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Weaning your baby… when is the right time to wean your baby?

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Following on from my collaboration news with Bath based nutritionist Dr Alice Mayor, she has kindly written a guest blog on, ‘When is the right time to wean your baby?

Alice has a wealth of knowledge as a medical doctor and nutritionist with an in-depth knowledge in women and children’s nutrition and specialises in nutrition for pre-conception and post-partum care. Alice understands the link between nutrition, sleep and well being. She is passionate about helping tired mums regain energy and optimise health in a gentle and unrestrictive way.

The NHS advise that weaning should begin around 6 months of age. Beyond 6 months old babies have nutritional requirements that cannot be met by breast milk or formula alone. That being said, food is not a replacement but is introduced alongside milk so that babies can start to get in those nutrients and also learn and develop skills needed for eating.

Some people choose to wean their babies earlier than 6 months sometimes closer to 4 months, and certainly, that is what was done 20 or so years ago. The guidance is that weaning should begin at ‘around’ 6 months of age which might well mean your baby is ready a little before the 6-month mark however it will completely depend on your baby and when they are ready, after all, every baby is different.

What I would advise is not to leave weaning too long beyond 6 months, even if your baby is slow to take to solids that is fine and it can be built at a gentle pace. There are 3 important signs to look out for that will indicate if your baby is ready for food.

  1. Can your baby stay in a seated position and hold their head steady? Some babies still need a bit of support with sitting independently at 6 months. Sometimes adding a little extra padding to the high chair can help as long as they are able to hold their heads steady. I also found the seats, such as the bumbo, are good for feeding as they are really supportive.

  1. Hand-eye coordination is an important skill on the weaning journey, can they pick up food and put it in their mouth?

  1. Are they able to swallow more food than is pushed back out? The tongue thrust reflex is when something is placed in a baby’s mouth they automatically push it out with their tongue. It usually starts to disappear around 4-6 months but this can vary between babies.

When is the right time to wean my baby is a commonly asked question. Weaning is a really big step in parenthood and whilst it can be a really fun and enjoyable time, it can at times be stressful for parents. Having a bit of a plan of what you are going to feed your baby in the first 2 weeks, doing some food prep and getting friendly with your freezer is worthwhile.

I also really recommend the book ‘How to wean your baby’ by Charlotte Stirling-Reed as a great place to start on the weaning journey.

Another recommendation, if you haven’t already, is to do a paediatric first aid course as choking is often a cause of anxiety for parents and being equipped with the skills to deal with this situation can help you feel more confident. Organisations such as Daisy first aid have classes all over the UK.

My final words would be to embrace the mess and enjoy those funny faces and reactions to new tastes!

If you are looking for additional support on your weaning journey or have specific concerns please do drop me a message.

Weaning and sleep are intrinsically linked and throughout the rest of their lives, sleep will be affected by food to some degree sleep will be affected by food to some degree. At this young age though they will start by consuming very little but their tummies may still be affected by what they are consuming and this of course will be impacted by sleep. Try and keep a food diary so that you know what foods may initially irritate their tummies. Try new foods at lunchtime so there is less likelihood of food impacting on sleep. Once your little one is established on solid food, check out my bedtime routine blog to learn how you can use food to encourage sleep. There are also some ‘sleepy foods’ that naturally contain the sleep inducing hormone melatonin and consuming them pre bedtime along with dimmed lights can actually promote melatonin production making bedtime more restful.

References:

NHS start for life https://www.nhs.uk/start4life/weaning/ready-or-not/

If you need any help or you don’t think their poor sleep is affected by weaning, please do get in touch. If you need advice on nutrition for yourself or your little one Alice is offering a 10% discount to anyone I work with. My sleep plans includes a guide of what foods may help your child settle into sleep but this may not help on it’s own. Book a free, no obligation call and we can talk about working together to get you a better night’s sleep.

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