baby's road to independance.
Weaning period can make any new mum anxious. It is an milestone but undoubtedly there are many things you have to consider before your baby starts taking in her first spoonfuls. Here is a list of FAQs (some of which must have crossed your mind too).
Do I have to wait 6 months to wean baby?
At present WHO guidelines recommend that babies should be breastfed exclusively until 6 months at least and that weaning should not be any earlier, unless of course if baby shows signs of being ready to wean. At 6 months, your baby's immune system is at that point when the risk of an allergic reaction is lower. Also babies at this stage begin to respond to small amounts of food well. Mainly breast milk or formula on their own is not able to provide iron and other key nutrients which can be obtained from solid foods. Solid foods also enable baby to develop facial and mouth muscles vital for speech development later on. BUT in case you or your family have a history of allergies such as asthma, eczema and the like, delayed weaning decreases the chances of your baby getting these conditions.
How do I know if my baby is ready to be weaned?
Since babies are able to tolerate basic food from 17 weeks up, it is ok if baby is weaned at 4 months but not any earlier. One sure sign that baby is not ready for solids is when he pokes his tongue out, clearly showing you that he is not ready to be spoon-fed. The tongue-thrust reflex stops babies from choking. If your baby is reaching out for food from your plate, demands feeds more often, puts her knuckles and everything else in her mouth then it is likely your baby is ready to be weaned. While it is fine to introduce solid foods earlier than 6 months discuss things through with your pediatrician and get the correct advice.
What is the good beginner food to try as first food?
Ideally according to health officials, it is best to try giving your baby iron-fortified rice cereal. Rice is easy to digest, bland in taste and gluten-free (not likely to create food allergy). Convenient to make and you can adjust the quantity and texture as you go along. Though you can make rice porridge at home, iron fortified rice cereal contains the much-required mineral. Start with a runny consistency akin to milk in the very beginning and thicken it as your baby adjusts to this new food. At this stage a few teaspoons is enough as your baby's stomach is small (the size of her fist)!
If my baby keeps reaching out for my food, should I let her taste?
From around 5 months onwards it is alright for baby to try food. The 'worrying' factor is baby's inability to chew so ideally the food offered should be pureed. Also, only age-appropriate foods should be tried. Avoid offering such a young baby foods containing salt, sugar, flavorings and colorings and additives. At this age, it is best to encourage your baby to develop and enjoy the natural taste of foods which are found in fresh fruits and vegetables.
There are findings suggesting that early weaning could cause allergies in babies, is this true?
This is not true because babies digestive systems are mature enough to cope with basic food after the 16th week or 4th month. There aren't enough findings to suggest that delaying weaning will prevent allergies from happening. Although health authorities are in favor food being introduced only after the 6th month, there is no reason for delayed weaning if you and your doctor feel that your baby is ready to be weaned. Watch out for signs and begin with foods that are ideal at the weaning stage.
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