Weaning is the process of switching an infant’s diet from milk to solid food. It is a gradual process and is usually influenced by many factors. It depends on a mother’s decision to return to work, the health of the mother or the infant, or simply when the baby starts showing signs that he/she is ready for solid food. As babies grow, weaning introduces them to new tastes and textures and lays the foundation for healthy eating habits for the future.

On average, weaning takes anything between 2-3 weeks up to a month. Since every baby is different, some babies make the transition to solid foods more easily than others. Ultimately, all babies get there in the end, so instead of fussing over irregular eating habits, enjoy the mess and the giggles with your baby because they will grow out of this phase very soon. Here we tell you in detail how to wean your child. 

Finding out if Your Baby is Ready

As a rough guide, little ones are ready for weaning after completion of 6 months of age—if the baby has been breastfed exclusively, and is gaining weight properly. If the baby is part formula fed, and four months or older, and showing interest in food, weaning could begin. In this case, the formula milk needs to be replaced with solid food, but breastmilk should still continue since milk is still an essential part of the baby’s diet at this stage.

Follow these indicators to find out if your little one is ready to start weaning.

Does your baby…

  • Sit up and hold steady?
  • Seem interested in your food? Or grab it from your plate?
  • Pick up food to put in their mouth?
  • Eager to taste food when you offer it to them?
  • Show a constant demand for breast milk?

It is rare to see these signs in combination until the baby is 6 months old. Occasionally though, some babies may seem ready before 6 months. In such cases, it is best to speak to your doctor first and then decide the best for your baby.

You can also read our article on how to relieve colic pain in infants.

How to wean to lay a foundation for healthy eating habits

This is also the perfect time to introduce the little ones to fruits and vegetables of all kinds. As weaning helps to shape the baby’s preferences towards healthy habits, now is the time to introduce different single vegetable flavors, without making them sweeter by mixing with fruit. They might pull a face at first, but it’s well worth persevering!

It is good practice to encourage the baby to feed themselves from the very start. Ideally, soft finger foods or spoonfuls of mashed food are the easiest for the baby to handle on their own. Even if they play with food or mess it up, your baby will learn to be independent if you let him/her self-feed at this stage.

Ideal Foods for Weaning

An ideal start would be steamed and pureed vegetables like carrot, sweet potato, pumpkin, french beans to the baby’s diet—either as juices or purees. Start with homemade vegetable soup, beginning with a single vegetable first, and then follow up with varying flavors. Try a few times when they refuse something as some babies need more time to get used to new tastes.

Pulse soup (moong dal water) is a great nutritious alternative that is considered ideal as a first food. Steamed and pureed fruits like, bananas, apple, avocado, peach, and sapota are also ideal foods for this stage.

Once the baby has settled into a routine with the first solids gradually introduce them to cereals like rice, barley, ragi or rice-lentil khichdi. You can add ghee or butter to the preparation.

A pinch of salt may be added to the baby’s diet ( you can also go salt-free in the first year as your baby’s kidneys are not well developed as yet ) but sugar is best avoided (most of the experts now recommend postposing the introduction of sugar) at least until the baby turns a year old. In the early years, it is best that the baby derives most of their sugar from fruits and milk.

Foods to Avoid

Some foods are best avoided during weaning because some foods are more likely to cause problems than others. These include:

  • Ready meals as they are high in sugar
  • Biscuits, crisps, crackers, and bakery products
  • Sweets, and chocolates
  • Raw and lightly cooked eggs
  • Cow milk can be introduced only after the baby has turned one year old

Weaning Equipment

The essential things you need before you start weaning for your baby would include:

  • A few baby feeding spoons and bowls
  • Bibs and clean cloths
  • Saucepans and/or a steamer
  • A hand blender or food processor

Essential Tips

Before feeding any solid food, remember to wash your hands first—your own and that of your baby. Ensure the little one is sitting on a chair or in your lap. It should not be fed while lying down on the back. A baby’s first food must always be soft, properly cooked and easily chewable. Start with a very small quantity and slowly increase the portion. Ideally, start with 1 tablespoon on Day 1 and then gradually increase to 2 – 3 tablespoons over the next few days.

Keep the first meals to single foods, such as puréed apple or carrot. This will help to identify if any particular food upsets your baby. After you’ve introduced a range of single foods, you can begin to mix them, knowing that your baby is fine with them all individually.

Always follow a gap of 3 days before introducing any new food to check for food allergies.

It is usually recommended that the new food is introduced at breakfast or lunch. Avoid giving it at dinner or bedtime. This way, you can check for any food allergy that your baby might have, with regard to a particular food.

Weaning Safely – The Dos and Don’ts

Eating is such a new experience for your baby, so don’t be surprised if the first few spoonfuls come straight back out again! So far, the little one has just been used to pushing their tongue forward to suck milk. Now they need to figure out how to use their tongue to move food to the back of their mouth.

Start with smooth textures at first, as they are easy when the baby is learning to swallow. They will only eat tiny amounts at this stage. Remember, their natural gag reflex will help them spit out food whenever they are full or dislike a particular taste.

Never force-feed a baby. If you do, this will only create an aversion to meal times, turning them into fussy eaters in later life.

Never feed your baby while they are glued to the phone, iPad or the TV. Never leave your baby unattended when they are feeding themselves.

If you want to introduce soft finger foods, make sure your little one has first got used to eating semi-solid food comfortably. This is the best time to let the babies join the rest of the family during meal times.

Follow your baby’s lead at all times. If you notice the baby spits everything out on the first few attempts, he/she may not be quite ready yet, so wait a week or two before you try again.

If you want to add breast or formula milk to the food, do so only when the child is ready to eat.

Getting off to a Healthy Start

Once your baby has gone past the first month of weaning, you can introduce lumpier textures— thicker purées, soft, mashed food or other finger foods. Typically, very soft rice mixed with lentils and a liberal amount of ghee can make an ideal meal at this stage, as they are ready to experiment with more variations of food. Not only does this help your little one become more adventurous with food, but it also helps them develop muscles important for speech.

Once weaning is established, every day they will need 500-600ml of their milk until they are 12 months old. In no time, your little one will be weaned and raring to go to solid food. you’ll have given him/her an adventurous attitude towards food and a healthy start to the future. Try and eat together as much as possible, so that your baby learns that mealtimes are fun times too and will eventually start looking forward to it.

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