Take 5: Weaning, Feeding and Nursing

Many mums worry that when their little one starts weaning, they can no longer breastfeed, this is not the case. Babies can eat solid foods and continue to benefit from mother’s breastmilk. Like all stages of parenting, there is lots to consider and in today’s post Sioned advises on x5 of the most frequently asked questions.

Baby Bowl with food in / Mother and baby in back ground

Weaning, Feeding and Breastfeeding, your questions answered!

  1. How do I know if my little one is ready for weaning?

When babies breastfeed they suck, swallow and breathe removing milk by vacuum. Babies have difficulty supporting their heads and posture before 4-5 month of age. However, around 5-6 months of age, babies show physical and developmental cues that they are ready to wean, as well as taking an interest in family meals. These signs include: the ability to sit up without ‘flopping’ and good head control, as these are essential to coordinate the oral maturation of the mouth and tongue to chew - moving food from the tip of the tongue to the back and then swallowing, without compromising baby’s breathing and triggering gag reflex. Some babies wean later than 6 months and wait.

There is no need to mash or puree food if following the baby-led weaning route, just cut to bite size foods, supervise and let your baby experience eating as a family – it is such a social thing to eat together.  Your baby can go straight onto lots of different foods but it is advisable to give more savoury foods and minimise the desserts to reduce sweet food habits.  There will be some food that they love and others they dislike. Breastmilk tastes sweet so starting with foods such as parsnip, sweet potato, carrot or soft fruits for those early tastes. If they dislike, try again later on.

For more information on baby led weaning talk to your Health Visitor or family nurse. You can also visit the baby-led weaning website.

 

  1. If my baby is always hungry after feeds, should I start weaning?

The answer to this is that your baby is possibly going through a growth spurt, and not that milk supply is diminishing; this usually falls around 3- 4 months.  Mums tend to feel a little vulnerable as baby’s feeding pattern changes with more frequent feeds but it’s usually in response to the surges in growth for brain development, and the extra activity your baby does through play and wake time. When mums have a flexible feeding pattern, breastfeeding continues and mums’ breastmilk supply adapts to their growing baby’s needs, until around 6 months of age where the introduction of solids and weaning is recommended. Talk to your Health Visitor for further reassurance and address any concerns you may have.

 

  1. What about Breastfeeding?

From the first few weeks to months after you start weaning, breastfeeding is still your baby’s main food source and it is advisable to offer the breast first before offering the meal to meet hunger cues. Later on you will find that your baby will take more food at the meal, and will naturally adapt their meal times, so switch to offer food first and then the breast.

There will be times when your baby chooses not to have a meal, he may be teething, under the weather with a cold, or just wants lots of breastfeeds, follow your baby’s lead – take a break and try again a few days later.

 

  1. Will my little one still wake for night feeds?

Many mums think that when their babies move onto solids that’s good bye to night feeds but this often is not the case. In the early weeks of weaning babies often wake or feed more as their tummies adapt, reaching out to mum to make them feel settled. Usually night feeds adjust a little but it is worth remembering that baby wakes for many reasons and not just hunger, it’s a time where mum and baby catch up and enjoy their intimate time.

 

  1. If I continue to breastfeed while my baby moves to solids, will biting increase?

Occasionally a baby may bite or chomp at the nipple which can be painful and unexpected. This is because when they eat solids the mouth works in a different way to sucking. Your baby is experiencing lots of new tastes and textures as well as learning through different tools, for example using a spoon and a cup. It’s not surprising that they occasionally get muddled and go to chew or bite while breastfeeding when they are at the breast, but they will learn.

There is so much information out there, take it easy, enjoy and keep on trying new foods, textures and experiences.