There are many topics in the parenting world that can be controversial such as co-sleeping, crying it out, breast vs. bottle and early weaning – which i’ll be discussing in this post today. I’ve done a lot of research about many things since falling pregnant and then having Archie, so although everyone has their own opinions and ways of parenting, I personally prefer to go with the facts and make decisions based on these that I think will have the best outcome for my child. I can also do posts on some other taboo topics if this post is a success, so let me know if you’d like to see those!
Early weaning is basically beginning to give your child food (usually purees) anytime before they are six months old. It was something that I had never even considered with Archie – I didn’t really think it existed until I heard some people around me saying that they did it with their children, I just assumed it was a basic ‘rule’ when it came to raising babies, but I think it was the norm many years ago. From the off I knew it was something I wasn’t going to do, but until I researched more into it, I had no clue just how much evidence there was that it wasn’t necessary – or beneficial – to little ones. In fact, it is very dangerous and can affect people in later life… so unless recommended by a health professional (for reasons such as severe reflux) I wouldn’t personally give it a second thought.
There are signs to look for to know that your baby is ready to start weaning, but it can be quite easy to mistake some of these for readiness when they are in actual fact just a normal thing for your child to do. Chewing fists, waking for night feeds, watching you eat and suddenly needing a lot more milk are all things that have been mistaken for weaning signals – but it is a well known fact that babies love to chew anything and everything that they can find, as well as night feeds being a totally normal thing. It’s been discovered that starting your baby on solids doesn’t guarantee a full night’s sleep – so it’s definitely not the answer to solve your exhausting long nights… A baby goes through so many growth spurts that suddenly drinking a lot more also does not mean they need food – they get all they need nutritionally from their milk (whether it be breast or formula) right up until they’re six months old. Watching you eat can also be taken as readiness to wean, but unless your baby is showing all the other signs then it is just because they’re inquisitive in general and interested in what you do.
Waiting until your baby is six months old ensures that their digestive system has time to properly develop so that it can cope with solid foods. The actual signs to show that it’s time to start weaning (bearing in mind that your baby should be doing ALL of these, not just some) are as follows:
- Sitting unaided and holding their own head up steadily
- Good hand/eye coordination (able to grab/take things to their mouth with a ‘pincer grip)
- Lost the ‘tongue thrust’ reflex (where they automatically push foods to the front of their mouth) and able to chew/swallow
- Eager to participate in mealtime/grabbing food on your plate
There are many risks when it comes to early weaning. Baby-led weaning (which is what we’ll be doing with Archie) absolutely cannot be done before six months, but even just starting purees at a younger age can be very dangerous. If your baby cannot sit unaided and hold their head steadily, the risk of choking becomes a lot higher. Also, as I said earlier, waiting until six months allows the digestive system to develop, so putting unnecessary food into the stomach can cause gut problems, and has been linked to obesity and heart problems amongst other things in later life. You may hear people say ‘Oh well I did it and my baby is fine’, but as with a lot of the more controversial issues, this doesn’t mean that EVERY baby will be fine – and in my opinion, if there’s even the slightest thing I can do to reduce the risk of any illnesses for my little boy then that is exactly what I am going to do.
Baby-led weaning is – as it sounds – when you allow your baby to lead you during the weaning process. This means that we won’t be giving Archie any purees – when he gets to six months old we will start introducing finger foods, and let him show us how much he wants/needs. With purees there is a higher chance of overfeeding, but with letting him feed himself he will know when he is done. I read a lot into the weaning process and decided that baby-led is the route we will be taking, but there is also, in my opinion, absolutely nothing wrong with starting on traditional purees. I have been told a lot that starting Archie on baby rice and rusks is what his first food should be – and 100% decided against that from the off. These things have no nutritional value for your baby, the rice itself is essentially just mush. Introducing your little one to new textures doesn’t have to be boring, and I would much rather put something into Archie’s body that will benefit him and give him the nutrition he needs, rather than something just to ‘fill him up’.
This topic is one that I personally find very interesting. There is so much research to be done, so many different studies to read about…and of course, so many different opinions. No two parents do things the same way and it’s up to everyone’s personal preference how they choose to do things, but I thought I’d let you know the information I have found and the route I will be taking when it comes to weaning my little monkey. I can’t believe we’ll be starting this journey into carrot stained clothes and messy floors at the end of next month! Where has my little baby gone…