How to determine the best time to wean your baby

Weaning a baby is an incredibly complicated subject and a process that has serious implications for the child in adulthood. Problems such as eczema, food allergies, and asthma are directly attributable to the time of the baby’s weaning. Too early and there may be trouble, too late and there may be trouble. This is also a topic that health professionals misunderstand. Worse still, many practices advise that they directly conflict with the best medical research available.

For timing purposes in this article, use the date of birth unless the baby was born prematurely. In the case of premature babies, it is important that the time is taken from the moment the baby was born, not when it was born.

So before we discuss how the process should be done, let’s take a look at what women are currently doing. The Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition completed a study of more than 2,000 mothers in the US during 2008. What they found was that:

  • Approximately 21% of mothers introduced solid foods before 4 months
  • Only 7% waited until after 6 months to introduce solids
  • 29% of mothers introduced> 3 new foods per week to 5-10 month old babies.
  • Approximately 20% of the mothers were juice-fed before 6 months, cow’s milk was fed before 12 months, and babies were fed less than 5 times a day after 5 months.
  • 14% of mothers chewed food for their baby.
  • About 15% of mothers gave less than 1 daily serving of fruit or vegetables to babies over 9 months.
  • 50% added salt to their baby’s food, and more than a third of those who added salt used non-iodized salt.
  • About 20% fed low-fat cow’s milk annually
  • Nearly 50% of 10-month-old babies had eaten restaurant food at a restaurant in the previous week.
  • 22% of the babies had eaten takeout and 28% had eaten takeout or restaurant food at least twice that week.

Not all of the above are recommended!

Therefore, we have established that parents of premature babies should consider starting solids at 4-7 months of corrected age. However, which solids should be introduced and in what sequence? Previous studies indicated that many allergies, eczema, and other sensitivities in children were the result of exposure to the wrong food groups too early in the baby’s weaning process. More recent studies have found that lack of exposure to certain food groups is causing these discomforts. That is very confusing for parents! Combine that with the problem of having to age everything for a premature baby and you are in a world of confusion and misinformation.

Wheat allergies Therefore, it is important that the different food groups are introduced around 6 months of corrected age. A University of Colorado study monitored 1,612 babies and followed them until they were almost 5 years old. The objective was to compare the effects of cereals such as wheat, barley, rye, oats in the diet of babies and the development of wheat allergy. Their eating habits have been documented at 3, 6, 9, 15, 24 months and annually thereafter.

What they found was that 1% of the children (16 in all) became intolerant to wheat. All of the children who became intolerant to wheat had been exposed to wheat in their diet for the first time after 6 months of age. The conclusion of the study was that late introduction to cereals may increase the risk of later intolerance. The recommendation is not to delay exposure to wheat and other grains after 6 months of age.

Childhood eczema Another study in New Zealand followed children from birth to 10 years of age. In particular, they were following the relationship between introducing solids to babies and eczema. They found that 7.5% of the children developed chronic or recurrent eczema in adulthood. They found a clear correlation between the baby’s exposure to different food groups during the first 4 months of his life and his subsequent development of eczema. Babies exposed to four or more different types of solids before 4 months of age had a 2.9 times higher risk of developing eczema than those who were not exposed to early solid feeds. They also found that delaying the introduction of solids beyond 6 months did not help prevent future allergies such as eczema.

Weaning from the window of opportunity These studies clearly indicate the window of opportunity for weaning babies. Too early and they may develop allergies in later life, too late and the same thing could happen. The baby should not receive solids before 4 months of age (corrected age for premature babies). The baby should start cereal at 6 months of age (corrected age for premature babies). For premature babies in particular, this time is doubly difficult. It’s a small 2-month window of opportunity, but the data on whether or not time should be adjusted for age is not very clear.

What to present and when? Another study in Finland compared 994 children to examine how the timing of solids introduction during the first 12 months of life affected allergies when the children were 5 years old. They found that, on average, mothers exclusively breastfed for 7 weeks. They then found that the late introduction of the following food groups could be directly related to an allergy to that group.

