Weaning refers to the process of introducing food other than mother's milk to the baby's diet. Doctors recommend exclusive breast feeding until the baby is at least six months old. Mother’s milk contains all the essential nutrients that she needs. But as she grows, her jaw begins to develop and her food requirements change. This is the time to gradually wean her off the breast and introduce more variety into her diet.
Weaning may be a difficult time for both mother and baby. While for the baby it may represent a loss of security (notice how easily a crying baby is pacified when she is held to the breast), for the mother it is not easy either. In practical terms, it means she has to abandon the convenience of breastfeeding anywhere she needs to, for the effort involved in planning many nutritious meals for the baby, and feeding them to her. The mother’s physiology also undergoes a change at this time. Her breasts may ache with unexpressed milk, she may experience weight gain while her pre-weaning appetite adjusts to the reduced calorific demands of weaning.
Weaning need not, however, be a painful process for either mother or baby. If done “gradually, and with love” (the La Leche League motto), weaning can turn out to be a positive experience for both.
 When is a Good Time For Weaning?
There is no right or wrong age to wean, as long as it is after the baby is at least six months old. Prolonged breastfeeding, whenever possible, is good for your baby. However, when your baby shows signs that she is ready for more, it is better to wean her gradually rather than all of a sudden.
 Signs that your Baby is Ready to be Weaned
Look out for certain developmental signs that indicate your baby may be ready to be weaned.
The baby is able to sit well supported, holding her head up and controlling head movements.
She has doubled her birth weight.
She shows signs that she is unsatisfied after a full milk feed. Many babies start demanding increasing and more frequent milk feeds. Others resume waking up in the middle of the night because they are hungry. These are all signs that the baby may need more food than the breast can provide.
The baby may also show a lot of interest in the food others eat, even trying to grab it and put it in her mouth. Or she may make chewing motions when she watches older people eat.
She shows signs of developing a pincer grasp, which would enable her to pick up something and put it in her mouth.
The tongue thrust reflex protects a baby too young from consuming food (this is why when babies are first fed pureed food, most of it dribbles out). So it is important to watch out for signs that she is able to, and willing to chew before starting weaning.
 How to Start
Many parents find that gradual weaning is the best way to start. This can work well if you are going back to work but still want to breastfeed. When you do this, make sure you check your baby’s weight gain regularly. To do this, start by substituting one feed, the least ‘favourite’ one of the day, when the child is not mad with hunger. It helps if someone other than the mother offers this feed. While some parents swear by Bottle Feeding at this stage, others find that weaning the child later from the bottle is nearly as hard as weaning her from the breast.
After this substitute another feed that the baby is not so dependant on. Continue this way, substituting one feed at a time. Let the baby take the lead, and proceed at a pace she finds comfortable. Wait at least a few days in between each new feed before substituting another one. Often, early morning and late night nursing sessions are the quiet times when mothers and babies bond best. It may help to eliminate these two nursing times, last, while substituting the ones in between with other weaning foods.
 Top Parent Strategies
Here are some tips that have made the transition from breast feeding to other foods easier for parents.
- The golden rule of introducing any new food to the baby is to make sure she is not frantic with hunger when you do so. Hungry babies are too irritable to be excited or open to trying something new.
- Remember, for baby feeding from the breast means a lot more than mere sustenance. She derives a lot of emotional support from the act. So be extra loving and demonstrative towards her when you are weaning. Extra hugs and cuddles, her favourite toy or blanket by her side and lots of encouragement will help her through this transition easily.
- Postpone a feeding by just 15 minutes a day and shorten the duration of the feedings and you will soon find that the number of feedings will dwindle on their own.
- In many ways, weaning represents a very major change of routine for the baby. Some parents have found it useful to get their babies used to changes in routine – change the baby’s room, reschedule bath times or exchange chores with your spouse. Maybe a fortnight’s vacation in a new place might do the trick!
