Weaning & Solids - How to Begin & All You Need To Know
Updated: Mar 31
A few things to know about weaning & starting solids...
If you are weaning before the age of 6 months, your baby will still need milk as the primary source of food. Expressed milk is one way, formula is the other option. Homemade formula or anything other than those two options are not safe. Alternative milks like plant based or cows milk should be started after 1 year of age. Cows milk before 1 year can cause internal bleeding.
Solids are safest to start when your baby is showing signs of readiness like sitting up on their own unassisted so they do not choke. Reaching or eyeing your food. Older than 6 months and 4 months at the youngest; this is when they gut lining starts to mature to handle things other than human milk or formula.
Did you know your baby does not have to start eating baby cereal or purées? They can go straight to whole soft appropriate sized foods if they are 6 months. This method is called baby led weaning. I like the website www.babyledweaning.com
When is it safest to start solids?
Solids and baby cereal are not recommended for babies until 6 months of age due to immaturity of the stomach / digestive tract, choking hazards and increased risk for allergies and asthma.
Should I give my baby cereal?
Cereal in a bowl with a spoon, not in a bottle is safest after 4-6 months. Oatmeal vs. rice cereal is the preferred choice for health concerns and nutrition reasons of rice cereal having higher amounts of aresenic.
Cereal will not make your baby sleep longer. Plus sleeping too deeply is associated with SIDS. Do not expect a baby to sleep through the night (5-6 hours or more) until 3 months or later. They need to wake up often in the early months to be able to eat in the night to continue to put on weight and grow. Baby will wake or has to be woken up to eat first 2 weeks until they reach their birth weight.
You can make your own oatmeal cereal search it on my blog. You should not try this until after 4 - 6 months and mix with breastmilk or formula. You can go straight to baby foods after 6 months; you don't have to use cereal. The boxed ones are pretty tasteless and nutrient empty. All babies don't like baby cereal.
What if my baby doesn't want solids?
If your baby does not want solids at 6 months, that is OK! Follow their lead, don't rush them, they are waiting because they are not ready. Some babies don't want solids until they are 9 months or even up to 12 months. If your baby is not taking solids by 12 months, don't panic, contact your pediatrician and ask for an OT (Occupational therapy) referral. They might need a physical and/or sensory evaluation.
If your baby is 6 months or younger:
If your baby is 6 months and eating solids, weaning might look a little different for you depending on their age. Milk intake decreases gradually and slowly over time, but they will still require it as their primary source of nutrition for a few more months. Baby led weaning is a method of solid feeding but does not mean you need to wean your baby from breastmilk. If you are ready to wean from breastmilk, they will require a milk substitute like formula to meet their needs.
Dangerous Foods For Under 12 months:
Cows milk and honey are both dangerous before 12 months. It can cause internal bleeding, respiratory problems and other serious health complications.
If your baby is 12 months or older and you do not want to offer cows milk, plant based options are available. Pea protein and almond-cashew blend are popular amongst plant based eating babies/parents. These also both meet the caloric and nutritional needs of a baby this age. Other options like soy & oat are also common but speak with your pediatrician to see how else they can meet their needs with these options.
Note: Soy can cause reproductive issues in girls. Coconut milk does not meet the needs. Other milks should be discussed with your pediatrician before going solo on them to make sure your baby's caloric dietary needs are met for proper growth.
Good first foods are: bananas, avocados, sweet potatoes, anything soft and easily mashable. My favorite resources for solids are Zaynes Plate and Solid Starts
Now that you have some information on solids and weaning, you should feel more comfortable making an informed decision on infant feeding choices!