Just as you and your little one master breastfeeding and a happy feeding pattern emerges, you will start to turn your mind to when and what to introduce as his/her first meals.
Transitioning your baby from an exclusive milk diet onto solid food brings with it many questions – When is the right time? How will I know when my baby is ready? And exactly what should I be offering my baby as a first food?
You will find there is a lot of advice available, which ranges from ‘introduce at 4 or maybe even 6 months’, to ‘wait until your baby can embark on Baby-Led Weaning when a little older’. We believe that weaning in its ideal form should not be a case of following rigid advice but rather be a collaboration between the advisors who guide you, your own self, wishes and personality and of course, your baby. And that’s where COLLAB weaning comes in.
“Collaboration is the process of two or more people working together to realise something successfully.” It is very similar to cooperation and is the opposite of competition. Collaboration requires leadership but this leadership should be social leadership – a working within a team.
COLLAB weaning is an approach that considers your baby as central in the weaning process – his age, development and sensory personality. It encourages moms to guide their babies in the context of these factors as well as science and what we know about healthy eating. So, while you may manage the choices, it is in the context of your baby himself. Very importantly, COLLAB weaning takes the pressure off you and your baby, allowing you to write your own weaning journey.
COLLAB is an acronym that will become a way of parenting for you. It stands for:
CUES – Recognising and respecting your baby’s cues for readiness will guide you as to when your baby is ready to wean. Your baby will also give very clear cues within each feeding session (for hunger and fullness) and respecting these cues, interpreting them for your baby and offering food (or stopping a meal) in the context of these cues is the most critical contribution you make to ensuring your child has a healthy relationship with food and in the long term, preventing obesity. It is only by understanding your little one’s cues that you can wean collaboratively.
OWN PERSON – Your baby is his own person and will not wean like the baby next door. Social butterflies, for instance, engage with new textures with gusto while Slow to warm up babies prefer a blander and slower route to whole food. Knowing your baby’s sensory personality is the secret to weaning happily.
LOW PRESSURE – There is too much pressure on moms and babies to follow a pattern, conform and achieve. It is important to remember that parenting is not a race. Weaning is not a competition. Weaning is a journey, not a destination. Take the pressure off you and off your little one.
LED BY SCIENCE – While it would be wonderful to entirely ‘wing’ parenting, in the face of decades of valuable research we have to consider the science to be sensible. Sensible feeding involves filtering noise and opinion and understanding what dietary science tells us about early infant feeding. This does not create rules for weaning but safe boundaries to work within. An example of how new science informs our weaning decisions is with regards to allergies. It has been shown that introducing solids from 4 months of age does not increase the risk of allergies at all, in fact, early exposure to allergy risky foods (such as eggs and nut butters) before 6 months of age may be protective against allergies developing.
AGE APPROPRIATE – Research can and does guide us towards the age at which babies are best weaned. It is certainly not a certain week of life – e.g. week 17 or 24, as is commonly presented as fact. It is rather a window of around 4 months in which sensible weaning should begin. The ideal window starts from 4 months and anytime in the months thereafter is great to start solids. If your baby does not enjoy the first few mouthfuls and mealtimes are stressful, there is also no harm in stopping and then trying again a few weeks later.
BABY FRIENDLY – As your little one grows, he develops self-regulation, which is the ability to manage his own physiology, emotions and behaviour. Feeding is one area where self-regulation is mastered. Being baby-friendly is all about facilitating his own self-mastery in all areas, including feeding, right through the toddler years. It is the best way to prevent fussy toddler eating.
Science, knowledge and the advice of your clinic sister create a basis for weaning but the exact journey involves teamwork between your baby and you. As with all wonderful journeys in life, it involves collaboration. COLLAB weaning will change not only the way to wean your baby but so many aspects of your parenting journey, making parenting your little one a sensational journey, a respectful nurturing of a life for long term physical and emotional health.
From Weaning Sense by Meg Faure and Kath Megaw – For more details on what makes up COLLAB weaning, read Weaning Sense (Quivertree) – not only a brilliant guide but also a fabulously designed recipe book.