Weaning is such an exciting milestone for you and your baby but it can also be a confusing one and with so much conflicting advice out there it is difficult to know which advice to follow.
If you always ensure the information you are reading is from a credible source such as a registered dietitian or registered nutritionist or is ‘Information Standard’ accredited such as ‘NHS Choices’ then you can be sure the information is evidence-based, balanced and reliable.
So here I am going to debunk some of the common weaning myths.
Myth 1 : My mum weaned me at 3 months so it must be fine for me to do the same
WRONG…advice has changed over the years and it is currently considered best for the development of most babies to start weaning at around 6 months, however all babies are different and it is advised to look out for the developmental signs of readiness. The signs of readiness are: (1) can stay in a sitting position and hold head steady, 2) can look at food and put it into their mouth all by themselves and 3) can swallow food so more is swallowed than pushed back out. Importantly all experts agree to never give solids before 17 weeks. Additionally babies are generally not ready for finger foods until 6 months and so babyled weaning is not suitable until this time.
Myth 2: My baby is ready for weaning because he/she is waking in the night after a period of sleeping through
WRONG…Starting solids won’t make a baby more likely to sleep through the night and extra milk feeds are usually enough until a baby is developmentally ready for solid foods. This answer really follows on from myth busting 1 and that you should look out for the developmental signs of readiness. Besides the small amount for solid food that babies consume at the start of weaning really is not going to help them sleep.
Myth 3: Food is for fun under 1
WRONG….learning to eat is important for many different reasons and although we want all our children to love food and of course for weaning to be fun it is important to understand these reasons.
Firstly weaning is important from a nutritional view point. In particular, a baby is born with stores of iron and by 6 months these stores are depleted. Breast milk or infant formula will provide enough iron for the first 6 months of life but after this weaning foods should include iron rich sources such as red meat, oily fish, eggs, green leafy veg, lentils and pulses and breakfast cereals fortified with iron such as Ready Brek.
When weaning it is also important to pay attention to introducing a wide variety of foods from all food groups to ensure that all critical nutrient needs are covered.
It is also important to ensure all allergenic foods (those that are most likely to cause allergy) are introduced gradually one by one from 6 months; there is no benefit in delaying the introduction of these any further and it is important to offer these regularly to ensure your baby remains tolerant to that food. Delaying introduction of allergenic foods past 12 months may actually increase a child’s risk of developing an allergy to that food. Advice for the introduction of allergenic foods to those at higher risk of food allergy (those with early life eczema or a known food allergy already) is slightly different. See: https://www.teenyweaning.co.uk/foods-and-drinks-to-avoid-during-weaning-and-in-the-first-year-of-life
Also if following the traditional approach the gradual increase of texture is important to ensure that one doesn’t miss the window of opportunity for this which can result in refusal of lumpier foods later on.
Lastly biting and chewing helps with the development of muscles needed for speech and handling finger foods and spoons helps with the development of motor skills and coordination.
Myth 4: I should delay giving peanut products to my baby
WRONG… research has shown that the introduction of ground peanut to babies can actually help PREVENT the development of peanut allergy later in life.
NB If your baby has early life eczema and/or an existing allergy your baby may benefit from earlier (between 4-6 months) introduction of peanut. However see your healthcare professional (GP/allergy specialist Dietitian) for further guidance before giving peanuts.
For all other babies it is fine to introduce peanut products from 6 months in the form of a smooth peanut butter and this can be thinned by adding warm water or ground peanut added to dishes. There are some great peanut butters out there that are 100% nut with no additives.
And remember no whole nuts before age 5 due to choking risk.
Myth 5: I’m formula feeding and I should switch to a follow-on formula at 6 months and during weaning.
WRONG…This is a really common myth! However formula fed babies can continue on a first infant formula until they are 12 months of age. There is little difference in the composition of follow-on formula and first infant formula except the former has slighter more iron but from the age of around 6 months a weaning baby can be introduced to iron-rich foods alongside a formula or breast milk (see myth busting 3 for iron-rich foods).
Myth 6: My baby does not like certain vegetables so I’ll stop offering them
WRONG…Research shows that repeated exposure to new foods – up to 10-15 times and role modelling by eating vegetables yourself, are key in getting children to like vegetables.
We are born with an innate liking for sweet foods and enjoyment of bitter tastes is a learnt process.
So, don’t give up on encouraging your little one to eat their veggies (but with no pressure to eat them), show them how much you like your veggies too and increase exposure to veggies as much as you can through playing, growing and even singing and dancing about them!! Offer lots of praise for even touching and licking of vegetables.
Myth 7: Babies don’t need vitamin supplements during weaning
WRONG…In the UK it is recommended that all children aged 6 months to 5 years have a daily supplement of Vitamins A, C and D (apart from babies having more than 500ml of formula daily as formula is fortified). Breastfed babies should be given a daily supplement of vitamin D from birth and formula fed babies should be given vitamins A, C and D when they are drinking less than 500ml of formula daily.
There are some great baby vitamins readily available in many pharmacies and supermarkets that can be given in the form of drops which can be added to drinks too or dropped straight in the mouth.