Weaning, the 11 FUNDAMENTAL things to know

Weaning, the 11 FUNDAMENTAL things to know
Fonte: Deymos Photo / Alamy / IPA

Once upon a time there was rigid weaning schedule which was proposed by pediatricians to families when the child reached four to five months of age. It included the classic first porridge made with vegetable broth (strictly carrot, potato and courgette), rice or corn cream, a teaspoon of oil and one of parmesan or parmesan, to which other ingredients were gradually added, according to an order and a very precise timing, in the belief that the introduction of some foods should be delayed as much as possible to avoid risk of allergies.


Today this concern has been averted: we know that it is not the time to introduce food during weaning that affects the baby's risk of developing allergies, so there is no problem giving him strawberries, fish or eggs as early as six or seven. months of age (if you like them). Many pediatricians, however, continue to propose one squite schematic fondling (albeit less rigid), with the idea that the child cannot and should not eat exactly what grown-ups eat. Others, on the other hand, propose an alternative and increasingly widespread way, based on the concept of "responsive" nutrition (that responds to the signals and needs of the child): theself-weaning o complementary power supply on request.


It is the street made famous in Del Paese by the book I wean alone by the pediatrician Lucio Piermarini, published for the first time in 2008, supported in the volume I eat alone, treated in 2022 by the Research Unit on the hospital's health services maternal and infantile of Trieste and indicated by the cultural association pediatricians in its "point of view" on complementary nutrition published in 2022. "And it is also a path that has many affinities with fundamental teachings of Maria Montessori, starting with the insistence onobservation of the child as a starting point for any interaction. "Word of Frank DeLuca, now a freelance pediatrician (formerly a community pediatrician in a Roman clinic), president of the Montessori Birth Center, to whom mymodernparents.com asked for some further information on the topic of self-weaning. We see.


In this article

  • what self-weaning really is
  • when you can start
  • how to offer the baby first foods
  • hands or spoon?
  • what to start with
  • are adult foods okay?
  • the role of the pediatrician
  • what the baby should eat
  • foods to avoid
  • salt
  • if the child does not eat
  • the risk of suffocation

1 What self-weaning really is and what does it have to do with Montessori pedagogy

"It is a so-called feeding proposal responsive, which places the child himself and his needs at the center of the child's management "explains De Luca." So it is a proposal that takes into account the signals that the child sends - each in its individuality - and not of more or less rigid schemes, lowered from above, which put the adult at the center ".

Read also: The skills of the newborn: all the skills of the first days and weeks of life

"Just as in breastfeeding the baby sends the adult very specific signals of hunger or satiety, so at a certain moment in the first year of life - usually between the sixth and ninth month - the baby begins to signal be ready to participate in the feeding of the family ".

It is up to the adult to grasp these signals, starting precisely from observation. "You don't need to invent anything: the child arrives in an autonomous and spontaneous way to crave food 'when he grows up' and to develop the skills to be able to eat it. What adults have to do is simply accompany him on this spontaneous path. Helping him do it himself, as Montessori said ".

2 When you can start

“World Health Organization (WHO) and Unicef ​​tell us clearly that up to the sixth month of life, babies should only take mother's milk. Alternatively, infant formula: there is no reason to anticipate weaning if the baby is fed formula ”, says the pediatrician.

And it is precisely starting from the sixth month of life (in general: for some children it may happen a little earlier, for others a little later) that children begin to signal the desire to taste something else. “But be careful: the interest in what parents put in their mouths is not enough. Some babies start experiencing it as early as the fourth to fifth month, but that doesn't mean they're really ready for foods other than milk. For this to happen it is essential that they have lost the extrusion reflection, what leads them to spit out solid foods because they have not yet matured the motor skills necessary to swallow them properly. "Finally, there must be a adequate motor development, which allows the child to sit well and grasp food with his hands. "Here, this is the moment in which you can begin to taste foods - of good quality - that are part of the family's diet".

In summary, the signs that the child is ready to start the adventure of complementary feeding are:

  • interest in what mom and dad eat;
  • loss of extrusion reflex;
  • ability to sit upright;
  • ability to grasp a piece of food with the hands.

3 How to offer the baby first foods

Freeze-dried, homogenized, puree, smoothie: in the vision of self-weaning they are not needed. "They can be offered immediately solid pieces, however small"De Luca says." After all, if the baby is not yet able to swallow them, it means that he is not yet ready for weaning and that milk is enough for him. It is useless to transform other foods into liquid form in order to give them ".

