Weaning, when to start

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According to the recommendations ofWorld Health Organization (WHO), weaning should begin in the sixth month completed and various international companies and agencies are on the same line. The European Society of Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition (ESPHGAN) and the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA), for example, recognize six months as an ideal time for the introduction of other foods besides milk, however suggesting that stay in a window of four to six months. And also according to the Association of American Pediatricians, the baby should only drink milk for the first four to six months.

Read also: Weaning or self-weaning? What the science says

Can weaning be started in the fourth month?

"On paper, the sixth month is the ideal moment for the start of weaning, but the fact remains that in some cases your pediatrician may recommend starting it earlier - but after the fourth month - if, for example, the baby shows difficulties in growth or other signs that indicate the need for a transition to solid nutrition, ”she says Ilaria Giulini Neri, pediatrician, nutritionist and breastfeeding expert at the pediatric and neonatology facility of the Melegnano Hospital.


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When to wean a breastfed baby? When to wean the infant who takes formula milk? Are there any differences?

"The indication to start weaning in the sixth month, and in any case not before the fourth, is valid whether the baby takes mother's milk or is fed with artificial milk" specifies Giulini Neri.

Sometimes we tend to anticipate the weaning of babies fed with formulated milk but in reality there is no need, because this food contains what is necessary for the growth of the child. It is true, however, that unlike breast milk, artificial milk always tastes the same, so some pediatricians suggest offering the child some small taste of cooked and pureed vegetables starting from the fifth month, to start getting used to new tastes. However, it is not a necessity.

"We remember in any case - adds the pediatrician - that the model to strive for with respect to feeding the baby in the first six months is breastfeeding, because it offers significant benefits to mother and baby". Last but not least, the protection against childhood obesity, further confirmed by a study presented during the 2022 European Obesity Congress.

Listen to the baby

But be careful: if the baby's six months are indicated as the best time to let him try new foods, this does not mean that at the stroke of the "complemese" it is necessary to force the spoon with the baby food into his mouth. "Weaning it must take place in a serene way and it must not be an imposition "recommends Giulini Neri. It is better to wait until the child is ready also from a neuromotor point of view and therefore that:

  • know how to sit;
  • knows how to swallow food (having lost that reflex that leads him to stick out his tongue to suck on the breast or bottle);
  • know how to grasp food with his hands to bring it to his mouth;
  • you show interest in the food itself.

"Beyond what the calendar says, it starts when the baby is ready, which can happen a few weeks before six months or a couple of weeks after "concludes the pediatrician.

Read also: The stages of the child's development, from birth to 6 years

Don't wait too long

If the weeks go by and the baby continues to show no interest or involvement in foods other than milk, there is a risk that deficiencies in some micronutrients such as iron and zinc, especially if you are breastfed. For this reason, after seven months it may be worthwhile to insist a little more with the proposals of alternative foods and in any case to discuss with the pediatrician.

Some doctors will invite you to force the child a little, others may instead recommend an iron or mineral salt supplement to avoid forcing and evaluate for some time if the situation clears up by itself.

Sources for this article: Proper nutrition and nutritional education in early childhood, document of the Ministry of Health (2022); Infant and young child feeding, World Health Organization recommendations (2022); A. Ferrando, How to feed my son (LSWR Editions, 2022).

  • when to start
  • weaning
  • child diet
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