Babymoov’s nutritionist and weaning expert, Julia Wolman, dispels 10 common myths associated with weaning as part of the #stresslessweaning campaign to help banish the anxieties expressed by parents when they start to wean their baby.
MYTH 1: ‘Babies can't eat lumps without teeth’ - They can. A baby’s gums are strong enough to deal with soft lumps from about 6-7 months!
MYTH 2: ‘Babies shouldn't play with their food’ – Whilst the clean-up effort may prove a chore, it’s really important to allow baby to play with their food. It’s a part of the learning process. Mealtimes are more than merely eating food, for baby it’s also a time for tactile stimulation and sensory input. Not only do they learn about the colours, textures and tastes of food but they also begin learning how to self-feed - and when they throw food on the floor they are learning about gravity! #messisbest!
MYTH 3: ‘Weaning will help babies sleep through the night’ – The idea that solids will help your baby sleep is an old wives’ tale that has been disproven by medical studies. For young infants in particular, food and sleep should be viewed separately as there is no direct correlation between the two.
MYTH 4: ‘You should introduce a new food every 3 days’ – You can introduce a new food every day. Try mixing new foods with flavors your baby has already sampled.
MYTH 5: ‘It's up to mum to decide how much the baby should eat’ - Wrong! Babies have terrific built-in systems for gauging when they need food and when they’ve had enough. If you let your child follow the cues of his/her natural appetite, they’ll eat what they need to fuel their growth and development without overdoing it. Look out for cues from your baby, such as, closing the mouth and refusing to open it, turning the head away, slowing the pace of feeding, pushing food away, and shaking head. Some babies may cry when they've had enough too.
MYTH 6: ‘Babies are ready for weaning when they chew their fists’ - Not necessarily, this may be because baby has recently discovered their fists (around 4-months), or it could be a result of teething.
MYTH 7: ‘Babies need bland / added flavor’ – Preference is a function of exposure. Babies will grow accustomed to what they’re fed; if exclusively served bland foods, they’ll learn to love bland, just as they would adapt and learn to love sweet and bitter tastes if they’re fed these all the time. Variety is the key. It’s good to introduce as many tastes and textures early on to prevent food fussiness at a later stage.
MYTH 8: ‘Baby must be precisely six months old before weaning’ – Until the age of six months (26 weeks) babies get all the nutrition they need from their milk. Weaning should therefore be started at or around this time. This is however a guideline age and not a hard-and-fast rule! Every baby is different and so too is the pace at which s/he develops. You can often take cues from your baby; curiosity and interest in food, good hand-to-mouth coordination, chewing motions made with the mouth.
MYTH 9: ‘Food is just for fun until they’re one’ – This is not entirely accurate, the weaning experience should of course be fun but once you’ve reduced the breastmilk/formula intake, solids will form a supplement to baby’s nutrient and vitamin intake. From about six months of age, the iron stores that babies are born with, begin to deplete, so getting iron from the diet becomes an important part of weaning in the first year. At 9-11 months of age, for example, the proportion of the Recommended Nutrient Intake that needs to be supplemented by complementary foods is 97% for iron, 86% for zinc, 81% for phosphorus, 76% for magnesium, 73% for sodium and 72% for calcium.
MYTH 10: ‘If you’re taking a baby-led weaning approach, you can’t spoon feed purees’ – This is not true. You don’t need to adopt an exclusive approach to the means and method by which you feed your baby. Finger foods can - and should - be introduced alongside spoon-fed purees, just as spoon-fed purees can be introduced alongside finger foods. Taking a mixed approach can help with the introduction of different textures, as well as nutritional content. It’s also a useful means by which to introduce cutlery.