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October 28th, 2023
By Faith McNamara

Baby Weaning: Expert Advice from Maternity Nurses to Help with the Transition

Weaning a baby is a significant milestone that requires careful consideration and planning. It marks the transition from exclusive breastfeeding or formula feeding to introducing solid foods. Many parents may feel uncertain about when to start and what foods to introduce first. In this article, we will explore some common questions about baby weaning with expert Maternity Nurses.

To gain a more comprehensive understanding of the baby-weaning process, we conducted interviews with two Little Ones Licensed Maternity Nurses. They offered us invaluable insight into the firsthand experience of weaning a large group of babies.

How do you determine when it’s the right time to start weaning a baby?

The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of a baby's life, followed by the introduction of solid foods while continuing to breastfeed until at least two years of age.

However, some babies may show signs of readiness for solid foods before the six-month mark, such as sitting up with support and showing interest in food by reaching for it or opening their mouths. It is crucial to consult with a paediatrician to determine if the baby is ready for solid foods and discuss the appropriate time to start weaning.

Gloria is a Maternity Nurse who has been doing this for over 20 years. She told us that many babies nowadays start wanting food earlier than WHO guidelines suggest - either by refusing milk or overconsuming milk, sometimes as early as 4 months old.

She suggested that a small teaspoon of baby food a day could be given to slowly introduce them to the idea of food without causing intestinal issues.

We also spoke to Maternity Nurse Rita who’s been doing this for over 20 years. She also mentioned that feeding a baby too much too early can cause gastroenteritis, which can lead to sickness, diarrhoea and a lot of crying. The WHO guidelines were introduced to lower sickness rates in babies.

What are the first steps you should take when starting weaning?

The first step is to introduce single-ingredient pureed or mashed foods, such as vegetables or fruits, one at a time. This is to identify any potential allergies or intolerances. It is also essential to start with small amounts and gradually increase the quantity and variety of foods as the baby's appetite and tolerance increase. It is recommended to introduce one new food every three to five days.

Both Maternity Nurses unequivocally agreed that the mother has the ultimate authority when it comes to any decisions regarding her baby, particularly when it comes to meal times. Both new and experienced mothers make decisions based on their research and knowledge, and Maternity Nurses are there to provide support and guidance, not to challenge or impose their ideas.

Both Nurses firmly believe that helping to guide a mother through the process is the best way to ensure that everyone is happy.

What are the most recommended weaning foods you should try first?

Nutrient-dense and easy-to-digest foods should be the first choices for your baby. Examples of such foods include pureed sweet potato, mashed banana, avocado, and cooked carrots. It’s highly recommended to introduce iron-rich foods, such as pureed meats, beans, and lentils, as these are essential for the development of your baby.

Introducing these foods early on will ensure that your baby is receiving the necessary nutrients for healthy growth and development.

Nurse Gloria strongly suggests beginning with vegetables and pulses, as fruits are very sweet and, if introduced first, may lead to a preference for sweet foods over the more plain vegetables. Therefore, it is more likely that children will be willing to try the vegetables and pulses if they are presented first.

What do you do differently with fussy babies?

Fussy eaters will require extra patience and encouragement to ensure their nutritional needs are met. Mothers are advised to continue offering a variety of foods and not force the baby to eat.

Making mealtime fun and interactive, such as allowing the baby to explore the food with their hands or giving them a spoon to hold, can help encourage their interest in eating. It is also recommended to try different textures and flavours to find what the baby likes.

The Maternity Nurses we interviewed suggest that if a mum or Nanny struggling to get the fussy baby to eat, distraction will likely be the key to success. Distracting a baby during mealtime can help to take their focus away from the food and onto something else.

This can be done by engaging them in conversation, playing a game, or providing them with a toy to play with. Additionally, you can make mealtime fun by singing songs, playing music, or telling stories.

How can you work with a Maternity Nurse if you have contradicting ideas about your baby’s diet?

As a Maternity Nurse, it’s important to respect the parents' wishes and cultural practices while also ensuring the baby's nutritional needs are met. Educating parents on the importance of balanced and varied nutrition is paramount to helping them make informed decisions about their baby's diet.

A Maternity nurse will offer alternative suggestions that align with your preferences and values. Having an open and respectful dialogue with parents to find common ground and ensure the baby's well-being is fundamental.

Maternity Nurses, such as Gloria and Rita, are invaluable aid to mothers, providing essential support and guidance throughout the postpartum period. While Nannies and Nurses can advise and make suggestions regarding diet and nutrition, the ultimate decision lies with the parents. Parents are the ultimate authority when it comes to the care of their children, and their wishes should be respected and followed.

Weaning a baby can be a challenging and exciting journey for the baby, the parents and the Maternity Nurse or Nanny. It is essential to consult with a paediatrician and take a gradual and patient approach in order to ensure the baby's health and safety.

Introducing nutrient-dense foods, being creative with mealtimes, and having open communication with parents will help make the process of weaning a positive experience. The baby weaning process should be tailored to the individual needs of the baby and the parents.

All care providers should be mindful of babies’ developmental milestones and adjust the weaning process accordingly. With the right guidance and support, this can be a rewarding and enjoyable experience for everyone involved.

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