Weaning ways

Motherhood is one of the most amazing and rewarding journeys. Yet along with the good, comes the uncertainty and self-doubt. Just like smiling, sitting, crawling and walking, eating solids is one exciting milestone.

What if the neighbour’s baby is eating solids at four months and your five month-old-baby is still more than happy with his milk? Now add all the research, advice, opinions and beliefs, and you have one worried mommy.

When should I start introducing solids?

Your baby will tell you when they are ready. There are certain cues to look out for and reading these cues and responding to them is very important. The signs that your baby is ready for solids starts with gross motor cues (your baby is able to sit supported and has neck control) to fine motor cues, where they reach for the spoon with the food.

Oral motor cues to look out for include jaw stability, less tongue thrust and gag reflexes, licks food from lips and sucks food to the back of the mouth.

“Once you understand your baby, you will know how to approach their feeding.”

Once you know your baby is ready for solids, they will also display hunger and satiety cues. When your baby is hungry, they will become irritable, start moaning, get excited when you walk to the fridge and open their mouth when you approach them with the spoon.

Once they are full, they will start turning their head away from the food, clamp their mouth closed when the spoon approaches, lose interest and push the bowl away.

Cues can sometimes be deceiving when there has been a past negative feeding experience such as reading cues wrong, tube feeding or reflux. These cues might also be influenced when a baby is born small or large for gestational age or with certain disorders. Therefore, it is very important to monitor your baby’s weight and to go see a medical professional once you notice issues with weight gain.

How will I know when to try the next food? How often do I introduce new foods?

It is important to remember your baby is their own person. Their individual personalities play a big role in when they will be ready to move on to different food, or when they will be bored with the same food. Once you understand your baby, you will know how to approach their feeding.

Babies’ personalities range from sensory seekers, who get bored quickly with bland foods, routines and their milk, to ‘slow to warm up’ babies who get stuck in their comfort zone and struggle with new textures and strong flavours.

Why do people make such a fuss over the introduction of solids? We have been doing it forever!

The whole process is more than just getting your child to eat solids. The weaning process is led by science, and enough research has shown that this phase and process affects later development and sets the stage for future eating habits and relationships with food.

Science has also now made it quite clear as to when to introduce allergens, which types of foods to start with and which food is appropriate for what age.

My child is a picky eater! Help!

All is not lost! You are not alone and it’s important not to become frustrated. Start by implementing a routine and set an example. You have to start with the food your child likes and go from there by slowly changing the texture, flavour and shape.

Never bribe them or sneak food in by disguising it as one of their favourites. If the picky eating is accompanied by other behavioural or digestive issues, it might be a good idea to see a GP.

Lastly, I find it so important for moms to know that the weaning process does not actually start when your baby is giving you the cues for solids, but that you actually set the stage for weaning and picky eaters with your diet during your third trimester already!

The new COLLAB approach from Meg Faure and Kath Megaw offers a process that is tailor-made for every specific mom and her baby. This approach is explained in detail in the new Weaning Sense book.

This article was written specifically for BabyYumYum by our partner, Nutripaeds.

Also read:

What to do when your infant is still hungry
How to deal with picky eaters

Kath is a clinical dietitian with special interest in paediatrics. Her private national and international practice is not only built on assisting her little patients with their nutritional needs but also offering support to moms and dads. She is a regular speaker at baby and toddler seminars, runs workshops on infant and childhood nutrition, writes for leading publications and she is a respected author in her field. Kath sits on three international boards including the European board for feeding premature infants.