The weeks are going by incredibly quickly, with Lia growing by the day. She is now laughing (particularly when I pretend to sneeze), smiling all the time and constantly watching what’s going on around her. This has led me to start thinking about weaning.
The advice from health visitors at the moment is not to start introducing solids until 6 months. Personally, I breastfed Libby until she was 18 months old, and continue to do so occasionally even now so I totally appreciate the benefits of breast milk. That said, I don’t agree with the advice to put off the introduction of solids until the age of six months old. I know that I will be slated for this, but I’d like to explain my thinking behind it.
When I had Libby, I did a lot of research into the topic, which I have since looked into further. The advice to wean at 6 months is based on a recommendation from the World Health Organisation back in 2001. However, the scientific research behind that recommendation can be described at best as questionable, and at worst non-existent. I have therefore done my own research. I have of course read this scathing, somewhat sarcastic article from Mumsnet, which seems to brand anybody who considers weaning before six months as a total moron.
There is also this article from the British Medical Journal from 2011, which I find somewhat more compelling. The concerns raised include the fact that failing to introduce certain tastes at the age of between three and six months can cause children to become fussy eaters. It also points out that the likelihood of food allergies could increase if solids were introduced as late as six months. However, the thing that particularly concerns me is the fact that after the age of four months, it is thought that breast milk alone does not provide sufficient iron for babies. Not only does this cause anaemia in the child, but the anaemia can also have long term adverse effects on motor, mental and social development.
For me, this is of particular concern since I am both vegetarian and a runner. Both of these groups are prone to iron deficiency anaemia, and after I gave birth the doctors were so concerned at the anaemia I suffered as a result of blood loss that they were considering a blood transfusion. Following a sickness bug after the birth, I again felt that I was anaemic. I have taken both Spatone supplements and multivitamins to counteract this. However, if I do not have enough iron to keep myself healthy, the likelihood is that there won’t be enough for Lia either.
I know that introducing solids at 4 months is controversial, but I hope that you won’t judge my decision as it is based on thorough research. I also wouldn’t criticise anybody who weans at six months or even later, since it really should be down to the parent to decide what is best for their child. So Lia will be having her first taste of solids at around 17 weeks old and I personally am looking forward to it. In the meantime, here she is with her big sister Libby, who happens to be an incredibly good eater who is always full of lovely toddler energy!