Weaning your baby

I got this question from Shabna the other day and I thought it’s probably very relevant to many mothers out there, so I decided to answer it here on my blog.

Q: I have a 3 month old baby, and I am planning to feed her breast milk until she’s 2 years old. Some of my doubts are:

  • What’s a good first food?
  • Can veggies and fruits be given raw?
  • How many servings of solid food?
  • What material should I use for feeding?

First of all I want to tell Shubna that her decision to breast feed is a great one.  Breastfeeding is tough and I know that the idea of formula milk is always attractive to mothers.  When I tell other mothers that I’m breastfeeding my son exclusively, I always (not a single exception) hear about the different reasons why they stopped breastfeeding.  It’s almost like they’re going through the reasons for their own conscience.  Of course, I don’t mean to make any mother out there feel guilty for not breastfeeding.  I believe parenthood is all about making decisions that make the most sense to you at the time.  However, I also want to make sure to give breastfeeding mothers all the credit they deserve.  Breastfeeding is hard work and often very challenging so “hats off to all breastfeeding mothers out there”; you truly deserve the credit.  To read more about my breastfeeding dramas, see my Uggghhh Breastfeeding post.

Wait a bit longer

Before I answer Shabna’s questions, I want to make it very clear that 3 months is too early to start weaning.  The most recent research suggests that 6 months of age is a good time to start weaning babies onto solid foods.  Of course, the most appropriate age to wean seems to change with time and new research, but I do agree that it’s best to wait as long as possible to give a chance for the baby’s gut to close properly before introducing solids.  At birth and for a few months after, babies’ guts have holes in them so that they can absorb as much nutrients from the mother’s milk as possible.  If undigested food goes through these holes, it could trigger allergies and other problems.  That’s why it’s best to wait.

From my experience, I was planning to wait till 6 months to start feeding my baby but I found that at five and a half months he was showing signs of being excessively hungry.  He was not getting full after a full breast feed, and his sleep was getting choppy after he used to sleep very well.  So I made a decision to start him on light solids to check if that’s the problem, and I was right.  He was ready.  So, my advice is to wait until your baby is as close to 6 months as possible.

Now, back to Shabna’s questions…

Q.  What’s a good first food?

I suggest you start with vegetables.  Many books suggest grains such as rice as a first food, but I disagree slightly.  I feel that vegetables are much better because they contain enzymes and a wider variety of nutrients.  Opt for mild vegetables such as carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, cauliflower, broccoli, and avocados (avocados are sometimes considered fruits but that doesn’t make sense to me, so I’ll call them vegetables cuz it’s my blog)🙂

It’s very important to start each vegetable on it’s own and see if the baby has any reaction to it.  In my case for example, I started with carrots and gave him just carrots for 3 days until I made sure his system accepted it.

Q. Can veggies and fruits be given raw?

Yes, but only if you can grind them to a very mushy texture (especially in the first 2 weeks until the baby knows how to handle chunkier bites).  For example, I give avocados raw.  However, I prefer to lightly steam carrots because they would be too hard for him to swallow.  If you steam your vegetables, make sure to use the excess water back while you’re mixing them.  Do not boil as you’ll be just throwing out the water which has all the nutrients and the baby won’t get much benefit from it.

Q. How many servings of solid food?

In the first two weeks, your baby is just learning about the concept of eating and how to handle food in her mouth.  I suggest you go by what the baby tells you (body language of course).  For example, you can start with a few spoonfuls and then stop when she seems full.  A baby who is not hungry will NOT allow you to put another bite in her mouth (trust me, I know!).

The overall quantity your baby eats will depend on her age, size, etc.  However, remember that in the first 2 weeks you have to give the full milk feed before the meal.  My son is now about 6 months old and he’ll eat about 3 tablespoons of mashed vegetables or fruits at each meal (he’s on 2 meals a day now).  And once you’ve established a certain vegetable or fruit then offer a new one.  Do this until you have a varied selection that your baby is eating from.

During the first year, these are the foods that you should keep your baby away from: wheat, dairy (except breast milk or formula of course), honey, and nightshade vegetables such as potatoes, eggplants, peppers, and tomatoes.

There’s a great book that takes you through all the weaning steps with great and healthy food suggestions.  It’s called What Should I Feed My Baby?: A Complete Nutrition Guide
by Suzannah Olivier.  I’ve used this book with all my 3 kids and I even give it as a gift to any new mother.  It’s just fantastic; I highly recommend it.  I’ve even made a summary of it to hang on my fridge.

What material should I use for feeding?

This is a great question.  Many people use plastic for babies, but I feel that plastic does not do very well with heat.  So, I would suggest you use normal ceramic or porcelain bowls for your baby, there’s no need for plastic.  I also suggest glass bottles instead of plastic (they’re very easy to find everywhere, even in some supermarkets).  And in terms of utensils, you could use either.  Plastic is a bit easier for the baby to chew on but make sure you don’t keep the spoon inside the hot food when you’re using it.

Here’s a quick list of what you’ll need for weaning:

  • Fresh vegetables/fruits (ideally organic if you have access to it)
  • Small bowls (ceramic or porcelain)
  • A steamer (or you can steam in your own stainless steel pots using a strainer)
  • A blender
  • spoons
  • Large bibs for the mess
  • A beaker for offering room-temperature water with the meal

Can you help?

If you have any more tips for Shabna, leave them for her in a comment below.  Or you can just share your own experiences with weaning your babies…

I can’t wait to hear what you have to say!

And don’t forget to go to my website to get regular health information.  The site is www.AliaAlmoayed.com.

4 responses to “Weaning your baby

  1. Reem Al-Arayed

    Dear Alia/ Shabna
    Although I did not breast feed my two kids for various, I admit, selfish reasons. I was committed in providing them with the best nature could offer. I stumbled across a book through my search for idea’s and recipes after being terribly disappointed by family advice. The book is called “Blender Baby Food” by Nicole Young. It was a God send. There are over 125 recipe ideas all conveniently categorized by age (in months) and a forward to each section with advice and tips and all that stuff… Check it out; I think you will both love it.

    Reem

  2. I also think babies need protein rather than all those carbs. My (now 2 year old) baby had pureed organic fish, liver, chicken, red meat, beans, pulses etc at most meals after 6 months (I started weaning him at 5.5 months) and he is the healthiest child I know. He is strong as an ox in immune AND physical terms so I really advise getting the protein in as well as the carbs. I am a trained nutritional therapist as well. Cheers Mel

  3. I have to say thank you for the night shade vegetable advice. I am a first time mom, had a home birth, no meds, andv it was awesome (only 9.5 hrs, thank God for Chiropractic!) I have just strated my 6 month old on Butternut squash that I prepared myself and she can not get enough! I have a Vita-Mix blender (it was an investement I admit, but well worth it) My husband and I have fresh fruit/veggie smoothies every day and I can not say how better we feel with the fresh raw foods incorportated into OUR diet as well. Thank you for all the wonderful information!

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