  • Potatoes (more than 4 months)
  • Oats (more than 5 months)
  • Meat (more than 5.5 months)
  • Wheat (more than 6 months)
  • Rye (more than 7 months)
  • Fish (over 8.2 months)
  • Eggs (over 10.5 months)

They found that, in particular, the late introduction of fish, meat, potatoes and rye was particularly associated with the later development of asthma. They also found that the late introduction of eggs, oats, and wheat was linked to food allergies in adulthood. Again, all of this makes the timing of the introduction of solids a very delicate exercise for parents, even more so for parents of premature babies.

In summary, the best comparison of the different sources gives us the following table.

0 – 4 months (ie expiration date to expiration date plus 4 months for premature babies) Breastfeeding or formula only.

4-6 months (corrected for preemies) Okay, around month 4 it starts to get pretty detailed and specific. From then on, the process is the same as for a full-term baby, that is, new foods are introduced in a logical sequence. Research indicates that iron-fortified infant rice cereal made with breast milk (or formula) is the ideal food to start the weaning process, along with common vegetables and non-citrus fruits. A soft-tipped spoon with a long handle and a small head is ideal for feeding.

1. Gradually introduce complementary foods to the baby at 4-6 months of age, 4-6 months from the due date for a premature baby.

2. Only start if the baby shows an interest in solid foods, seems hungry after breastfeeding, or is not gaining weight according to the growth charts.

3. Don’t introduce more than 3 new foods in a week. (No more than 1 new food in a day)

4. Give complementary foods only after breastfeeding.

5. Boil the ground rice lightly with breast milk and blend until you get a fine, watery paste. A couple of tablespoons once or twice a day is an ideal start.

6. Never add sugar or salt!

7. Always allow to cool completely and feed with a spoon, never put it in a bottle.

Introductory vegetables Broccoli, carrot, cauliflower, cucumber, green beans, parsnip, peas, potato, pumpkin, sweet potato (yam), zucchini (zucchini)

Introductory fruit Apple, apricot, avocado, banana, grapes, mango, melon, nectarine, peaches, pears, plums.

At this point, it’s probably a good idea to invest in some baby food containers and a good cookbook. This turns out to be very cost effective, difficult and time consuming to prepare 2 oz (70 ml) meals individually! It is also very expensive to buy pre-prepared baby food. It’s a great idea to make your own. Make a batch and freeze. A coffee bean grinder does a great job of grinding brown rice.

6-9 months (corrected for premature babies) Your baby will probably already have some teeth. Instead of pureeing, they can now start to get a thicker texture, even minced and diced around 9 months. So these are the foods that should be introduced now. At this point, drinks from a sippy cup can be introduced. Most sources recommend just water, or maybe some expressed milk. Actually, it is just an educational exercise at the moment. Babies should not drink juice (especially citrus juices) at this time, especially before bed. If you decide to give fruit juice, make sure it is pasteurized.

Before 6 months, they should be introduced into the following food groups; Meat (chicken, turkey, lamb, beef, pork) Porridge, rice, semolina, biscuits, wheat and whole grains, bread (preferably whole wheat), pasta.

Around 7-8 months the following can be administered: yogurt, citrus, berries, tomato, kiwi.

Around 9 months, the following should be introduced: fish, cooked egg yolk (without whites), cooked dry beans, lentils, etc., baked beans, tofu.

12 months and older (corrected for preemies) We are now in the home stretch of food introduction! All dairy products can now be managed.

  • Whole cow’s milk (2/3 pint, 350 ml per day)
  • Whole Egg (yolk and white)
  • Smooth peanut butter.

Hopefully by now you will have a child ready for food success! It is a difficult and complicated process but it is very important to follow it. Childhood allergies and eczema are constantly on the rise, and why is not yet clear. Asthma and food allergies can be terrible illnesses that can last a lifetime. A little extra effort and trouble upfront will pay huge dividends in the long run.

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