Weaning before one is just for fun…..how many of you have heard this phrase? It’s really reassuring if your baby is slow on the uptake when it comes to food and to an extent it’s true – until 12 months of age your baby’s breastmilk or formula will be their main source of nutrition – it’s easy for them to drink, digest and it’s nutritionally complete.
But what happens after those first birthday celebrations end? Well in an ideal world baby will have cut back on their milk intake of their own accord and will be eating three balanced meals and possibly two snacks each day. There will probably still be around two bottles (amounting to no more than 350ml ideally) or a varying amount of breastfeeds too (remember breastfeeding serves multiple purposes, not just nutrition!).
But if for some reason weaning hasn’t gone to plan, or there have been some difficulties, it’s easy to say ‘oh well it’s just for fun’ and then all of a sudden you’ve got a toddler (yes it comes round fast!) who barely touches solids and is wholly reliant on milk for nutrition – and that’s not a great place to find yourself.
After 12 months:
- It gets harder to introduce new foods to older babies and toddlers – neophobia (fear of new foods) kicks in
- Iron stores will be depleted
- Acceptance of different textures is reduced
- There is a greater risk of allergy development the longer foods are delayed
- Feeding issues might have been missed
And of course, the whole process of learning to pick up food, put it in the mouth, chew and swallow takes practice – and a lot of it!
So, whilst there is no immediate rush to get solids into your baby (serious amounts of patience is required) – that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be encouraging the process, changing things up if they aren’t working and seeking help if it’s not going well after a couple of months. We also need to be offering a wide range of different foods as close to 6 months as possible including meats, fish, shellfish, plant proteins, fats and carbohydrates. Many parents stick with vegetables for way too long. Providing this type of variety will help provide good sources of minerals like iron and zinc and other important nutrients (Remember to take professional advice if you are weaning your baby as a vegetarian or vegan as it does require some careful consideration to meet nutritional demands).
Just remember weaning is a process, a transition rather than a single event and it takes time!
Picture – courtesy of Happy Tums