Thursday 03 December 2009, 22:11

Baby weaning: how to start

When and how babies should be introduced to solid foods

Baby weaning: how to start

Weaning is the process of introducing an infant to solid feeding and gradually replacing milk with solid food as the main source of nutrition. It is a delicate process, that requires time, care and consultation with the paediatrician and nurse practitioner.


Current recommendations state that, for the majority of infants, weaning should start between 4 and 6 months of age. At this age, the physiological maturity of gastrointestinal and renal function is relatively adequate and doesn’t put a limit to the choice of foods.


There are however some cautions to be observed. First, salt should not be added to any infant food, in order to minimize the salt load on the young infant's kidneys. Second, the form and taste of all infant foods should be commensurate to the sensory and neuromuscular development of the baby. Third, it would be prudent to delay introduction of foods most commonly incriminated in food allergy and intolerance, such as gluten containing cereals (wheat, rye and barley), soybean, egg, fish, cows’ milk, and nuts.


The introduction of new foods should be a gradual process: the transition from a few semisolid foods to a greater range of foods varying in texture and taste should take at least six months. From one year of age, children should be able to participate in family meals and eat at least some family foods.


A classical approach to weaning consists in gradually introducing fruits, then vegetables, gluten-free cereals, cheese, yoghurt and lean meat, all in soft or pureed form. At 7-8 months of age, wheat and soy can be introduced in the child's diet, followed by egg and fish at 9 months of age. Nut products and cows' milk should be delayed until after one year of age. Food texture should be progressively increased throughout the weaning period. 


Since every baby is different, the guidelines outlined above are not absolute. However they may provide advice about good weaning practice, in order to prevent infant malnutrition, development disturbances or other longer term health problems.


By Chiara De Carli

Category: Nutrition

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