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The baby weaning process starts when a baby takes foods from another source other than its mother’s breasts. Weaning can be either from a bottle or mashed food. It is the step by step replacement of mother’s milk with other foods. From the doctor’s point-of-view, the younger the baby is, the more is essential it is for them to be fed with breastmilk. Breast milk is important for a baby especially from age 0 to 6 months. Breast milk has a nutritional value which other supplements cannot provide. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advises that a baby should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months. This must continue for up to 2 years of age or beyond.
Medically it is not true that breastfeeding benefits stop at a certain point. The more a mother continues to breastfeed a baby, the more significant and long-lasting the benefits are for both the mother and the baby. Human milk has more concentrated antibodies compared to other solid weaning foods.
Baby led weaning
Baby led weaning allows your child to feed himself from the very start of weaning. The most recent research on baby led weaning to attest that most babies reach for food at the age of six months. This is the time mothers are encouraged to wean by according to WHO guidelines. There is a distinct benefit of weaning at around six months. The main advantage is that our children are developmentally capable of feeding themselves proper foods. If you give them food in suitably-sized pieces, they will eat it without any problems.
The more a parent uses the baby-led weaning approach to starting the weaning process, the more the baby becomes independent. Moreover, for a good reason, baby-led weaning has many potential benefits which include early oral motor skill development, self-regulation, and decreased pick eating among others.
For new parents who might be concerned about the perceived risk of choking, it is advisable to mash the food or slice it into small pieces. The truth is, there is no right way to introduce solid foods to your baby. Some children may prefer it spoon-fed most of the time whereas others may prefer eating finger foods. It all depends on what your child prefers. For example, my son Jakes preferred to eat finger foods while his bother Mike preferred a combo of baby-led weaning and purees depending on the day and meal for a parent to identify baby weaning method that works better.
Baby led weaning gives your child the ability to be in charge of the amount of food that he/she can eat. The child can eat until he is comfortably full. This allows them to trust their inner cues when it comes to issues of hunger and fullness.
Before you start baby led weaning you should understand the following:
Your baby will gag
There is a likelihood that your baby will gag a lot but don’t worry because babies naturally have a great gag reflex. The gag reflex helps them to move food which has pushed too far to the back of their mouths. The food is moved back to the front again so that they do not choke. Before they make the gagging sound, they often make a funny face.
The types of food matters a lot
Be careful on what type of food you feed your child. Always focus on iron-rich foods first. Foods like meat, poultry, fish, and beans lentils are recommended to be weaned. Feel free to introduce steamed vegetables and soft fruit, full-fat yogurt and cheese too. However, such foods are recommended to be fed to your baby when he/she reaches one year. To maximize the nutrition, you must pay close attention to the ingredients lists.
It will be messy
Baby led weaning is messier compared to spoon feeding. When my daughter was at the weaning stage, I bought a new highchair because the hand-me-down that I used for my son was quite hard to clean. You do not need 10-15 minutes to clean your highchair after each meal; it is easy to clean and handle. Plastic is the best if you're looking to get a high chair as your baby starts the weaning process.
Tiny pieces aren’t going to work
Babies do not have fine motor skills to pick up the tiny pieces from their plate or bowl and bring them to the mouth. Until they get to the age of 8-9 months, they will have problems getting their food to the mouth. This is the reason why baby’s foods must be large enough to help them grab them to their mouth.
Best First Foods for Baby Led Weaning
It is normal for a parent to feel a little anxious when their baby is first starting baby led weaning. Don’t worry about how much or little your baby consumes at the beginning. The important thing is that you can serve him a variety of tastes and textures to try out. The first baby led weaning foods must be of a size your baby can manage. Don’t overwhelm him with too much food on the table; he will end wasting it and probably eating less. Babies at the age of 6 tend to use their hand to pick things up. Before serving the food, make sure they can close their hand around the food to avoid making the pieces too wide for him. Long pieces fairly stand a better chance of being picked. I advise parents to cut food into 5-6cm batons.
Always make sure that for the first time the food is cooked until it is soft. Remember if the food is too mushy, the baby won’t be able to grab it with their fist. It is advisable to wait until your baby has teeth before you serve him harder foods.
Benefits of weaning
Breastfeeding is both sweet and important time for your baby, but as your baby grows older, solid foods become more appealing to him. When the baby is ready to try new things, as a parent, you should know weaning will come with benefits to the child.
Your baby gets to experience new things
Through weaning, you introduce new flavors, textures and experience s to your baby. Babies are extremely interested in solid foods even before they get a chance to taste them.
Mothers can get their body back
I won’t lie that after three years of breastfeeding, I was excited and ready to get my body back. I was eager to get my boobs into shape. Whether you have breastfed for six months or years, when you stop producing milk with your body, you start feeling appealing and sexier than ever.
You get a break from feeding duties
Baby led weaning gives you rest from feeding duties. Once you have prepared your baby’s meal, all that you need to do is to watch him as he eats his food. As mothers, we spend a lot of time nursing our children especially when they are at the age of six months and below.
It is essential to make sure that your baby is weaned with properly cooked food to avoid stomach related upsets. Parents should consult a nutritionist to know the best foods for their baby.
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