Why Should 4 to 6-Month-old Babies Start Weaning? - Sunday Hug

Why Should 4 to 6-Month-old Babies Start Weaning?

Question of the Day

I am raising a 6-month-old baby. If they don’t have their first teeth yet, why do I need to feed them baby food?

After all, it is said that breast milk or formula is the main staple, so why should I stop feeding it to my child?

It is true that breast milk or formula is the staple food for children until the first year of life. However, when the child is around 4-6 months of age, weaning starts. The amount a child eats is tiny, but they still start with rice, meat, and vegetables. Why on earth do you have to take this process seriously?

Reasons for Starting Baby Food

Let's take a look at the reasons for starting baby food.

First, formula or breast milk alone cannot provide all the nutrition for a growing child. By 4 to 6 months of age, children need 2 to 2.5 grams of protein per kilo of body weight. In addition to protein, various nutrients such as carbohydrates, fats, minerals, and vitamins are needed, but it is difficult to get them from only breast milk or formula.

Also, if you are breastfeeding your child, you should always be aware of a potential iron deficiency. That's why we recommend feeding your child iron-rich foods such as ground beef from the early stage of weaning.

Second, to improve your child’s chewing and swallowing skills. Chewing and swallowing food is more difficult than you might think. Eating food helps your child’s tongue and teeth develop well. This chewing action is not just about chewing and swallowing food. It stimulates the brain and helps with language development. They need to be able to use their tongue and lip muscles well to pronounce words well.

Third, it helps children to learn eating habits like adults and to establish a three-meal pattern. If you fed a young child only breast milk or formula, and then gave them an adult meal as soon as they turned one year old, would the child be able to eat it? It would be impossible. Therefore, starting with a very soft textured meal, gradually feed the child to help them get accustomed to the adult food.

baby with milk

When starting baby food, please pay attention to this part.

In the above content, we tried to understand the reasons for weaning food slowly and gradually from around 6 months of age. Then, based on these reasons, we can also find points to look at in the process of choosing what baby food to give your child during weaning.

First, put a variety of foods on the table so that your child can experience a variety of nutrients. Your child may of course refuse new foods. However, please approach it with the mindset that you may have to put the food on the table for children 10 to 15 times or more. Food culture is one of the things that enrich our lives. If your child can taste and enjoy a variety of foods, their life will be richer.

Second, pay attention to the child's mastication when eating baby food. For 2-3 weeks after starting weaning, of course, the child should eat fully ground baby food. It has to be completely liquidated because they don't have the ability to chew and swallow at the beginning while they are only starting to eat food for the first time.

However, after 2-3 weeks have passed, gradually increase the concentration and amount of texture in the food. Before the age of 7 months, it is correct to cook food that can be chewed. Learning to chew is a very important factor in a child's development. Please don't forget this part.

baby eating

Third, help your child learn meal etiquette among family members. Dining etiquette involves always completing your meals yourself at the same time. Sit your child in the same place (ex. table chair) from the early days of baby food and prepare a spoon for the child.

From the moment your child shows interest in spooning their own food, help them challenge themselves by allowing them to scoop their food up. Repeated training in this way increases the chances that your child will develop the habit of sitting down and eating their own food when they grow up.

In the process of weaning, the child sometimes loses appetite and does not eat well, and sometimes eats well. Rather than being worried by each response, aim to consistently provide a good meal. We hope that the long process from only milk to baby food will be a pleasant memory for both parents and children.

---------------------------------------------------
Author: Eun-Kyung Beom, Pediatrician
- Baby Sleep Education Expert
- Director of Baby Sleep Research Institute
- Formerly Director of Gwangju Central Children's Hospital