To Wean or not to Wean, that is the question… but what is the answer?

I’m confused. We wean at six months, after having breastfed exclusively, and then we are guaranteed an intelligent child with a healthy appetite and an even healthier immune system. We do this on advice of the health visitors, GPs and, ulitmately, the WHO, despite our parents telling us that we were weaned at twelve weeks and we’re fine… Or maybe we KNOW that we should wean at six months, after perhaps bottle feeding our bundles of joy and yet we decide to listen to our babies- in this case we wean them a little earlier and we lie to the health visitor and pretend we’ve never even seen baby rice in the supermarket before…
The only problem now is that ‘they’ are telling us that waiting until six months is not the right things to do and, quite rightly, parents are now wondering what damage they may have done/ may be doing to their precious baby’s digestive systems…
I don’t think ‘they’ will ever really know what the right age to wean is. Some say that as long as they have the chewing and swallowing reflex then go for it. If they show signs of wanting/ needing food, go for it. If they aren’t gaining weight on just milk anymore, go for it. If they are fine with milk, thriving and showing no signs of needing more, perhaps wait? Or still go for it? I’m just not sure anymore!
The big one was always tiny as a baby (see my article on Mumable ) and when she got to five months she stopped gaining weight. She was only ten pounds two ounces and slept beautifully all night. My health visitor told me that I had to wake her for feeds and that she needed a bottle… I kept calm whilst explaining that she WOULD NOT take a bottle, we had been trying this for months. In the end, they went to great lengths to advise me that they did not condone early weaning but that in this case it was essential and by the way THEY DID NOT CONDONE EARLY WEANING.She had her first taste of baby rice at 5 months and two weeks. My daughter went on to continue in slow weight gain and she is still thin now. Hmm, panic over.
My son has suffered from reflux since he was born and still suffers terribly. His consultant told us at four months to ‘ignore the health visitor’ and start him on solids, in an attempt to ease his symptoms. It didn’t work. Today, my son DOES NOT EAT. He is being tested for intolerances next week and he still suffers terribly with reflux and adverse reactions to food. Hell, I think I wouldn’t eat either.

What I’m trying to say is that all babies are different. I have one child who was exclusively breastfed and weaned as close to six months as we could get away with and she is fine. I have one child who we were advised to wean at four months who is now terrified of mealtimes and potentially has food intolerances. If I only had one child, I would have clear views on the latest BBC article.
As it is, I’m just plain confused.
No-one can 100% say that my children should or should not have been weaned at six months. No-one can say that my children should or should not have been exclusively breastfed (did I mention I was advised to stop breastfeeding my son at three months and he began to gain weight as soon as I did?) and no health professional seems to be able to make their minds up on which advice to give in the first place! No wonder parents are so confused. How about we all just listen to our babies and make our own minds up? Did early weaning make my baby ill? Probably not. Did late weaning cause my daughter to fail to thrive? Again, probably not. Who knows? The professionals certainly don’t.
I’m not the only blogger who has been blogging about this. Read this post from Mellow Mummy . Seems we all have a story to tell about this one. So, what do you think?


28 responses to “To Wean or not to Wean, that is the question… but what is the answer?

  • Lisa

    The only clear views I have on it are 1. It has been reported appallingly badly; 2. Three of the four authors have received funding from babyfood manufacturers. Call me a cynic but no matter how fabulous their research, that makes me unsurprised they are recommending earlier weaning 😦

  • missielizzieb

    I think its all a load of piffle!!

    Sorry, that sounds flippant I know, but I’m just so fed up with conflicting advice, I think especially for first time parents knowing what to do for the best is just a minefield.

    Far better to listen to your instinct, your friends and family, and take ‘official’ advice, at best as a guide, at worse with a pinch of salt!

    Hope you get some useful results from the allergy tests, and you can start to get him eating comfortably. x

  • Heather Lucas

    I actually groaned loudly when my husband said “Have you seen the news this morning about weaning at 4 months now”. They are always changing the goal posts, no wonder as parents sometimes we get overwhelmed with it all and feel like tearing our hair out. I breastfed exclusively for just short of 6 months and it certainly hasn’t done my daughter any harm. Thing is, when all this was happening (my daughter was born March 2009) I heard on the grapevine that they were going to advise 4 month again. I think as parents we are the ones who generally know what’s best for our children, as, like you say, every child is different.
    Great article 🙂

  • Domestic goddesque

    I lost so many brain cells during pregnancy and birth, I don’t want to be confused by such conflicting advice. Wasn’t life much simpler before they had advice? When you just did as your mother had, and her mother before that??? Goverment/Health Visitors/General Population should just leave us to do what we feel is right.

