The Minefield that is Weaning!
Ahhh, weaning, that time of babyhood that you either love or hate. It’s funny when you see people who just simply cannot wait to start feeding their babies. I’m always over here like, reeeallly?! You do know that means much more mess, so much more planning, bigger poos and never leaving the house just with your boobs or bottle? Yeah, I’m not the biggest fan of this process.
And of course, with weaning comes the next battlefield for a debate… sigh.
Puree or baby led?…
Shop-bought baby food in jars or blending up your own? To be honest, it does. Not. Matter. You do what is best for you. I bought jars of puree for Jake because I was scared of him choking and it was easy for me. I had a friend who would blend up her own and freeze it in ice cube trays to be prepared. I knew of somebody else who cooked up proper homely meals and let her baby eat as they all did.
And guess what? Every single of one of them has turned out absolutely fine!
It is hard enough battling the tiredness, juggling your time between housework and baby groups, getting them down for naps, working out routines, without having to worry about whether or not you are being judged for the way you choose to wean. Oh and you CAN do a bit of both, there is no rule that says it is one or the other just go with your baby’s flow.
I’ve heard it all before…
Oh and don’t get me started on the “in my day” commenters. Believe me, just nod along, nod along… You don’t have to do what anybody else suggests and there really is no need to debate it with them, it’s a waste of your precious energy!
Wean when they are ready…
The biggest question that seems to crop up is WHEN to wean. Oh, the opinions, oh the ‘experts’. All I can say is that every baby is different. Just because your mate weaned early doesn’t mean that you need to or that your baby is ready etc. Each parent may have their own reason for doing it at a different time which I will talk about in a mo. Just in case you didn’t know the basic guidelines for weaning are:
Baby is able to sit
Baby has good head control
Baby is 6 months old
Baby is showing signs of wanting to eat
Baby has a good swallow reflex
However, a parent may have medical reasons for weaning earlier than these statements suggest. Factors that can affect baby weaning can range from reflux and colic issues to prematurity or failure to put on weight.
All of these guidelines are contraindicated if say your baby is premature, as mine is. Most premature babies take longer to sit up because their core muscles do not function as well as full-term babies. The same goes for their head control. The parent may be advised to wean earlier for medical reasons and don’t forget the fact that a premature baby at 6 months isn’t actually really 6 months! As William was 8 weeks early he would have ‘technically’ been 4 months when I started weaning but you can’t expect the baby to be made to wait until their corrected age as some may have been born months early (hope that makes sense?) So, if you see a baby being propped up to eat, a baby laying down to feed or one that looks very young, you may feel that huge urge to judge but there may be factors you just don’t know about (take note those Mums who shamed a poor preemie Mum in a BLW weaning group recently, you may not know the whole story!)
All I can say is do what is best for your baby. If you are unsure about when to wean, what to give, whether to go with purees or BLW speak to a medical professional- your health visitor is usually your first port of call but if you want another opinion or if you have worries just book in to speak to your GP or Paediatrician. The only concern I ever have is when somebody chooses to wean early without getting medical advice purely because of the risk of choking, their gut not being developed enough for food, allergies running in the family and so on. Even Annabel Karmel who openly advises that weaning can start from 17 weeks states that there may be exceptions even to her rule and she provides some very sound advice:
“Every baby is an individual so keep an eye on your baby and look out for clues that they are ready to wean. Babies who are not ready will not be able to swallow and will push their food back out”
“It is very important to remember when starting your baby on solids, that milk is the best and most natural food for growing babies, and it contains all the nutrients your baby needs to grow. I would encourage mothers to give breastfeeding a try. Apart from the emotional benefits, breast milk contains antibodies that will help protect infants from infection.”
“Babies should be given breast or formula milk for the whole of the first year… However, once your baby reaches six months, whole cow’s milk can be used in cooking or with cereal when weaning but continue to give breast milk or formula as your baby’s main drink for the whole of the first year.”
“If there is a history of allergy in your family it is best to breastfeed exclusively for six months before introducing solids”.
But I want my baby to sleep…
Weaning is also not about ‘getting your baby to sleep through the night’. Yes, some babies are more hungry than others but food or juice (sigh, yes I read this in a group recently. No the baby juice in the baby food aisle will not fill your baby up more than milk does) is not necessarily the answer especially if they are still very, very young. Up their milk intake, speak to your HV and also take into account that growth spurts happen, with a big one around 12 weeks, but they do pass and that appetite does become satisfied again. Weaning is simply about moving on to food once your baby is ready.
Research is key here and there are plenty of tips to be found online too from other people’s experiences to interesting baby led weaning breakfast ideas, how to cut fruit so it is safe for your baby to eat and Pinterest recipes. Take what you need from those articles and adapt them to suit your baby’s needs.
But most importantly, just follow your baby’s cues and work your way through that minefield the best way you know how.
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