On social media today, especially Facebook, there are groups created for mums to discuss and ask for advice on pregnancy, babies and children. These Facebook groups are great for mums to discuss their concerns, share tips or generally have a chat.

But majority of the time, mums are arguing over who is the best parent, who is right and who is wrong and I rarely ever see factual evidence for the advice they give. These women are not doctors, and the majority of them do not work in the health profession – are these Facebook pages becoming dangerous?

When I look at these pages, I see lots of discussions around weaning. Weaning can begin from 6 months or older, the signs that your baby may be developmentally ready are – if they can sit well without support, they lose the tongue-thrust reflex & do not automatically push food out with their tongue and if they begin using a ‘pincer grasp’ which is being able to pick up foods between their finger & thumb.

But unfortunately, many parents, including myself in the past, get confused and mistake signs like: chewing fists, waking more in the night and wanting extra milk feeds, for readiness. When in fact, babies go through developmental leaps and growth spurts. These growth spurts can cause babies to become fussy, want to feed more and their sleeping patterns change.

At 6 months old, your baby’s stomach has matured enough to be able to digest food properly. By giving them nothing but milk for their first 6 months of life it helps to protect them against any increased illnesses. Early weaning can cause unpleasant reactions such as digestive upset, gas, constipation etc. Some people refer this as the ‘virgin gut’.

What is a virgin gut?

“The gut of a baby is immunologically and microbiologically naive at birth. In non-fancy speak: it is near-sterile (Palmer et al 2007; Reinhardt 2009). Another important characteristic of the newborn gut is that, until around 6 months of age, it is “open”. This means the spaces between the cells of the small intestine will allow large molecules to pass directly into their bloodstream. Consequently, as well as the beneficial antibodies in breastmilk passing into baby’s bloodstream, allergy-triggering proteins from other foods, disease-causing pathogens and other nasties can also pass through.”

Source: The Alpha Parent

Unfortunately for baby food making manufacturers like Cow & Gate, not forgetting other competitive brands – they still advertise products for babies from as little as 4 months of age, DESPITE knowing full well of the risks of early weaning. Giving new mothers the argument of “If it was dangerous to wean babies at 4 months, they wouldn’t sell it!” ..It’s all down to money. 4 months onwards targets a larger market than 6 months. Whilst there isn’t currently a law at the moment, there are plans in place so manufacturers change the age on their products to 6 months.

Some manufacturers advise people to ‘wean at 6 months and not before 17 weeks’ ..See what they did there? Stating all babies are different, their internal organs are not different, the only difference is their birth weight and that does not by any means determine early weaning. Think of it as a poll, choosing between science, or ‘mummy knows best’ ..I think I know which one I’d choose.

A few people I know have turned their noses up at me when I explain why I waited until 7 months to wean Holly. I hear “modern parenting..” Followed by an eye roll. Since when did science and research become ‘modern parenting’ rather than just protecting my baby and her body?

Despite the research which now states NOT to wean your baby before 6 months, many people still believe that because their baby, themselves or someone they know were weaned early and they turned out okay, that it’s fine to give people the advice to do the same.

“I gave my son baby rice at 3 months and he turned out okay”

“I was giving my daughter rusks in her bottles at 10 weeks & she slept through!”

“My 4 month old eats mashed up roast dinners and she loves it!”

I can’t help but feel so saddened by people’s lack of education and research when it comes to weaning. Unfortunately, 6 months does still stand as a ‘guideline’ and many people use this in arguments whilst they try to justify why they are filling their babies belly’s up with Farley’s rusks at 9 weeks old. (Which is a comment I saw on a recent Instagram post from Amy Child’s who has decided to start weaning her 16 week old baby with baby rice, or as I like to call it, ‘wallpaper paste’), and people were actually PRAISING her. Baby rice contains naturally occuring arsenic which is a chemical element and occurs in many minerals, usually in combination with sulfur and metals, but also as a pure elemental crystal.

Yet again, the ‘mummy knows best’ statement is out in full force and it’s causing damaging effects.

So, before you give someone advice on weaning, or telling someone your baby turned out okay from weaning at 4 months old, PLEASE look into the research and evidence which is put in place. Organisations like Unicef and the World Health Organisation really don’t provide this research for the sake of it.

I am not a perfect mother. I weaned my eldest son at 3 months old, gave him rusks and watch him become unsettled because of stomach ache and wind. My son is now 7 years old and he has recently shown symptoms of Crohn’s disease which I will be getting him tested for. So before anyone claims I am ‘getting on my high horse’ believe me, I’m really not.

When did you wean your little one? Were you aware of the risks of early weaning?

Let me know your thoughts!

Links to weaning information:

http://www.thealphaparent.com/2011/07/virgin-gut-note-for-parents.html?m=1

http://www.webmd.com/parenting/baby/news/20060728/allergy-risk-early-solid-foods

http://www.gentleparenting.co.uk/kc/choosing-baby-led-weaning-introducing-solids-baby

http://kellymom.com/nutrition/starting-solids/solids-how/

https://www.nhs.uk/start4life/first-foods