Early Weaning is not always the answer when you are struggling with a reflux baby.
If you a parents to a reflux baby, you will no doubt have heard that early weaning will help your baby and their reflux. However it may not be the answer to your woes and it can in fact make things worse for many little ones. If your baby’s digestive system is already stressed or been aggravated in some way, then adding food could be adding even more stress.
World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that weaning should begin at around the age of 6 months old with NHS confirming this advice.
The Theory Behind Early Weaning
It has been long suggested by health professionals, other mums at playgroup and family members that if you have a baby who is sick then weaning them will help reduce or even stop the sickness. This theory stems from the fact that the food is thicker so stays in the tummy for longer. The ‘early weaning’ is usually from 17 weeks old and the advice is to begin with purees. Baby led weaning should be left for babies after the age of 6 months.
So why is early weaning not as great an idea as it seems?
The one thing that is often overlooked is why your reflux baby is struggling. Rather than just accepting that it is ‘normal’, steps should be taken to understand why the reflux is happening because if it is due to a sensitive gut, allergies or acid the introduction of foods could exacerbate the condition. Check out my blog on reflux for more information on the common causes.
Citric foods such as apples, pears, oranges grapes, tomatoes and onions can flare up reflux symptoms due to the acidic nature of the food. This can leave your baby feeling uncomfortable as the acid begins to irritate the oesophagus as it travels back up.
Before embarking on weaning, it is important to understand the nature of your baby’s reflux as well as having an understanding of the foods that you are wanting to give your baby.
How Should I Begin Weaning?
The best advice when weaning a reflux baby is to take it slowly, introduce new foods one at a time by giving it a few days between each one (your baby won’t get bored, I promise) and take your baby’s lead. Keep a food diary of foods and your baby’s reaction, their stools and their behaviour for the rest of the day. For example, stewed apple and a sleepless night might just be related.
Top Tips for Weaning a Reflux Baby
- Take it slow
- Begin with root vegetables first such as sweet potatoes and butternut squash
- Avoid acidic foods
- Avoid spicy foods
- Take your baby’s lead. If your baby refuses, then accept that and try again another day.
- Look for your baby’s cues to know that they are ready – sitting up with good head control, good hand to eye coordination, reaching out and an interest in food.
Weaning & CMPA
A baby who has reflux as a symptom of allergies faces a different weaning challenge. Speak to your dietician or pediatrician before embarking upon weaning. It maybe recommended to wean early 9from 4 months) with high risk foods for babies who do struggle with CMPA as some research suggests that it could help increase tolerance. For more information on weaning with allergies, Allergy UK has launched their weaning pack for parents.
Weaning can be a fun as it is a new milestone for your baby and the start of a new chapter in your parenting journey. However, it is not a miracle cure. It will not make your baby sleep longer, it may not help your reflux baby happier and it might prove to be a challenge for many. Before you begin, do your research, make an informed decision and above all else, listen to your baby.