Weaning describes the period where an infant moves from a milk-based diet to one made up of a variety of foods and drinks that complement the milk feed. For this reason, foods consumed during weaning are often called ‘complementary foods’.
Weaning onto solid foods is a gradual process. A baby learns to move food to the back of its mouth and swallow, often starting with soft foods or purées, before moving on to more textured foods with larger lumps which require chewing. It is a key period where an infant learns to appreciate new tastes and textures. Ultimately, the child should end up eating similar food to the rest of the family.
Our members produce weaning and baby foods that are specifically designed to meet the nutritional requirements of young children up to three years old. Baby foods are carefully prepared to ensure they contain the right balance of protein, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. These foods are typically produced in portion sizes appropriate for young children and, if present at all, salt and sugar levels are kept to a minimum.
There are different categories of prepared weaning foods to meet the nutritional and developmental requirements of the different stages of weaning.
o comply with strict compositional criteria;
o meet high standards of quality and safety;
o comply with very strict pesticide controls;
o contain no artificial additives and have controlled salt levels;
o provide appropriate amounts of protein, carbohydrate, fat, vitamins and minerals; and
o provide appropriate textures to help the transition to family foods.
The UK’s Department of Health recommends weaning at the age of six months. In Europe the European Food Safety Authority and the European Society for Paediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition suggest that, as each child is an individual, the appropriate age for weaning will vary. Both EFSA and ESPGHAN advise that weaning should not begin before 17 weeks of age and should begin no later than six months of age.
The British Specialist Nutrition Association and its members are dedicated to the best nutrition for the healthy development of UK babies and toddlers.