6-9 Months: Ready for Food - Mostly Milk

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Weaning can sometimes be overwhelming for your baby, and he’ll take comfort in his regular milk feeds. What’s more, the nutrients in his milk will support his growth and development while he gets to grips with the whole new world of tastes and textures.

Q: My baby doesn’t seem remotely interested in anything but milk—how can I encourage her?
A: At the outset of weaning, it is not crucial that your baby has other fluids, as her usual milk will offer her plenty to keep her hydrated. You can tempt her by offering her a new, brightly colored cup and allowing her to help herself. You can also give her a cup of water with every meal, so that she becomes used to seeing it there, and considers it a normal part of her meal.

When she has reached one year old and is drinking less milk, you can offer some water. If she won’t drink water, you can offer some heavily diluted fruit juice (1 part juice to 10 parts water). Give this after the meal to avoid filling her up, and to help her body absorb the iron from her food. Try also offering her milk in a cup, and gradually diluting it with cooled, boiled water, until there is virtually no milk remaining.

Q: My eight-month-old shows no interest in food; will he be getting enough from breast milk?
A: While some babies are ready for solids by six months or even a little earlier, others take more time. If this is the case, it is important that you see a healthcare professional; although breast milk is extremely nutritious, it does not contain quite enough iron or vitamin D for babies. It is important that your baby doesn’t become deficient in these, and he may require a vitamin supplement.

Furthermore, there is evidence to suggest that babies who are “late” weaners may not take to solid food easily, and resist foods with strong tastes or unusual textures. It’s also important to introduce solid food sooner rather than later to give a non-allergic baby a chance to become used to potentially allergenic foods .

Make sure you seek advice from a healthcare professional, and continue to offer your baby solid food once or twice a day. If he isn’t interested, don’t make a fuss. You could try some finger foods, which may be more appealing, and which can be “gummed” or sucked until he’s ready to take his first bite.

Q: I’ve stopped breastfeeding my six-month-old; will she need formula now?
A: Yes, until they reach the age of 12 months, babies need formula milk or breast milk to ensure that they get all of the nutrients they need for optimum growth and development.

“Follow-on” milk, which is higher in iron, may be appropriate at this stage, especially if your baby is a very fussy eater. Discuss this with your doctor or health professional first.

You can offer solid food, formula, and breast milk together, if that suits you. There is no reason to give up breastfeeding at six months unless both you and your baby are ready. Your baby will need several milk feeds a day until she is a year old.

It’s also worth noting that you can use full fat cow’s milk, as well as formula, in cooking for your baby or with her cereal at this age.

Q: Do I need to use a bottle or can my seven-month-old drink from a cup?
A: If your baby can master a cup, and drinks his milk and any other fluids, such as water or baby juice, happily, then there is no reason to introduce a bottle. Many breastfed babies go straight to a cup from an early age, and manage to get everything they need this way. Your baby may miss the comfort of an evening or morning feed, since drinking from a cup doesn’t require the same “sucking,” nor a cuddle with mom or dad, so don’t rush to lose the bottle or to give up breastfeeding unless you need to. While long-term bottle-feeding can potentially cause damage to teeth, and become a habit, it is also very much a part of babyhood, which is most certainly not over by nine months!
Q: Is it safe to mix breast milk with purées?
A: You can use breast milk in much the same way as ordinary milk or formula, and blend it into baby purées to add nutrition, and to make them more palatable and “familiar.” It is important for babies to have quite runny purées at the outset, as they will “suck” rather than use their lips to remove food from the spoon, and it can take some time to get used to dealing with the food in their mouths before swallowing. Mixing her food with breast milk will ensure it is the right consistency. Remember that, like purées, breast milk has a “shelf life” of 48 hours, and should not be used after this time; add breast milk to purées as and when you use them.
Q: My baby was interested in her new “diet” for a short time, but now wants only breast milk again. What should I do?
A: It’s not unusual for babies to regress during the weaning process. It’s a big developmental leap to adjust to eating new and different foods, and to give up the comfort of milk feeds. Some babies may be slower to adjust to this change, and reluctant to carry on. Try to make the process easier, by offering her plenty of milk after her “meals.” If she knows that she’s still getting what she wants, and that her comfort feeds have not been replaced by a hard spoon with unfamiliar contents, she’ll be less likely to object. Don’t give up, though. She’ll eventually become accustomed to the new routine, and look forward to mealtimes, particularly if they are pleasant, and she is praised.
Q: My baby has gone off breastfeeding completely since I introduced solids; is there any way to encourage him to continue?
A: It is very important that your baby continues to have breast milk or formula until he is a year old . If he won’t take to your breast, then you will have to consider introducing a bottle.

Why not try breastfeeding more during periods when your baby is looking for a cuddle and some comfort, rather than something to eat? Bedtime, and first thing in the morning, are ideal times to have a good, long feed, and your baby will probably get most of what he needs from these two feeds. You could also try offering your breast an hour or so before his meals, so that he gets the foremilk, and a little of the nutritious hind milk when he’s hungry enough to want it. He can then eat a little later, and try different foods as you wean him.

Q: Can I use a little squash to get my baby to drink some water?
A: Even high-fruit squashes tend to contain high levels of sugar and/or artificial sweeteners, which are not recommended for young babies. Unless your baby has become accustomed to sweet drinks, such as full-strength fruit juices, she should not be resistant to drinking water, and introducing a sweetener will make the process of encouraging her to drink more water in the future that much more difficult. Most babies in this age group will be getting the fluids they need from their normal milk feeds, and from their purées, and probably don’t need to drink a lot more; however, if the only thing offered is fresh water, this is what they will learn to drink, if and when they are thirsty.

Offering other drinks

A little heavily diluted juice or water with meals will do no harm, and accustom your baby to drinking from a cup. In fact, a vitamin C-rich juice given at mealtimes will help aid absorption of iron from your baby’s food. However, remember that your baby’s tummy is very small, and it is easily filled up by drinks, when food is what is really required. Just 1–2 fl oz (30–60ml) of water or juice is fine with meals, preferably after he’s eaten. He will likely get all the fluids he needs from milk and purées until weaning is complete.

Diluting juice

It’s best to offer water to your baby, but if she won’t drink water, offer heavily diluted fruit juice (1 part juice to 10 parts water) after a meal. This is because juice is full of calories, which can fill your baby’s tummy, without offering her the range of nutrients that she needs. Also, some juices can be quite acidic, and hard on your baby’s tummy. Finally, juice is very high in natural fruit sugars, which can potentially cause tooth decay and encourage a sweet tooth.

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