National Weaning Week insight
This week 4th-10th May is National Weaning Week, designed to support parents in weaning their babies onto solid foods.
Whilst milk is the only food a baby needs in the first months of life, from six months the infant’s nutrition needs to start to broaden to support their development.
In order for babies to be ready for solid foods, they need to be able to sit confidently with support AND hold their head straight up on their own, as well as showing good hand-eye coordination, so they are able to look at food, pick it up and put it in their mouth themselves.
Just because your baby is doing any of the following does not necessarily mean they are ready to wean – chewing fists, reaching for other people’s food, waking in the night or wanting more milk.
Tips for weaning a baby
When you are confident your child is ready to start weaning, try the following tips:
- Offer foods around the size of your finger that your baby can easily get hold of and suck/chew on – cooked carrot, pumpkin and other vegetable sticks, avocado chunks, stewed or soft fruit, banana,
- Do not give soft round foods like grapes or cherry tomatoes as they are a choking hazard.
- Foods can be pureed and/or mashed, but don’t need to be – just make sure they are soft enough for your baby to suck or chew with the few teeth they may have.
- Start weaning at a time of day that suits your baby – when they are not sleepy, grumpy or distracted.
- Make sure you have a couple of options available, have lots of time and space and are prepared for the mess.
- If the first (or second or third!) attempt at getting your baby to try new foods doesn’t go to plan, try again the next day or a few days later.
- Reduce your baby’s daily milk consumption slowly as you introduce solid foods.
Weaning and the gut microbiome
The first 2-3 years of life are the period in which our gut microbiome develops, after which it is set for life. As the composition of our gut bacteria is associated with later health and disease, it is important that the introduction of solid foods should also consider gut health and the development of a healthy gut microbiota.
A varied diet is a key to supporting gut health and bacterial diversity both during infancy and into adulthood. As well as bacteria from the mother, breastmilk contains galactooligosaccharides, which are prebiotic fibres that help to feed friendly bacteria in the gut and support gut and immune development.
Starting national weaning week with lots of vegetables will help to ensure that your baby is getting the fibre required to support gut health. Fermented vegetables can be introduced after around seven months once your baby is more established on solid foods and these will help to introduce more beneficial bacteria to your baby’s gut. Using organic fruits and vegetables wherever possible can help to avoid exposure to pesticides and other chemicals used in farming, which can affect the gut lining.
Chicken and other broths have a number of benefits for the gut lining and can also be given to babies from around seven months to start to introduce protein and healthy fat. Bone broth can also be added to vegetable purees and other foods.
There are many books and online plans available discussing how to wean your baby, although many do not include a reference to the importance of supporting the development of the microbiome and we would recommend always keeping this in mind. A friendly bacteria supplement designed specifically for babies can help support this development, particularly if your baby is a fussy eater and is struggling to eat a variety of fibre-rich vegetables.
More information on tips and recipes for National Weaning Week can be found here at the weaning week website.
Want to know more?
Pro-Ven Probiotics aim to provide the best support for both you and your health. If you wish to know more about gut health and staying healthy please do not hesitate to call us on 01639 825107 or alternatively, learn more via our blogs or in-depth proven research.
ProVen Probiotics, Unit 2 Christchurch Road, Baglan Industrial Park, Port Talbot, SA12 7DJ. Tel: 01639 825107