When Should You Wean Your Baby?

This is a writing sample from Scripted writer Olufisola Agboola

When Should You Wean Your Baby? In spite of the richness of breast milk and the joy of breast feeding one's baby, a time comes when the baby has to be weaned. Weaning, or getting the baby to take solid, normal or adult food, must happen because the baby will reach a stage in its development when breast milk becomes insufficient to provide the nutrients that the baby needs to continue its growth. Timing is important in weaning. Too early weaning will mean introduction of food other than breast milk into the baby's system when it is not developed enough to cope with food other than breast milk or formula milk. Too late weaning will mean that the baby would be without nutrients that are required for its growth. The consequences of too early weaning include infections, allergies, intolerance and organ damage while too late weaning may retard the development of the child. Both situations could have far reaching effects on the child later in life. Mothers might be tempted to wean too early for some reasons or signs which are not proven to be indications for weaning. Such signs include the baby chewing fists, watching with fascination while adults eat, getting hungrier due to growth spurts before six months, doubling of birth weight, cries-for-comfort mistaken for hunger cries and night waking. Pressure to wean early could also come from peers who think that they have done early weaning without repercussions whereas some of the repercussions of early weaning manifest much later in life. When mothers are faced with reasons like the need to return to work, a sick baby, sick mother, baby biting, refusal to suck, pregnancy or return of menstrual cycle, help should be sought on how to continue to breast feed their babies in those circumstances. It is not advisable to introduce babies to solids before the age of six months. Health practitioners in fact advise that babies be exclusively fed on breast milk until they are six months. Before six months, the immune system, guts and kidneys of the baby are not mature enough to handle solids or adult food. Therefore, in a baby under six months, adult food may lead to infections and bad reaction to food. In addition to foods like honey, salt, added sugar, peanuts, shark, swordfish, marlin, cow milk and high fibre foods which are unsafe for children under twelve months, it is unsafe to give foods like cereals, eggs, fish, liver, soya, and citrus to a baby under six months. At six months, the baby is developed enough to be able to cope with a variety of foods and the process of eating them, a development that makes weaning easier, faster and healthy. Moreover, from six months, the baby actually benefits from solid food. The unmistakable signs that a baby is ready for solids include the ability to sit up and hold the head steady, coordinate hands and mouth to pick food and put it in the mouth and to swallow food instead of pushing it out with the tongue. A mother who has any reason to feel that her baby should be weaned before six months and before any of the recommended signs should seek medical or health advice.

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Olufisola Agboola
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