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​Many of us are familiar with the “breast is best” adage, but breast milk should not be the only source of nutrition that your baby depends on once he hits six months of age. According to United Nations programme UNICEF, mothers should start combining breast milk with age-appropriate foods to support their child’s growth and development from the second half of his first year. This period of getting your baby accustomed to food other than breast or formula milk is known as weaning. 

Here’s everything you need to know about the weaning process.

Is Your Baby Ready to Wean?

The recommended weaning period starts after your baby hits the six-month mark. However, there are some signs of developmental readiness that you can also look out for to help you decide if your little one is ready to make the gradual switch to solids.

These include:
- The ability to sit upright and hold his head up steadily
- Showing an interest in food by eyeing your meals or opening his mouth when food is offered
- Frequently putting things into his mouth
- Makes a chewing motion and being able to swallow soft foods safely
- Crying before the usual feeding time, which could signal hunger
- Disappearance of the tongue-thrust reflex

Babies with iron deficiency anaemia or slow growth may move on to solids earlier, based on the doctor or dietician’s recommendation. However, KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital (KKH) advises that the weaning process should not start earlier than four months of age as a baby’s digestive system is usually underdeveloped and unable to properly metabolise nutrients from food.

Which Foods to Introduce When

At 6 Months
KKH recommends starting your baby on a bland, smooth puree, with a slightly thicker consistency than milk, once a day. You can supplement your baby’s daily feeds with milk — which should still be his main source of nourishment.

From 7 to 9 Months
Between the age of seven and nine months, you may introduce a wider range of foods and textures to your baby and increase his daily intake to two or three meals a day. Combine different types of foods — all with a soft and thick consistency — so your little one is exposed to varied flavours and textures. At about eight months, introduce your baby to finger foods to build his chewing and self-feeding skills. 

From 9 Months
Once your baby hits nine months, replace blended semi-solids with roughly chopped and minced foods. When he gets the hang of solid food, you may expose him to family foods without salt, seasoning and sugar. 

Remember to take it slow and stay relaxed as the weaning process can be challenging. It may take more than 15 times of feeding before your baby accepts a new taste. 

Safety Tips During Feeding

Your baby may be able to feed himself at about nine months. However, there are still some safety measures that you need to take to prevent choking. 

Here are some tips to keep your baby safe during meals:
- Always supervise your baby
- Ensure he is sitting upright
- Feed him foods with the appropriate texture and consistency
- Avoid foods that may be a choking hazard, like whole nuts, whole raisins, raw carrots, grapes and hard sweets

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