What is the COLLAB approach to weaning?
COLLAB weaning follows six sensible guidelines that could make your weaning journey seamless.
You may have heard of traditional weaning (where a baby starts out on purées) or baby-led weaning (where baby eats exactly what the rest of the household eats), but are you familiar with COLLAB weaning? COLLAB weaning can help you make the most of the benefits of both traditional and baby-led weaning (BLW), while minimising the cons of each.
In their book Weaning Sense, occupational therapist Meg Faure and paediatric dietician Kath Megaw discuss the six factors that make up COLLAB weaning: Cues, Own Person, Low Pressure, Led by Science, Age Appropriate, and Baby Friendly. Let’s take a closer look at these.
The COLLAB approach believes that there are specific cues your baby gives you – without even saying a word – and if you’re attuned to your baby, you will know when they’re hungry or full, when they want a solid meal or milk, and even when they’re ready to start eating solid food for the first time.
If you acknowledge and follow your child’s cues, you teach them to become attuned to their own bodies and to clearly communicate their wants and needs. Your baby may indicate “hungry” cues by leaning towards you when you hold a spoon, by pointing at the fridge or at food, or by kicking their legs, for example. On the other hand, if your baby is full, they may lose interest in the meal, or push their bowl away.
Your baby will also show “ready” cues. With traditional weaning, the belief was often that you should wait until your baby is six months old or has doubled their weight before starting solids, but the COLLAB approach demonstrates that a baby will actually show you when they’re ready to start solids. This can be sometime between 4 and 6 months of age but not earlier. Some signs of readiness include: being able to hold their head up well, trying to reach for your food or opening their mouth when you’re eating near them, and swallowing food that’s placed in their mouths instead of spitting it out (a natural gag reflex to prevent choking).
2. Own Person
Just like every baby will be ready for solids at a different time, so each baby has their unique personality that will inform how they respond to weaning. Some babies are more sensitive to the world around them as well as their internal happenings; others will love spicy, adventurous food from the word go – and quickly become bored with baby food as usual. Meg and Kath differentiate between four different personality types: the Social Butterfly, the Slow to Warm Up baby, the Sensitive baby and the Settled baby.
If you’re aware of your baby’s personality type, you can adapt when, how and what they eat to suit your individual baby – and make weaning a far less stressful experience for everyone involved!
Take the quiz to find out your baby’s sensory personality and to find out more about the different personalities, listen to episode 6 of the Sense podcast.
3. Low Pressure
With so much information out there, it’s all too easy for parents to feel the pressure to wean in the “right” way, but the truth is there is no one way to wean. By following your baby’s cues and personality as well as scientific facts, you can decide how best to wean your unique baby. The most important point to remember is “weaning is a journey, not a destination”.
4. Led by Science
From when to introduce solids to your baby to the what and how, there have been many theories and studies done over the years. While taking your baby’s personality and their cues into account is important in your weaning journey, equally important is filtering the scientific findings from all the other noise around weaning. For example, you may hear that you must introduce solids when your baby is six months old, that you should start them on bland rice cereal or purées, or avoid allergens. But many of these so-called facts have been revised over recent years. We now know that babies who are introduced to herbs and spices from a young age are more likely to enjoy a variety of foods when they’re older (and, in fact, breastfed babies are already introduced to spices via what their moms consume). We also know that you should safely and regularly introduce allergens in the early days to prevent allergies from cropping up – of course, if your baby has an allergic reaction, your doctor will advise you. And we know that eating textured food is important not just to prevent fussy eating further down the line but also for oral development.
5. Age Appropriate
Meg and Kath’s Weaning Sense looks at weaning in three stages: “Ready”, “Steady” and “Go!” This is in line with their suggestion that starting your child on solids isn’t linked to a specific age but should rather be based on your child’s individual cues and personality. Of course, as your baby grows, there’s a typical range of what to expect, from what to serve and how frequently to serve it. At each stage, there are also goals you should aim for. The Ready stage is typically from when your baby is four to six months old and is about exposing your child to new flavours. At six to nine months, during the Steady stage, you want to start offering specific nutrients and experimenting with textures. And, from 10 months onwards, it’s important to allow your baby to practise feeding themselves.
6. Baby Friendly
Learning to eat solids is actually a skill that all babies need to develop. Just as they will learn to walk, talk and eventually run and jump, children need to learn self-regulation – in other words, they need to learn how to recognise their internal signs of hunger and fullness, how to communicate this to their parent, and the role that food plays in a healthy lifestyle.
For more about weaning your baby, keep an eye on Food24’s website and social media pages as we’ll be sharing more helpful advice from Meg Faure and Kath Megaw. And to buy Weaning Sense, click here, or click here to listen to the Sense podcast.