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Weaning: How to transition from milk to solids

Thursday, June 9th, 2011 12:29 am | By Stephanie Woo

When Mackenzie turned 4 months old, she started to hate formula. She would gulp down 4 oz of breastmilk in 2 minutes and take 30 minutes to drink 4 oz of formula. But since I didn’t have enough breastmilk to feed both babies (long story), I had to keep giving her formula. It was a struggle. We tried different formulas. She loved Baby’s Only, but she got very constipated. We then tried Earth’s Best, which she also hated. Eventually we just waited for her to be so hungry, she had no choice but to drink the Similac.

I called my mom to find out what I should do.

Mom told me that many babies go through a period around 3-5 months where they will start drinking less milk. They just don’t like it and will eat slowly or fake drink. For example, Mackenzie was excellent at fake drinking. She would sit there with the nipple in her mouth, move her mouth and look up at me earnestly, as if she’s really drinking the milk. 20 minutes later, when I pulled out the bottle to see how much she’s drank, well, she’d spent all the time and gone through less than ¼ of an oz! The first time this happened, I fake-scolded her loudly, “Mackenzie!” And she just looked up and gave me a big grin. She knows exactly what she’s doing!

So Mom said, don’t worry if they don’t drink as much milk, in fact it’s a good time to start feeding them solids. When they start to hate milk, they generally enjoy eating food. In fact, 4-5 months is the sensitive period for eating. Babies who start eating at this age will be versatile eaters and will likely end up eating very well, whereas if you start feeding babies at 9-10 months, after the sensitive period, they will likely become picky eaters.

When you first start feeding them solids, babies do not yet know how to eat so they will spit out the food. This doesn’t mean they don’t like it, it means they haven’t figured out how to bring the food from the front of the mouth to the back of the mouth. To help them in the beginning, put the food further back in their mouth. If you put food just inside the lip, it will likely come out immediately, whereas if you use the spoon and deposit the food further back of the tongue/mouth, it’s likely all they have to do is swallow, which they are adept at doing. Make sure you are using a small shallow spoon designed for babies. A small demi-tasse spoon could work. I bought mine at Sur La Table.

Also, if your baby frowns at anything you put in her mouth, it is because it is unfamiliar, it’s not because she doesn’t like it. She doesn’t have any other way to express the experience of something new, so frowning is what most of them end up doing. Keep feeding it to her, after a couple times, she will stop frowning once she’s familiar with the food. And if you feed her during the 4-5 month sensitive period, your babies will probably eat anything and everything you give them!

Mom was right again. At four months, Mackenzie loves to eat. She always frowns when I give her something new. She even frowns at the first meal of the day because she’s just getting used to ‘eating.’ But she loves it, and she’ll take one bite after another. If the food is watery, like pureed pears, she’ll just take spoonful after spoonful. But if the food is sort of chunkier, like pureed sweet potato, she’ll stop and sometimes even cry, as if she doesn’t want anymore. But not so! She’s trying to tell me she wants a drink of water! After her drink of water, she’ll go right back to eating, until she gets thirsty again.

A couple key things that really helped me in feeding Mackenzie:

  • Do not interpret a frown as them disliking a food. Keep offering it to them until they are familiar with it.
  • If they start crying, try feeding them some water to wash down the food, then offer the food again. Drinking liquids during meal is essential for babies,  they need it, just like you and me!
  • Don’t mush up everything so it’s all watery. Teach your baby to distinguish between liquid, like water or milk, and food. I’ve found that Mackenzie likes food that has some consistency to it, whereas Brooke prefers more watery foods.

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