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Weaning: the baby-led approach

posted Mar 26, 2015, 4:48 AM by Melissa Bugeja   [ updated Apr 10, 2015, 3:00 AM ]

When do I start solid food to my baby is a question raised by many.  However, if you follow some basic steps, it is easy to know when is best to introduce solids as not all babies develop the same.


Solid foods should preferably not be introduced before the baby is 6 months of age.  The reason behind this is that the gut of a baby is not mature enough to handle these foods before this age.  Also the oral-motor development readiness usually begins between 6 and 8 months.


Signs of Readiness

·        The ability to sit up unaided i.e not just sit for a moment and topple over

·        The ability to pick bits of food in a pincer grip i.e between thumb and forefinger and put it in his mouth

·        Looking interestingly and/or crying at your own food

·        More frequent feedings that are not linked to illness, teething or change in routine and that persist over several days.

How do I introduce solids is another question many parents ask.  The basic principles of nutrition for babies are no different than us adults.  So whole vegetables and fruits steamed or mashed, whole-grain cereals and so on, as opposed to refined and processed foods such as commercial baby foods, which can be highly processed and are often less nutritious than whole unprocessed foods are the ideal.

Finely pureed foods are often uninteresting to the baby. These where introduced recently, when it was recommended for babies to wean them around 3-4 months of age.  At that age nearly liquid texture is important as they are unable to cope with firmer foods.  However, at 6 months, most babies are able to eat lightly mashed or soft foods.

Simple weaning foods

·        Grated fruits & vegetables or steamed to a soft texture

·        Strips of toasted whole-grain bread

·        Frozen peas

·        Stewed or roasted beef or chicken soft enough to gum easily –shredded if necessary

·        Cubes of cheese

·        Whole-grain cereals such as oats (not instant oatmeal however)


A baby taking solids will need more liquid, while breastmilk continues to be very important- in fact breastmilk should remain the main source of food till your baby hits 1 year of age- extra water will be needed.


Vegetarian and Vegan Diets

If raising your children vegetarians, it is helpful to remember to watch out for any allergic reaction to soy as this is a common allergen.  Also watch out for wheat gluten used in some meat substitutes.  Legumes are however low-allergenic food.

Vegan families on the other hand, may need to supplement their baby with vitamin B12 if their child is not given any dairy products and eggs.  It might also be helpful to monitor the baby’s intake of iron, zinc and vitamin D.

Allergenic Foods

Some foods are known to be highly allergenic.  Families with known history of allergy should particularly be careful to delay introducing these foods until the child is over 2 years of age, when their systems may be able to handle them. Common allergens include:

·        Nuts

·        Wheat

·        Cow’s milk

·        Eggs

·        Peanuts (other nuts are actually legumes not nuts)

·        Citrus fruits & berries

·        Tomatoes

·        Corn

·        Soy

Tips for feeding solids

·        Breastfeed first – breastmilk is still the baby’s main source of nutrition throughout the entire first year. Breastfeeding before giving solids ensures your baby is getting enough nutrition.  Starting solids is mainly a time when baby is getting used to new textures, tastes, chewing and putting food in his own mouth.

·        Start slow – introduce new foods one at a time, in small quantities (about a teaspoon each time) and allow a week or so before trying something new to allow time to observe for any potential allergic reactions.

·        Timing – some babies explore food better at a quiet time of the day like mid morning.  Experiment to see what baby prefers

·        Don’t force – if baby not interested try again another day

·        Stay with the baby – Constant supervision to watch out for trouble in swallowing or choking is essential. Besides eating is a social activity and closeness to a parent is as important to a young baby as it is to us.

Resources: Dr Jack Newman Starting Solid food

                Gill Rapley Guidelines for implementing a baby-led approach to the introduction of solid food

                World Health Organisation Infant Nutrition Guide