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Weaning: The ins and outs

By Zita Ronald BSc RD, BA Psych

Although there are many schools of thought regarding when to begin weaning, the vague consensus is that infants can be weaned between 4 and 6 months. Breast milk is nutritionally adequate until six months; this said weaning should be individually decided according to the characteristics outlined below.

Characteristics required beginning weaning:

  • Putting toys in mouth
  • Chewing on fists and fingers
  • Watching others with interest when eating
  • Hungry between feeds
  • Requiring larger feeds than normal
  • Disturbed sleep which was previously not disturbed
  • Hold neck up
  • Able to sit 

There are two main trains of thought regarding weaning. The first being spoon feeding and the second is baby- led weaning (BLW).

Spoon-feeding is the introduction of solid foods to infants via spoon feeding puree, fed by the infants’ caregiver. Baby led weaning (BLW) is the introduction of solid foods to infants through a process of exploration at their own pace without the caregiver spoon feeding the infant.

Baby led weaning is an independent process rather than the passive spoon feeding alternative. The independent feeding process curbs the cohesive and frustration of spoon fed meal times but both methods offer benefits for establishing a healthy eating relationship for your child.

Table of pros and cons of baby led weaning (BLW)

ProsCons
Increased dexterity and hand eye co ordinationTime consuming process 
Exploration or textures, tastes, colours and shapes from an early age.Increased mess
Establish a positive relationship with food from an early age (rather than the passive cohesive process of spoon feeding)Requires high level of patience
Infants learn to control their gag reflex in their own time rather than being forced to do this to a schedule.Could take a longer time to for infant to be completely weaned
Increased independence

It should be noted that there is a chance of choking with BLW as there is with spoon feeding, therefore parents should not leave infants unattended as well as weaning only taking place once infant has gained neck control and is able to sit.

Both methods have their pros and cons and each parent should take their unique child and their family circumstances into consideration when deciding on a feeding method. A combination of both could be useful as both methods have positive characteristics that will assist you in introducing your baby to a healthy food relationship. 

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