New position paper from ESPGHAN on weaning foods

Author Mag. nat. Susanne Seufer-Wasserthal

At the beginning of the year, ESPGHAN published a new position paper on the subject of weaning foods. We have summarised the most important recommendations.

The right time for the introduction of weaning foods
Assuming that the infant's digestive tract is mature enough to digest non-dairy foods after four to six months, ESPGHAN recommends the following timing:

  • Infants should be breastfed exclusively for at least 4 months. It is preferable to breastfeed exclusively or primarily for 6 months.
  • Weaning foods should not be introduced before the fourth or after the sixth month (between 17 and 26 weeks).

Type of weaning food

Varied nutrition from the beginning, with different flavours and textures, including many different types of vegetables (even bitter and green), promotes the acceptance of food in small children. Further recommendations:

  • Do not give cows’ milk during the first year (small amounts for cooking oatmeal is okay).
  • Allergenic foods can be introduced after the fourth month.
  • Infants with a high risk of peanut allergy should have peanuts introduced into their diets under medical supervision between 4 and 11 months.
  • Introduce gluten between 4 and 12 months (only small amounts in the first few weeks).
  • Include iron-rich foods like fish or fortified food.
  • Do not add salt or sugar, and no fruit juice or sugar-sweetened drinks.´
  • Follow a vegan diet only under the supervision of a medical professional or dietician to ensure an adequate supply of various vitamins, fatty acids and minerals – supplements are necessary!

Methods of introducing weaning food

Timing, selection and methods of complementary feeding influence the long-term eating habits of children. Because parents decide these essential points, they play an important role in the development of nutritional preferences and appetite regulation.

  • Consistency and structure should be adapted to the developmental stage of the infant.
  • Engage in timely offering of finger food and the accompanying prompt to self-feeding.
  • Do not feed finely pureed baby food for too long; offer lumpy textures from the 8th month (the 10th month at the latest).
  • Observe the hunger and satiety of the child – do not use food to pacify or reward.

Complementary Feeding: A Postion Paper by the European Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition (ESPGHAN) Committee on Nutrition. JPGN, Januar 2017