Weaning in Human Infants
How and when to wean a human infant is a subject of much controversy. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends feeding a baby only breast milk for the first 6 months of its life, and continuing breastfeeding until the child is at least one year old and for as long after that as the mother and child both wish to continue. However many mothers find breastfeeding challenging, especially in modern times when many mothers have to return to work relatively soon after the birth of their child. Weaning a baby to formula within the first two months of life is not uncommon in the United States. At this age babies have no teeth and must rely exclusively on formula.
The American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization recommend waiting until 6 months to introduce baby food. However, many baby food companies market their "stage 1" foods to children between 4 and 6 months old with the precaution that the food is meant to be consumed in addition to breast milk or formula and is just for "practice". These practice foods are generally soft and runny. Examples include mashed fruit and vegetables. Certain foods are recommended to be avoided. The United Kingdom's NHS recommends withholding nuts, eggs and shellfish until a baby is six months old, in order to reduce allergic reactions. However, recommendations such as these have been called into question by research that suggests early exposure to potential allergens does not increase the likelihood of allergic reactions.
No matter what age baby food is introduced, it is generally a very messy affair, as young children do not have the coordination to eat "neatly". Coordination for using utensils properly and eating with dexterity takes years to develop. Many babies begin using utensils between 10 and 14 months, but most will not be able to feed themselves well until about 2 or 3 years of age.
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