Sometimes we can get so confused by the literature and advice regarding weaning to solids that we don’t know where to start! So lets break it down, it really doesn’t need to be so complicated.
Breastmilk is nutritionally complete and all your baby needs to grow and thrive for the first 6 months. The World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeed for 6 months, that means no other food or drink other than breast milk for the first 6 months. Then, the introduction of solids alongside breastfeeding is recommended from 6 months onwards.
So how do you know your little one is ready?
3 things we look for are:
Can they sit with minimal support and have good head control
Good hand eye coordination ( can they pick up objects)
Are they able to swallow without their tongue thrusting out the food continuously
When your baby is able to do the above, they are ready for solids.
Delaying the introduction of solids beyond 26 weeks is not recommended as it is important for your baby to develop these new skills and to compliment their nutritional intake of breastmilk. Iron stores are dropping after 6 months and although iron is in small amounts in breast milk its very well absorbed. That said, it is important that they start getting additional Iron from iron rich foods complimenting their breastmilk intake. Remember weaning in the early days is not all about the quantity of food they ingest but allowing your baby the opportunity to learn and develop these new skills at mealtimes.
What foods to choose:
Like everything, no one size fits all when it comes to weaning. Starting on Puree and moving quickly through the textures and offering a broad varied diet is important. Ensure iron rich foods are incorporated in the diet as well is important.
How do I breastfeed and start solids?
Simply, breastfeed on demand as always. You may find that your baby will naturally drop a feed when established on solids or maybe reduce the time spent feeding but this will differ from baby to baby. You can not structure your breastfeeds as this can impact supply so continue as you have always done.
You can however have regular meal times.
Choose a time when your little one is not starving. You want them to be calm yet interested in trying new foods. If they are too hungry they will just get upset and want the breast, this is a new skill they are learning after all!
Don’t pick a time when they are tired or due a nap
If possible try pick a time when everyone is around the table eating. Make it a social event. I understand this is not always possible but maybe at weekends consider it. Remember the saying ‘ Monkey see , monkey do’!! that’s how our children learn best, from us.
Ensure you have time and are not rushed. Lots of positive interaction-smiling, chatting etc
Start introducing one feed at a time. Allow them to get used to the taste and texture
Once taking this meal well, introduce the next
It’s important to note that babies will breastfeed for other reasons than just hunger. It is a great source of comfort to our little ones during periods of development, growth, when they are feeling overwhelmed or simply just need a little contact with you.
By starting solids does not mean your breastfed baby will sleep through the night and it is important to understand that unless sleeping through the night is baby led, this can impact your supply going forward.
Weaning onto solids is a huge developmental milestone so enjoy this new stage. It is the baby’s first real experience of sensory play so allow them to touch and play with their finger foods. Avoid over cleaning their little faces until they are finished and no cleaning their cheeks with the spoon!
Takes lots photos and enjoy this new stage.