Weaning can be an exciting stage for both the mother and baby. Also known as complementary feeding, this stage involves introducing a newborn to a diet (solid food) other than milk.
WHO recommends weaning babies from their 6th month and there are a few steps involved in this process. Think your baby is ready for weaning? Here is a guide to baby weaning stages and food options suitable for their age.
Stages of Weaning a Baby
The weaning journey is usually broken down into 3 main stages. They include;
Stage 1: Introduction of Solid Food
Weaning is usually recommended after 6 months of exclusive breastfeeding. At the 6th month of a child’s life, it is advised to start a complementary feeding by introducing your baby to pureed and finger foods. Offer your kid smooth or runny foods that they can manage in their mouth and swallow easily. It is often recommended to start with single-ingredient food.
Note: Your baby is new to these meals so start with small spoonfuls and don’t rush them. Since it’s their first bite and they are just learning to swallow, expect some reluctance and gagging. It’s also okay to mix the purees with milk or formula.
Stage 1 Foods: Pureed fruits vegetables, potatoes, carrots, pear, butternut squash, avocado, and rice in pureed forms are common as first meals. After cooking the food, you can puree them using a blender until soft. As time goes, you can thicken the puree.
Milk Feeds: About 4 to 5 times.
Stage 2: More Texture and Taste
By the 7th month, the baby would have learned to accept other food besides milk. Stage 2 involves offering a baby (7-9 months) more varieties of food in different textures. So you want to offer your babies at this age food that is chewier, chunkier, and lumpier. Iron-rich foods are also recommended at this stage.
Note: At this age, your baby’s appetite for food may increase and this will reduce the amount of milk they take.
Stage 2 Foods: Replace pureed food with more textured food like mashed potatoes and vegetables, shredded cooked meats (check for bones), cooked pasta, rice cakes, yogurt, steamed vegetables, finger foods. Iron-rich food like lentils, eggs, vegetables, and fortified cereals.
Milk Feeds: About 3 to 4 times.
Stage 3: More Varieties of Food
At the 9th to 12th month, kids will get their nutrition needs mostly from solid meals so they can start enjoying 3 balanced meals. At this stage, start offering your baby a wide variety of food in different textures and flavors. Try giving them minced/chopped and finger foods that they can pick up themselves.
Note: At this age, your baby may start joining the whole family during meal times. Also, keep increasing the quantity of their meals based on their appetite and preference.
Stage 3 Foods: Your baby will enjoy heavier and lumpier foods like meats, potatoes (bot purees), and chickpeas.
Milk Feeds: Between 2 to 3 times.
As said earlier, weaning is encouraged at the 6th month of your baby’s life. Therefore, if you are considering weaning your baby before the 6th month, it is advised to speak to your health provider.
Also, breastfeeding shouldn’t stop during the weaning stage as milk is still an important source of nutrients at this age. Complementary feeding involves giving them solid food without stopping their usual milk feeds. Therefore, try spacing your baby’s milk feeds between the solid foods.