Weaning involves changing a baby's diet from breast milk to other forms of nourishment.
During the early months, breast milk is the best source of nutrition for a baby. This is because this breast milk contains all the nutrients required for growth and development during the first five to six months after birth. The World Health Organisation recommends that babies be breastfed for 12 to 24 months after birth, with the addition of some solid foods at around the ages of about six months. At this stage of development, the baby's digestive system is able to cope with small amounts of solids and the baby's ability to taste different flavours is becoming well developed.
Some of the signs that indicate a baby is ready to start solid foods include: loss of the 'tongue-thrust' reflex that makes young babies push any solid material out of their mouth; the baby seems less satisfied with milk feeds and may start wanting more feeds and/or stop gaining weight.
Sudden weaning is not recommended because it causes sudden hormonal changes for the mother, especially during the first few months after birth, and may bring on depression . Also, the mother's breasts can become very uncomfortable as her body continues to produce milk. If sudden Weaning is necessary, the mother may find that wearing a firm, supportive bra and taking paracetamol for any breast pain can help.
To begin Weaning it is a good idea to offer your baby solid foods just once a day and always after your baby has had feed of breast milk. Start with offering your baby one to two teaspoons of one type of solid food and gradually increase this until your baby is eating solids three times a day.
Ask your Pharmacist for advice. 1) A specially designed baby spoon and similar implements can make the introduction of solid foods easier. Ask your Pharmacist for advice about these products. 2) When your baby starts teething , products such as Children's Panadol and topical anaesthetic gels for the gums can ease the pain caused by erupting teeth. Ask your Pharmacist for advice on dosages and suitable products. 3) A mother's breasts can often become quite painful during breastfeeding , particularly if she is producing large amounts of milk. Cold packs can help to relieve this pain. 4) Pre-prepared baby food is an easy and nutritious alternative to preparing food for your baby. Your Pharmacy may be able to recommend the best brand to purchase.
Here are some suggestions regarding the type of food you may want to introduce your baby to during the initial stages of Weaning:
- Start with soft, bland foods like rice cereals and pureed fruit and vegetables on a spoon. - Between 6 and 12 months of age, start introducing other foods such as bread, cereal, pasta, rice, yoghurt, eggs, homemade unsweetened custard and tofu. - Follow this by introducing foods with a chewier texture such as minced meat, chicken or fish, well-cooked beans, peas or lentils and cheese. - Avoid adding salt and sugar. - Between 10 and 12 months of age, infants can be given foods that the rest of the family eats - although they should not be spicy. - At around 8 months, infants can be taught to drink from a cup. Use a cup with a spout or a straw containing breastmilk or formula or fruit juice diluted with water. Be patient, as learning to drink from a cup will take a lot of practise. - After 12 months of age, infants need around three cups of full cream milk a day. - Don't force infants to eat or finish a bottle - they know when they are hungry and when they are not. - Infants generally eat less after 12 months of age. Over-feeding an infant can make him or her overweight.
Always supervise your infant closely during meal times to ensure that he or she does not choke on any food.
ORGANISATIONS and SUPPORT GROUPSSee the Australian Breastfeeding Association topic on the Healthpoint.