Since we were children a lot of the advice on baby care has changed, a fact which seems to completely escape people when it comes to weaning.
When we were nearing the 4 month mark I heard a lot of ‘well we started solids at 12 weeks and mine were fine’ from the older generation, with little consideration to the facts that more recent research have provided.
Fact – My mother decided from 6 weeks onwards that we all needed a crushed rusk biscuit in our last bottle before bed.
Also fact – I have a huge intolerance to egg of any variety, enough so that even a drop of powdered in food will leave me writhing on the floor in pain nowadays. This translates to similar issues for at least 2 of my 4 siblings as well, although not necessarily with egg. It could be a total coincidence but then again it could not.
The guidelines on weaning with babies changed due to research being conducted and a new link being noticed between early weaning and digestive issues later in life. For me obviously this would be the egg intolerance I developed at around 20 years old. The research identified that for the majority of babies their digestive system is not yet mature enough to handle solids and all the joys that go with them.
The current guidelines from the WHO (World Health Organisation) recommend from 6 months, but only if your baby is showing the 3 signs of readiness:
- Can sit upright unaided in a highchair (Doesn’t mean they need to be able to sit unsupported on the floor, the chair supports them)
- The tongue thrust reflex is gone (Meaning they won’t just be pushing everything back out)
- Firm head control
I’ve seen all sorts of horrendous images of early weaning happening where the above 3 signs of readiness are definitely being ignored. I know there is a lot of coverage at present about not mum shaming and instead supporting everyone but I find it very difficult to support something I feel so strongly against. I mean, I’ve seen photographs of babies being fed in a reclined bouncer seat on the floor – I think it would actually be morally wrong to support a choking hazard just on the basis that we should all be giving each other a pat on the back. That’s not to say I’m going to run around shouting at everyone who dared give their child food before 6 months, I’m just not going to support doing it before they’re obviously ready.
Advice from health visitors can be a bit of a lucky dip in this department too. From 4 months there is a developmental spurt which can leave babies fussy (it certainly did with Baby B) and at times the go to advice has been to just give food. For us it would not have made a difference as we had a multitude of other issues going on, for others it can be the solution to their problems. Each child does develop differently though, which is why guidelines are just that. I probably wouldn’t recommend jumping straight to 3 meals a day at 4 months though – those nappies are horrendous.
Now obviously, there are times when early weaning may be a necessity. For instance, in times of severe reflux issues a GP may recommend early weaning as a measure to try and get some heavier food into your baby and boost their nutritional intake. This sort of thing I have no problem with whatsoever, medical reasons such as this make sense if you’re really struggling to keep any nutrients in your child and will often just be starting with things like baby porridge or super smooth fruit purees anyway.
We were advised to wean Baby B early as she is going to be having an operation to repair her cleft palate and they are insistent on solids being taken before discharge at the hospital. I have to admit I have ignored this advice entirely. Her palate is not due to be repaired until she is 10 months old so I felt that weaning from 4 months in our situation was not at all necessary and instead went from 6 months. She has taken to it brilliantly and eats a wide range of things at 8 months so I have no regrets here. Our only struggle seems to be with chewing harder lumps of food, I’m not certain if this is related to her cleft but she needs to have any meat blended into oblivion before I add it to any of her other mashed foods.