A guide to choosing and preparing weaning food

It advisable that you start with something that tastes just like breast-milk and just as nutritious. There are commercially prepared flours that are enriched with vitamins A, B and D, and soya. It is advisable to speak to a pediatrician for advice because weaning as a process introduces a life-long feeding to the child.

Factors to consider when weaning a baby.

The weaning period if not well-monitored could affect the health of the child. The following points should be put into consideration:
  • If weaning is done prematurely, the body may become malnourished and the mother’s milk insufficient.
  • The baby should be weighed regularly during weaning to ascertain that the growth rate is acceptable.
  • The nursing mother should continue to get a nutritious diet to stay healthy.
  • Give food before breastfeeding. If the baby is reluctant, try after breastfeeding.
  • Initially, the food should be moist, gradually becoming less soft.
  • Start with a few spoonfuls and gradually increase the amount.
  • Once a type of food is accepted, give it fairly frequently and gradually increase the amount.
  • As the baby grows, allow him/her to handle food and to feed himself.
  • Start by feeding her/him weaning foods once per day in a clean environment, using clean utensils set aside for the purpose.
  • Let milk continue to be a very important part of the diet throughout the weaning period.
  • If the child reacts to food with stomach cramps, diarrhea, stomach upsets, skin rashes, eye irritation, etc., discontinue and put her/him under strict observation.

Choosing and preparing weaning food

One of the nutrients that need to be catered for weaning is Vitamin C. This may be given in the form of orange juice mixed with water. It should, however, not be given on an empty stomach. Plenty of clean boiled water should be given in between feeds as this flushes the digestive system making it ready to function more efficiently.

At 3—4 months the baby needs to be put on supplementary feeding as growth is faster and more food is required. Commercial-made foods are available, if not affordable, and come with complete instructions on how to use. However, fresh foods, well-cooked and strained to compete for smoothness, should be preferred.

Food rich in iron, e.g. vegetable and meats in puree form or finely minced meat, should be given from about the sixth month. Milk does not contain adequate amounts of iron to meet the baby’s demands at this stage.

Suggested food for weaning

  • Fresh vegetables, e.g. sukumawiki (kale), spinach, carrots, tomatoes, to supply vitamins A and C, and mineral salts like iron.
  • Fruits such as pawpaw, oranges, ripe banana, and avocado – these give vitamins A and C.
  • Meat, liver, soya beans, egg, fish, give first-class proteins.
  • Nuts, e.g. cashew nuts, peanuts, groundnuts, and macadamia, are a good source of fats and proteins.
  • Pulses like peas and beans provide proteins.
  • Carbohydrates can be given in the form of rice, pumpkins, porridge, and potatoes.
  • Suitable foods for weaning at different ages

Age (months)Weaning foods
4—6Vegetable puree, vegetable soups, mashed bananas, pumpkins, potatoes, pawpaw, and avocado. Lightly-cooked egg, custard sauce.
6—12Minced meat, liver, fish, ugali, whole fruits. Mashed pumpkins, bananas, potatoes.
12—15All kinds of well-cooked soft foods, well-cooked vegetables, food from the family meals and plenty of milk.

Recipe: Fish, rice and vegetable puree

(Recommended for babies from six months old)

Add a slice of variety to your baby's food! This recipe is a complete meal on its own.


1 fillet fish (sole or threadfin)
2 tablespoons well-boiled rice
1 piece of sweet potato
3 slices steamed zucchini


1. Steam fish for 20 minutes until cooked
2. Boil sweet potato until tender
3. Steam zucchini for 10 minutes
4. Blend all ingredients together
5. Add water (boiled and cooled) if the mixture needs to be thinned down


For a change, replace the fish with a piece of chicken breast.

Recipe: Pear rice

(Recommended for babies four to six months old)

This dish can be done in a minute. All you need is a baby cereal and pureed pear from a bottle.


1 tablespoon rice cereal
1 tablespoon pureed pear
Boiled water or formula (both cooled)


Mix all ingredients together and you're done!


You can replace the pear with apple, grapes, prunes or other pureed fruit.

Problems during weaning

Experts generally agree that from the age of six months, a baby needs something more substantial than milk. However, infants who have not grown to the expected size or lack iron (anemic) may be weaned earlier, between the age of four and six months.

However, weaning too early, for instance when the baby is two to three months, could lead to digestive disorders. There is also a higher risk of the child developing a food allergy. On the other hand, if the baby is weaned too late, he or she may not get enough nutrition and this may lead to growth retardation.

There are problems that are common during the introduction of supplementary feeding. Some of these are:

Stomach upsets and diarrhea

This can be lessened by ensuring that all utensils and types of equipment used for preparing the food and feeding are in very clean and that clean, safe water is used. Leftover food should not be kept for long and should instead be given to the older children.

Malnutrition due to delayed weaning

The timing of when a baby is to be put on weaning food should largely be determined by the health of the baby as opposed to age. It is generally agreed that as soon as the baby is 7 kgs, weaning should be started.

Baby’s reduced appetite

This is mainly because the food, juices, and water satisfy his thirst and therefore he does not want to suckle much.

Decreasing breast milk

The baby is sucking less at the breasts and thus milk production reflexes are less activated.
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