For the first few months of life infants rely solely on human breast milk or infant formula milks to meet their nutritional requirements.
Weaning describes the process whereby an infant begins to incorporate different foods into the diet besides breast milk or infant formula.
Weaning is an essential process for two reasons:
- The energy (calorie) and nutrient needs of the growing infant become too large to be met by milk alone. At birth, infants usually have stores of nutrients provided from the mother during pregnancy but as they grow and develop these stores become depleted and can’t be replenished through consumption of milk alone.
- Introducing different foods with different textures into the diet of infants helps them to develop the muscles in and around the mouth which will help them to eat and swallow and develop more mature feeding behaviours. Development of these muscles and improved control is also very important for speech and articulation later on in life.