Added to the basket
Tips from a midwife: Everything you need to know about baby weaning

Tips from a midwife: Everything you need to know about baby weaning

Maike Campen is a midwife from Cologne, Germany, and offers antenatal classes and postnatal gymnastics as well as counselling on baby weaning. We talked to her about the common myths around baby food, Baby-Led-weaning (BLW) and mom shaming. 

As a midwife, you probably often come across misconceptions about baby weaning. Could you name some of the most common myths and debunk them?  

One myth that persists is that you must start weaning early. Some people think you have to start feeding your baby solids when they turn three or four months old. The recommendation is to exclusively feed breast milk or pre-formula for six months. It's not true that you have to start feeding a child solid foods at four months. We need to educate parents to avoid overwhelming their children.  

Another example is the myth "Feed your baby solid food and they will sleep through the night".  This is not true. In fact, during weaning, a child often demands more milk, which is completely normal. Introducing solid food does not mean the baby will suddenly sleep through the night. Sleep patterns are influenced by many factors, including brain development. 

Is it possible or a problem if a baby refuses solid foods still at the age of six months? What do you recommend for parents?

Yes, that is possible and not a problem for a six-month-old baby. We are infants for at least 12 months. That's why milk should be the main food source for this period of time. Due to the number of developmental phases in the first year of life, it can be that a child is overwhelmed and doesn’t feel like eating or learning to eat. It comes with patience and at some point, it will come. The span of time when a child is ready is big! Sometimes it’s in the fifth or sixth month and sometimes only it’s the 12th or 13th month. And that is perfectly okay! 

So, it’s very individual when a baby starts eating solid food. Different countries also have different recommendations on this. However, are there any signs for when a baby is ready to start with solid food? How do I know that my baby is ready? 

There are genuine signs of readiness for solid foods, but also "fake" ones, like "my baby looks at my food all the time." Children learn by imitation, so it's natural for them to watch what mom and dad are doing. It's also important to distinguish that starting with purees can happen much earlier than beginning with Baby-Led Weaning (BLW). 

Signs your baby is ready for solids: - your child can sit by itself (or, with a little support, on your lap) 

- your child keeps their head stable  

- your child can coordinate  their hands and mouth and move food towards each their mouth in a targeted manner 

- your child has a genuine interest in learning new things 

You just mentioned BLW, which stands for Baby-Led-Weaning. This is an alternative to classic spoon feeding, in which parents offer the baby finger food and purees and let their child feed themselves. Of course, both ways of introducing solid foods are fine. But when it comes to BLW, there may be more questions. In your opinion, which foods are suitable for BLW, and which are not? Where to start? 

Good foods for BLW are those that the baby can easily grasp and chew or suck safely. You can start with boiled or steamed vegetables such as broccoli, zucchini, carrots, or parsnips. But you can also serve potatoes, pasta, cheese, boiled eggs, or boneless fish (salmon), avocado or baby pancakes. Hard foods that are easy to choke on are not suitable! 

How do parents know that their child is getting enough food and nutrients with BLW? Should they fill their baby up with milk or spoon feeding? 

It’s hard to generalize, as it happens naturally. Babies won’t starve; they will demand milk when they are hungry. This won't occur when they have had their fill. 

What should parents do if they suspect that their baby is allergic to certain foods during feeding or BLW? How does a food allergy manifest itself in babies? 

 Severe allergic reactions, such as swelling of the oral mucosa or even anaphylactic shock, are thankfully rare. However, skin irritations like neurodermatitis-like eczema are common and should be expected. The skin and intestines are crucial immune organs and may react to foreign substances. Don't panic if your baby develops a sore bottom, eczema, or redness around the mouth. You can test reactions to specific foods, such as carrots, and consult your pediatrician if necessary. 

Read more: Food allergies and babies: the signs you need to know  

As with breastfeeding, there are many opinions when it comes to starting solid food, and some parents criticize others for not doing it the way they do. Some label this as mom-shaming, mom-bashing, or parent-shaming. What is the best way to react to such comments?  

Yes, this is especially true on social media, where people evaluate others without seeing them face-to-face. That’s just not cool. I always tell the mothers I work with: "Cool moms don't judge." Children vary so much in their first year, particularly between six and twelve months. Both in real life and on my Instagram channel, I try to reassure parents. Comparing children is stressful and unnecessary; it only makes you feel bad. Any approach is right if the child is doing well. It’s a significant issue, and we all need to keep working on it.

Thank you for your expertise! Finally, one last question: When should parents visit a feeding consultation like the one you offer?  

 I believe you can find plenty of useful information even without a consultation. My Instagram channel provides everything you need to know if you take the time to gather the information. However, a consultation can be beneficial for parents who feel uncertain or have serious food allergies themselves. The risk of choking can also be quite frightening, which is why having professionals by your side can be reassuring. Experts can offer valuable tips related to feeding, such as advice on digestion and changes in sleep patterns. Being well-informed is always a great way to start your feeding journey!