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When should I start reducing the amount of milk that my baby takes?

Posted on 19 January 2011 by Helen

Hi everyone,

I often get asked 'when should I start reducing the amount of milk that my baby takes? I have just started weaning him and am confused as to when one of his bottle feeds should be dropped.'

It is quite common for parents to be concerned and confused about this as the last thing they want to do is leave their babies short of energy and important nutrients during weaning, yet they don't want to be overfeeding them either. Weaning can be a bit of a hit and miss affair until both of you have established a routine, and babies will often eat more on some days than others for no apparent reason, so their milk intake can fluctuate quite a lot.

So, I encourage parents to be as relaxed and flexible about this as possible and to follow a few basic principles -

  • At the start of weaning, continue to give your baby's usual milk feeds at mealtimes, preferably after you have given them food. The quantities of food eaten at this stage are small and your baby still relies on milk to meet all his nutritional needs.
  • Usually at around 6-7 months, or once your baby has got used to eating solid foods at 3 mealtimes each day, try dropping one of his milk feeds (at lunchtime, say) and offer water or diluted fruit juice in a feeding beaker instead at that mealtime. Often babies show you themselves that they don’t need milk at a mealtime by gradually taking less as they start to eat more; this is a good time to drop this feed, but remember to offer another drink instead to make sure your baby doesn’t get thirsty.
  • Throughout weaning and up to the age of 1 year your baby still needs plenty of breast milk or formula each day, usually with a milk feed morning and evening and other feeds in between as required.  The exact amount will depend on how much solid food your baby eats and you should let your baby decide how much milk he has. As a rough guide, formula fed babies will need about 500-600ml (1 pint) formula per day once weaning is established. 

Hope this helps!

Bye for now,

Helen

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The right age to wean a baby?

Posted on 14 January 2011 by Helen

Hi Everyone,

There’s been a lot of media coverage today about the best age to start weaning babies, with the question being raised whether current weaning advice to start at 6 months of age is appropriate for all babies. So what is the right age?

Although breastfeeding is undoubtedly the best way of feeding a baby for the first few months of life, the research team of highly respected paediatricians in the UK who have today published their report in the British Medical Journal believe that exclusive breastfeeding for the whole of the first 6 months of life might not be the best for all babies.  From reviewing the latest evidence they believe this may increase the risk of food allergies and iron deficiency anaemia in some babies and that they would benefit from earlier weaning, sometime between 4-6 months of age.  Recent reports from the European Food Safety Authority (2009) and the British Dietetic Association (2010) also acknowledge that some babies might be ready for weaning before 6 months and that it is safe to do so between four to six months.

The UK research team were keen to point out that they support the World Health Organisation’s advice for exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months for babies in developing countries where the circumstances are quite different to the UK, but from their review of the evidence accumulated since the publication of the WHO’s advice in 2001 they believe the official advice for the UK should now be revisited.

Other professional bodies and charities like the NCT are, however, standing by the current advice, whilst the Department of Health’s nutrition committee is due to report on infant feeding later this year. So it looks like the debate will continue for some time to come!

Lots of mums complain to me about the amount of conflicting advice they receive about infant feeding and I guess this latest media flurry isn’t going to help them one little bit. But, as always, I would advise that you discuss weaning with your health visitor and then choose the best age for your baby with them. Each baby is different and it’s foolish to think that weaning at exactly the same age is going to suit all babies, but what is important is that the powers-that-be look at the best evidence and come up with the best advice for babies to ensure they achieve optimal growth and development. Nobody can dispute that surely?!

Until next time....
Helen

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