4 Hands or teaspoon?

"There is no fixed rule," says the pediatrician. "It definitely goes one way sustained, when it occurs, the child's ability to take things with his hands and bring them to your mouth. On the other you can also start with a spoon or, better still, with two: one for the parent and one for the child himself who surely begins to be able to use it after the sixth month of life ".

Sometimes it happens that the baby starts weaning using the spoon, even in a very precise way, to then prefer the hands a few months later. On the other hand in addition to taste there is a lot to explore in terms of textures as well...

Read also: All his firsts, how mom and dad live them

5 What to start with

Here, one of the fundamental points of self-weaning is this: there is no basic food to start with, a first "typical" meal, also because science has made it clear that there are no restrictions on allergy risk. The child will immediately be able to taste the pappa al pomodoro like baked sea bass, a cream of lentils like the pulp of a chicken leg. Even chilli pasta: "Why not, if the child likes it? Think about how spicy is the diet - and therefore weaning - of other cultures such as the Indian one".


Weaning, what are the first baby food in the rest of the world?

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Sara Honegger in the book A world of baby food explains how children are weaned in various countries. Generally the first taste is fruit: apple, pear, banana, but also mango or papaya ....

Therefore it is not necessary to start with particular delicate and light foods, such as the classic broth or fruit puree (perhaps packaged). Indeed, from a certain point of view these are precisely the foods that make the least sense for a very young child. "The World Health Organization's Complementary Nutrition Handbook reminds us that the first thing children need is iron, which around the eighth-ninth month begins to be scarce in breast milk. For this reason it makes little sense to replace milk with fruit puree or vegetable broths, which do not have iron. Green light, on the other hand, for meat and fish or, if the child follows a vegetarian diet, legumes and vegetables particularly rich in iron ".

Read also: Supplements and vitamins for children

6 Weaning: Are Adult Foods Really Good?

The baby isn't exactly a little adult and he has specific nutritional needs: for example, they need a little more fat than those recommended for adults (40-45% of the daily caloric intake, against 30-35% for adults) and it shouldn't introduce too much protein. "However, this does not mean that these needs cannot be reconciled with a complementary diet on demand based on the family's diet: you just need to pay attention to it" explains De Luca.

Which, according to the pediatrician, does not mean having to weigh everything (which for some parents can greatly complicate their lives), but just having some foresight. So, if it seems to us that he ate a good amount of meat for lunch, we will not propose protein foods for dinner as well. And we will always be careful to season cereals and vegetables with one or two teaspoons of a good raw extra virgin olive oil.

7 Self-weaning and the role of the pediatrician
"Of course, it is important for parents to be properly informed about what is good for the child and what it is essential rules of a healthy diet to be proposed even to such a small child "confirms De Luca, underlining that he is in this regard the dialogue of the family with the pediatrician is fundamental, who has the most up-to-date scientific knowledge, while parents know their child better than anyone else. "This is why I think a meeting with the pediatrician on weaning shouldn't last less than an hour, even though I know that in daily practice this is rarely the case."

According to De Luca, from the middle of the last century to the present day, there has been aexcessive medicalisation of the infant's diet, which gave the parents the impression that they had no skills. "But it is not so. On the other hand, it is true that the pediatrician has specific knowledge and the best thing that can be done is to join forces, for the good of the child", says the doctor, who recognizes the pediatrician as well. role of "facilitator" that Maria Montessori indicated for the masters. "As parents and teachers they should help children do it for themselves, like this pediatricians should help parents do it on their own".

Come? "Reasoning together about the quality of their nutrition and on any changes to be made so that it is more in line with the particular needs of the child ".

8 Self-weaning: what the baby should eat

As the book I eat alone clearly recalls, the basis of our diet is constituted by carbohydrates: pasta, rice, bread, potatoes, spelled, millet etc. These foods are all good, served in the "usual" way of the family (including chilli pepper, if any!).

As for proteins, as we have said several times, the important thing is do not exceed and vary the protein source during the week, alternating legumes (even 4/5 times a week), meat, fish, eggs and cheeses. By the way: parmesan, often used to flavor first courses, is an important source of protein, better not to overdo it.

Fats, on the other hand, should not be criminalized because for the first two years of life they are very important for it development of the child's nervous system. "In Del Paese we have a precious treasure such as extra virgin olive oil, we must not be afraid to use it. But even butter, so demonized, is not bad for children. Spread on bread every now and then it can be excellent snack or breakfast "underlines the pediatrician.

