The Department of Health recommended back in the early 90’s that weaning or complementary feeding should be introduced to the term infant between 4-6 months of age.
This advice has changed since the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommended exclusive breastfeeding until 6 months age. Today, the revised UK guidelines recommend the introduction of complementary foods at around 6 months with the acknowledgment that some infants may be ready to feed earlier as developmentally, every baby is different.
The European Society for Paediatric Gastroenterology Hepatology and Nutrition (ESPGHAN) guidelines also conclude that:
- Exclusive or full breastfeeding for 6 months is desirable.
- Complementary feeding should not be introduced before 17 weeks and not after 26 weeks.
- Kidney and tummy function are sufficiently mature to metabolize solid from after 4 months of age.
The statement by WHO has contributed to a lot of uncertainty amongst health care professionals on how to advise parents on the best time to start weaning their infants on solids. It doesn’t help matters that the ‘Red Book’ (Personal Child health Record) given to parents shortly after the birth of their baby states to wean at 6 months!
Infants develop at different rates and therefore solids foods should start no later than 6 months (26 weeks) of age, but not before 4 months (17 weeks). Which means you can start feeding your baby solids from 17 weeks! if they are ready of course (BDA, 2013).
In my Youtube video, I explain so much more. Click the link below.
The result of delayed weaning include:
Iron deficiency anemia
Infants are generally born with adequate iron stores (unless they are born prematurely). The bioavailability of iron in breast milk/formula milk is considered to be good however it is not sustainable enough to avoid iron deficiency anemia in the infant that is weaning ready.
Food contains more nutrients and energy than milk. There comes a point where food must exceed milk intake to support healthy growth and development. In other words, food becomes more important than milk.
Increased Feeding Difficulties
Switching from milk to solids is a big change for a baby and changes will come with some form of resistance. If a child isn’t encouraged or should I say ‘pushed’ to start solid foods when they are clearly showing signs of readiness, they may become comfortable with ‘just’ drinking milk and this is a big problem. Time after time I see children who prefer to drink milk rather than eat solids and here are some of the causes 1) Lack of parental perseverance is continuing to introduce solid foods. 2) Parental fears and worry regarding gagging and/or choking. 3) Delayed weaning ( i.e. baby was ready at 4 months but parents waited until 6 months because of guidelines.
Excessive milk intake can cause weight loss, iron deficiency anaemia, fear of food and faddy eating behaviours.
Everyone is an individual and not every baby is ready at 6 months. Some are in fact ready a lot earlier than that. With that being said I want to conclude this blog post with:
We may wean our children from 17 weeks and not later than 6 months. If your baby is ready, why wait?
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This is my personal opinion. Please note that this information neither is medical advice nor is it meant to replace the advice of your doctor or dietitian and I assume no liability for the use or misuse of this information.