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Guidelines for weaning: Transitioning from breastfeeding to solid food

ByZarafshan Shiraz, New Delhi
Jun 11, 2024 01:51 PM IST

Health expert underscores the importance of weaning and shares tips on how to deal with this transitional phase of breastfeeding to solid food

The transition from shifting to solid food from breastfeeding is considered one of the milestones in a baby's life where weaning is a process when newborns are introduced to solid food or fluids from drinking the breast milk or formula. Various reasons could influence this transitional shift in babies, such as the mother now having to get back to her workplace or routine after a long gap, the baby recently turning around 4-6 months or simply parents or family members feeling like it's the right time.

Guidelines for weaning: Transitioning from breastfeeding to solid food (Photo by MART PRODUCTION on Pexels)

When to start feeding solid food or weaning is a personal decision taken by the parents and the family members collectively. In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Sanju Sidaraddi, Consultant - Pediatrician and Neonatologist at Motherhood Hospitals in Navi Mumbai's Kharghar, highlighted the signs that your baby is ready to wean from breastfeeding -

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• When your baby starts to sit without any support or can balance their head on their own

• They can swallow breast milk without throwing up

• When they seem least interested or become cranky and fussy while being feed

• The feeding time gets shorter over time

• Curious when the family members are eating food, and trying to grab food from your plate

• Constantly chewing their thumb or fingers

• The baby is sucking the breast for comfort but isn't drawing out the milk

Talking about the approaches to start feeding solid food, Dr Sanju Sidaraddi suggested -

  1. At the right age: Parents or family members are advised not to be in too hurry and to start early weaning. It could lead to several health issues and concerns in the baby such as asthma, digestive problems like loose stool, constipation or gas, obesity, and allergic reactions. Parents should wait for the right time and the right age to start feeding solid food. The ideal age to start complementary feed is 6 months but in selected cases pediatricians consider early initiation at 4 months.
  2. Please do not focus on quantity: In the initial days, parents should focus more on feeding the right quantity of food instead of force-feeding them. The goal should be to make them eat and not how much they are eating. Once they get used to the idea of eating solid food and get habituated, eating will become interesting. Force-feeding or overeating could lead to vomiting right after eating, getting constipated, or experiencing loose motions.
  3. Start with simple one-ingredient meals: Do not go over the board by preparing fancy, heavier meals for the baby which could easily hurt their digestive system and result in stomach-related problems. Start with simple and basic foods or ingredients that take less effort to chew, have a subtle taste, and are easy to digest. Easy and lighter foods like mashed fruits, vegetables like sweet potato, apple, and banana, daily (porridge), soft mushy rice and leftover broth of steamed dal are the best ways to start.
  4. Don't go cold turkey with breastfeeding: Mothers are advised not to abruptly stop breastfeeding their babies, it is essential to give them space and time to get used to this new transition in their lives. Going cold shoulders can make them cranky and fussy throughout the day which can ruin the whole family environment as well as their health. Instead, shorten their nursing time gradually, or just spoon-feed or bottle-feed them for the whole day and only breastfeed them at night, this can help create a habit.

Dr Sanju Sidaraddi advised, “After starting with solids, parents or family members are advised to pay close attention to the baby after every meal for any signs of indigestion or allergic reaction. It can be very normal for them to be fussy and reject solids at first, but it is also important to not force feed. Weaning is considered one of the significant changes that the baby undergoes which resembles growth and development. Consulting a pediatrician can help get personalized medical guidance and diet plans for the baby according to the body's nutritional requirements and needs.”

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