can supply only 400 kcals.
Also that the extrusion reflex (This is when they’ll push any food placed on their tongue out the front of their mouth) perishes, intestinal amylase matures and the gut becomes ready to accept cereals and pulses. Gums harden prior to tooth eruption and the baby enjoys gumming semi solids, thus the baby is biologically ready to accept semi solids by 4-6 months of age.
Late weaning can lead to growth faltering and malnutrition.
I’m putting across a small table mentioning the foods that infant can start eating according to his age.
|Food groups||4-6 months||6-9 months||10-12 months||12 months +|
|Fruit||Banana , Pear , avocado , plum , apple , peach||Same as 4-6 months list &
Blueberry , papaya , melons , apricots, grapes (pureed)
|Same as 1st two &
|Same as 1st three columns &
|Same as 1st list&
|Same as 1st and 2nd list &
|Same as 1st, 2nd and 3rd &
|Cereals & Grains||White Rice
|Same as 1st list &
|Dairy||Curd||Same as 1st list &
|Cow’s milk along with bread feed||Same as 1st list
Cow’s milk as a main drink
|Eggs||Egg yolk||Egg white|
So quickly to conclude , always look how the infant reacts to food after 4 months , if he is ready to take other foods except breast milk do introduce new feeds as per the chart.
Happy Weaning 🙂