What is weaning?
Weaning is the slow introduction of adult food to a baby while reducing the duration and frequency he/she is breastfed.
What is the ideal time to start weaning?
You can start weaning your infant as soon as she/he completes five months of age. You should always begin with liquid food, and then move on to semi-solid food. Introduce solid diet only after the baby is comfortable with semi-solid food.
Things that you should consider when you start weaning
- Do not start solid food right away – until five months of age your baby had been consuming only mother’s milk or formula milk. If you start with solid food at the beginning itself, it would be hard on the baby’s digestive system which would lead to indigestion. You should always give liquid diet at first, gradually move on to semi-solid food like porridges, fruit puree, etc. and only then start solid food.
- Do not stop breastfeeding all of a sudden – you should not stop breastfeeding as soon as you start to feed other food to the baby. You can start by giving fewer food items and more breast milk. Gradually increase the amount and frequency of providing adult food and simultaneously reduce the amount and frequency of breastfeeding. For example; if you nurse your baby ten times a day, you can cut it down to 8 times a day and give liquid food for the other two times, when you begin weaning. Slowly you can make breastfeeding six times and other food four times a day and finally reduce the suckling time to two or three times a day while giving other food for the rest of the day.
- Try a new food only in the morning – if you are planning to introduce a fresh food to your child, do it during the daytime. The reason behind this is that if ever the baby develops a food allergy; you can get immediate medical help.
- Breastfeed the infant for at least one year – whether your infant eats solid food or not, it’s always recommended to continue breastfeeding for at least a year. If you stop lactating before the baby turns one; do not worry, it’s ok. If you are a working, then you can always express your milk in a container and refrigerate it. You can ask the caretaker to give it to the baby using a spoon or feeding bottle (make sure the bottle is washed well and sterilized)
- Do not add sugar or salt to the infant’s food– there is no need to add salt or sugar to the baby food.
There are two reasons behind this
- Infants need only less than one gram of salt and sugar per day, and the baby gets it from the food that he/she eats. Consuming excessive amount of sugar and salt can damage the developing kidneys of the baby
- Babies lesser than one year of age has not yet developed the sense of taste, and hence they won’t know sweetness and saltiness of the food.
When I say no sugar, it means that you should not add molasses (gud/vellam/sharkara), palm sugar, brown sugar, honey and all the other sugar substitutes as well.
What to give and when to give
5th month – you can start giving fresh fruit juices, mashed or pureed fruits (apple alone you have to boil till transparent), boiled and mashed/pureed vegetables, etc. to the infant as soon as he/she completes his/her 5th month and enter into the 6th. Exclude nendra banana/Kerala banana alone from the fruits (infants cannot digest uncooked apple and nendra banana at this stage).
6- 7 months – now you can include mashed rice, pulses, idli, dosa, porridge etc.
Seven months to 1 year – you can introduce egg yolk (HARD BOILED) at the seventh month and can give the baby almost everything that an adult eats. You should not give the white part of the egg at this age as it is the protein containing portion and the infant’s digestive system has not yet developed the ability to digest the animal proteins. For the same reason, cow’s milk also should be excluded from the baby’s diet till he/she turns one year.
You can start giving finger foods from 8th month onwards or when the baby starts to bite and chew his/her toys. You can now boil and give nendra banana/ Kerala banana to the child. You can offer the other variety of bananas from the 5th month itself, and there is no need to boil those. You can also give fish from the 8th or the 9th month. You can start to add a little bit of sugar and salt to the baby’s food by the 11th month if he/she refuses to consume the offered food. The sense of taste starts to develop at this stage.
One year and above –meat, cow’s milk and whole egg can now be introduced to the baby’s diet. You can also give apple and nendra banana/ Kerala banana as it is (without boiling).
You don’t necessarily have to mash or puree the baby food unless he/she finds it difficult to chew it. Infants have strong and hard gums, and hence they can chew their food. Also, the majority of the food items that we offer them are soft and bite-able (like rice, carrots bananas, boiled apple, etc.) so it’s enough that you mash the food with your fingers. Always show variety in the food or else the child would get bored of it. Add some ghee or coconut oil to the child’s food after he/she completes seven months. Ghee and coconut oil is rich in calories which help in the growth of the infant. Ghee is also a rich source of vitamin A.
Take care not to give food rich in iron and calcium together. Calcium binds to the body muscles and inhibits the absorption of iron by the child’s body. E.g., do not give spinach immediately after giving milk.
Many mothers are confused about what and how they should feed their babies, once they start weaning. So I have provided you with a sample menu plan. You can take it as a guide to plan the menu.
Sample menu plan (for infants from 5 – 12 months)
The above menu is based on the fact that most of the babies need to be fed every two to three hours. As the babies grow, there would be a decrease in the frequency of feeding and an increase in the amount of food they consume. Also sleep pattern differs in each infant and hence you will have to plan the menu accordingly.