- Babies enjoy drinking from sipper cups at this stage. Give a little of her favourite juice or water to help her get used to the cup.
- Whenever she insists on being nursed, you could distract her with toys, books or any activity she loves (walks and warm baths often seem to work). Give her the cup or sipper after she has become engrossed in the activity.
- You can also consider making bottles less tasty for the baby by watering down the milk or by ensuring that you give her only water in bottles and milk in sippy cups.
 Weaning Foods
Here is an age-wise reckoner of weaning foods.
- When the baby is six to eight months old – Until this stage, she continues to get the bulk of her nutrition from breast milk. Add pureed fruit and vegetables, baby rice, mashed potato and yogurt to her diet. Some good fruits and vegetables to try are soft pears, apples, parsnips, cauliflower, carrots, sweet potatoes, green peas, broccoli and mashed ripe bananas and avocados. Many babies in the UK start off with bought baby rice, which is ground rice with some added vitamins and minerals. It has a bland taste which most babies seem to like and can be mixed with boiled, cooled water, formula milk or breast milk.
It is usually best to offer one taste at a time. It will help you to identify any reaction to a new food, such as a rash or a tummy ache. Stick to fruits, vegetables and baby rice when you first begin to introduce solid foods.
- When the baby is eight to ten months old – At this stage, a bigger variety of tastes and textures should be introduced to the baby’s diet. Fish, eggs and cereals can be given, one at a time. At this stage, children also love finger foods like steamed vegetables and boiled potatoes. Also, wheat and cow’s milk may also be given. Introduce solid foods one at a time and in small amounts at the beginning. Some babies get very constipated if they are given too much solid food early on.
- When the baby is ten months to a year – She should be enjoying three meals a day, with snacks and drinks between meals. Some babies like foods which have normal textures, as opposed to only pureed foods. Chewing is good for their developing teeth, so this should be encouraged.
- When the baby is more than one years old – She may have most of the food on the family dinner table. Remmeber to bring down her milk intake (she should not take more than 24 ounces of milk products per day). Otherwise, she may fill up and have no appetite for solid foods. Also, she may develop iron deficiency anemia.
Many mothers now prefer to feed their babies only organic food to avoid the chemicals and pesticides in regular store-bought food. To see a catalogue of some organic baby food products, visit http://www.organix.com/Content/Food-for-Babies/Our-Baby-Foods
 What foods to avoid
- There are some basic foods to avoid giving babies when they are being weaned, like salt and sugar. Don't add salt to any foods you give to babies because their kidneys can't cope with it. The baby foods you'll find on sale aren't allowed to contain salt. Limit Processed Food that is high on salt, like cold meats and cheese. Processed cereals not specifically meant for babies are also often high both in salt and sugar, and should be avoided.
- Do not give your baby juices which have added sugar. It might be best to dilute packaged natural juices as well to bring down their sugar level. Avoid adding sugar to the food or drinks you give your baby. Squashes, fizzy drinks, flavoured milk and juice drinks should be absolutely avoided, for their high sugar content leads to tooth decay.
- Another food to be avoided for till the baby is one year or more, is honey. Very occasionally, honey can contain a type of bacteria that can produce toxins in a baby's intestines, which causes infant botulism, a serious disorder.
- To avoid your baby developing Food Allergies, it may be a good idea not to give certain foods before she is six months old. These include wheat-based foods and other foods containing gluten - including bread, wheat flour, breakfast cereals and rusks (especially if a family member alrealy have a gluten allergy); nuts and seeds - including peanuts, peanut butter and other nut spreads; eggs and shellfish.
- Full-fat milk doesn't contain the right balance of nutrients to meet your baby's need – so avoid it till your baby is a year old. Give semi-skimmed milk only to two-year-olds.
- Weaning your baby
- Ask Baby
For FAQs on weaning, go to
- 0-1 Yrs: How To Wean Your Baby
For some organic weaning recipes, go to
- Stage one recipes (6 months onwards)