Weaning Infants and Introducing Solids

Weaning should be related to the individualized needs and desires of both mother and infant. Nursing is recommended for at least 6 months, preferably longer and until the baby weans itself. During the first 6 months, breastfeeding should be the sole source of nutrition, until solids are added. Gradual weaning over weeks or months is preferable, however it is important to be aware that infants may continue to desire 1-2 nursings/day until the age of 18-36 months. In these cases the infants should also be receiving solids and fluids by cup.

One breastfeed a day may be replaced by a bottle of goat’s (or rice) formula from approximately 7 months. However it is ideal to express milk if a feed is going to be missed.

A young infant’s gastrointestinal tract is very immature (obviously!) and susceptible to infection, inflammation and irritation. Breastfeeding provides immunity against infections and in fact the gastrointestinal tract and the bacteria it contains will continue to provide a large part of the growing child’s immune response. The right bacteria are kept in place by breast milk and can be put out of balance easily with an inappropriate diet or infection.

Initiating solids
Not needed until 6 months, however some may start earlier. It is best to introduce foods individually to assess tolerance/allergic response. Many commercial baby foods, especially desserts and soup mixes are high in starch, offering no minerals or vitamins and are high in calories and cellulose which is poorly digested by infants. Also watch for sodium content. Pureed home foods are more nutritious choices. Cow’s milk, wheat, eggs, chocolate, oranges and peanuts should be avoided until the child is at least 1 year old to prevent unnecessary food sensitivities. Easily digestible protein sources should be chosen. These include tofu and yoghurt (goat, sheep, cow, soy).

Common problems

May wake 1-2 hours after feeding.
Weight gain < 200-250g/week in infants under the age of 4 months is inadequate.

This does not generally occur if the baby is exclusively breastfed.
May cry and regurgitate excessively.
Problems of obesity may occur in later life.
Gluten or dairy intolerance    
Excessive sugar      
Malabsorption or allergy
Dairy intolerance
Anal stenosis or fissure

The top allergy foods and their alternatives

Wheat   buckwheat, rice
Oranges  pears, apples, mangoes, etc 
Eggs   fish, legumes, seeds (ground to a meal)
Milk   goat’s, rice, soy, oat milks
Dairy   tahini, avocado, goat’s cheese, seaweed (for calcium)

Signs of allergy include:

Colic, diarrhoea/constipation, cradle cap, eczema, asthma, dark circles under the eyes

When to introduce solids

When baby puckers the mouth, is losing weight or cries from hunger shortly after feeding. Always give the breast first, then solids to ensure adequate intake of nutrients.

Age Appropriate Foods

6 months – first foods Root vegetables, pumpkin, sweet potato, parsnips, avocado, pears, apples, banana

7-8 months Rice cereal (can use brown rice if cooked till soggy and blended in a blender, or rolled brown rice is softer and easy to cook), potato, zucchini, marrows, green leafy vegetables

8-9 months Millet cereal

10-11 months Tofu, fish

11-12 months Oats, wheat, red meat if desired

12 months Tahini, yoghurt, legumes, dairy if desired, citrus, corn/polenta

2 years Nuts and seeds, organic eggs. Diet should be varied.

Dilute 1:4 – 1:8 juice to water. No citrus till 12 months.

Celery sticks frozen

Goat’s milk formula is the closest to mother’s milk. Ensure that you use an organic formula such as Bellamy’s or Holle. May try alternating formulas to avoid development of intolerance. Never use milk straight from the carton.

©Emma Sutherland 2010