  • superlittlemen

    This did my head in as well, both mine were prem so I was doubled confused with the while actual age and corrected age. When son 1 was born WHO were recommending weaning at 4 months which I did, but minus his 9 week early arrival he was supposedly less than 2 month. He too had bad reflux controlled by meds but has the appetite if a horse, at 7 eats none stop & is as thin as a rake. By the time Jude arrived 3 yrs later, WHO said 6 months, but he had failure to thrive, never took more than 3 oz of milk at a time, reflux, again on meds, but his pediatrician advised weaning at 4 months as well. I did (minus his 6 weeks early arrival less than 3 mths old). Jude refused to eat, didn’t chew til he was 16 months old, lived on puree & fromage frais, & at 4 still leaves meat & is a very fussy eater, yet both boys were weaned identically. I firmly believe each baby is different & it should be baby lead. If I had of been able to have a 3rd, I don’t think I would of listened to anyone but the baby. All these guidelines are just that, guidelines, I think some medical professionals & the media take them too literally.

  • Emily

    I think you hit it right on! No one can tell you what is best for your children. They can give you suggestions, but mother’s instinct is SO powerful. If we think something is right or not for our children, it usually is the case. FWIW my pedi told me I should start when I wanted anytime after 4 months. I had read all the research and waited bc my son showed no interest. I really think it all depends on the child. Your child, your choice, mother knows best! I think your kiddos are beautiful btw!
    Great Post!

  • Emma

    I left all the health visitors in the UK when Leo was just over 4 months old and worked it all out in Cyprus from a combination of stuff read on the internet and what I thought (with a few calls to my mother inlaw!)

    I followed BLW at 6 months and would do the same again if I had another but not worrying so much about waiting that long like I did. But that’s just me – millions of other people do various different things breast feed /formula feed BLW/ purees 4 months/6 months whatever, I think all the kids turn out ok in the end!

  • Mommy@Bodfortea

    I so agree with you. I exclusvely BF DD until she was 8 months old and it doesn’t seem to have done her any harm. Mothers for generations have been using their instincts and the human species has flourished.

    • ghostwritermummy

      Thats the only thing we can do- use our instincts. I wish I had with my son, he hates food now and is being tested next week for intolerances. Thing is, I’m not sure early weaning has anythign to do with that or not??!!!

    • ghostwritermummy

      I hadn’t seen it and it makes interesting reading. I’m interested to know why my paediatrician advised early weaning when Luka was 4 months- I know he said it would help the reflux but it didn’t. Now we’re having tests for various things and I wonder- would he always have had to have the tests or did the early weaning cause it? I certainly think ealry weaning has had something to do with his reluctance to eat as looking back I think we did it too soon, he just wasn’t ready. Things is, you trust doctors and when your child is il you think they are right. I don’t think this latest uproar will help matters at all for parents like me.

  • mrs scruff

    This is all good (or bad) timing for me as I started giving my boy baby porridge 4 days ago. Have I done the right thing? He is exactly 5 months. He is big and has been waking up to 4 times a night. When we eat he launched himself onto our plates. He ate every mouthful easily. A week ago he came out in severe eczema. Has he allergies? Should I have weaned him earlier and exposed him to food? His sister I breasted exclusively for 6 months. She is anaphalactic, so has severe food allergies. Confused? You bet I am.

    • ghostwritermummy

      I think its so wrong to keep giving conflicting advice and to confuse parents like this. Our babies aren’t robots and we should feel confident in using them as our guide, not a bunch of people who can’t make their minds up!

  • Chako

    The thing is the whole 6 month breastfeed only thing is a GUIDELINE and sadly parents are led to believe this MUST be done and Health Visitors push mothers to breastfeed because they need to keep their annual figures.

    My son lost 2lbs as he was refusing the breast. I spoke to our GP and told to wean him (he was nearly 5 months old) and see the HV again in 1 week. I did exactly what I was told and he gained 4lbs! But the HV was angry at both me and the GP and made me out to be a bad mother. I cried for hours after that but then I thought… hold on he GAINED weight and is happier, how is that wrong? Was I meant to leave him to starve? So sod her, I know I did the right thing weaning before 6 months and he’s perfectly healthy and already showing signs of wanting to walk at 9 months.

    • ghostwritermummy

      You’re right- they are guidelines. Fair enough, we weaned early on doctors advice anbd yes they both began to gain weight and both walked early so no real damage development wise but i can’t help thinking my son was too young at 4 months. We will never know though. Thanks fro your comments

  • vanita

    Health Visitor? I’ve never heard of that. And they get to come to your house and tell you how to feed your baby? Really? I’ve had 4 babies and I believe in going with what baby needs, due to the cues baby gives me. All babies are different. All 4 of my kids started eating, walking and talking at different ages with no pattern to follow. I say do what you feel works for your baby and if you’re unsure, talk with your pediatrician.

  • For The Love of Blogging- Meet Me Monday « ghostwritermummy

    […] the British Pregnancy Advisory Service’s challenge to the government, my take on the current weaning debate, my views on the Education Secretary’s proposed law changes and my views on the news about […]

  • Help!My children won’t eat! « ghostwritermummy

    […] under medical guidance. I still don’t know if this was the right thing to do (see my post on weaning) but we did it and it seemed to go well. He stopped screaming during his feeds and the food started […]

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