9 Car weaning: food is not!

Of course, some things will absolutely be avoided, but according to De Luca they are very few:

  • simple sugars, such as common cooking sugar (you don't need to add it to any food preparation for children!) and honey;
  • alcohol (it may seem strange, but it can still happen that someone makes even a very young child taste "a drop of wine"!);

And of course they will be avoided snacks and carbonated and sugary drinks, even as the child grows up. "In general it would be better limit industrial foods, and in any case learn to read labels well to avoid those rich in sugars, preservatives, dyes "advises De Luca.

How many ai fried foods, which are generally discouraged, De Luca is not so uncompromising. "Obviously we are not talking about industrial products or fast food, but about a good home frying, made with fresh extra virgin olive oil, not reused. And certainly it is not a question of weaning the child on fried food, but after nine to ten. months a taste once a week or every 15 days of a good frying can also be there ".


Weaning, 7 practical tips before starting

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Worried from the start of weaning? Here are some tips to get you started on the right foot and better deal with the inevitable crises. Consulting by Silvia Scaglioni, ...

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10 How to regulate yourself with salt

Also in this case the prohibition is generally understood in an absolute way under two years of life. "But I think that salt should not be criminalized either" declares De Luca. "Humanity has always looked for it and after all we pediatricians ourselves have always filled the children's meals with enormous quantities of parmesan or parmesan, which were used above all to flavor them".

"It sure goes reduced and limited in the family kitchen, but I wouldn't make a fuss if a pasta or vegetables aren't completely salt-free. What is important, however, is avoid industrial foods that generally contain large quantities"In fact, it doesn't make much sense to completely eliminate the salt from the vegetable cream (for example) and then give the child very salty breadsticks or crackers.

11 What if the child "doesn't eat me"?

"We assume that in complementary feeding on demand or self-weaning does not suddenly take off a feed - breast or formula - to make room for a meal, so at the beginning the baby continues to take most of the nutrients it needs from breast milk or formula "explains the pediatrician. This is why we talk about complementary feeding , which must also be understood as slow and progressive e always accompanied by milk. Not surprisingly, as regards breastfeeding, the World Health Organization recommends it up to the age of two and beyond (as long as mother and child wish).

Read also: Mother's milk, a universal medicine: it is good for children, mothers and the environment

"Don't be frightened if the child seems to eat little because in reality at the beginning the child only tastes, explores, discovers. Start a journey made of very small steps that we should respect, constantly offering him various tastings, until we realize that he has had a whole meal without milk. For some this may happen soon, for others later ".

What can certainly happen is that the child refuses certain foods and certain flavors. Also in this case, we must not worry, but only be equipped with respect and patience. Sometimes, it can take up to 10-20 tastings before a child accepts some new food.

12 Self-weaning and suffocation risk

It is one of the greatest fears of parents who look at weaning with a certain interest, but are at the same time frightened by it: the risk that something "goes wrong", ending up suffocating the child who, after all, is really still a lot little.

In reality, the studies available on the subject do not support this concern: it seems that children who follow auto-weaning are no longer at risk of suffocating than their peers who follow a traditional weaning. This, of course, as long as the foods are offered in a safe way, for example by cutting the riskiest ones into small pieces (grapes, cherry tomatoes, mozzarella bites) or even pulverizing them (as in the case of nuts).


Choking on children: 21 tips for preparing food

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Every year in Del Paese about 50 children under the age of 4 lose their lives by suffocation. Food is responsible in 70% of cases. This is why Sipps, Società Del Paesena of ...

It goes without saying, too, that the child shouldn't never be left alone during meal time (on the other hand the idea is that you eat all together!) and it is always good for parents to know the clearing maneuvers of pediatric airways, in order to be able to intervene in a timely manner in case of problems.

Questions and answers

Weaning: when to start introducing eggs?

Today this concern has been averted: we know that it is not the time to introduce food during weaning that affects the baby's risk of developing allergies, so there is no problem giving the baby strawberries, fish or eggs as early as six. or seven months of age (if you like them). 

Since when to give the baby water?

A small amount of water during meals (30-50 ml) can be offered to the baby during weaning. There is generally no need for any supplements until weaning begins.

  • first year
  • self-weaning
  • new weaning rules
  • complementary power supply on request
  • suffocation
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