The weaning process is an amazing experience for babies. In those early months, when they first move onto solid foods, they’re starting on an incredible journey. They’re learning about everything that makes food delicious: texture, smell, consistency – and taste as well. But with so much conflicting advice online, when exactly is the time to start?
When should I wean my baby?
Current NHS advice says weaning should start around the age of six months, at which point your youngster won’t be able to get all the nutrients he needs from milk alone, whether you are exclusive breastfeeding or bottle-feeding infant formula.
Why should I not wean my baby before 4 months?
Some mums do wean earlier than six months, but it’s important to know that, until babies are 17 weeks old they should only have breast milk or formula as their digestive systems simply can’t cope with solid food.
If your baby was premature, this means 17 weeks from his due date, rather than his birth date. If you or your partner has a family history of allergies, or if you’re baby-led weaning, wait until your baby is six months old.
Six months is also long enough to give your baby enough time to develop, meaning they are fully ready for solid foods as they are better at moving food around their mouth as well as chewing and swallowing.
If you do think your baby is ready to wean earlier than six months, (and after all, all babies are different), it’s best to chat with your doctor or health visitor.
Is my baby ready for weaning?
According to the NHS, there are three clear signs that appear together which show that your baby is ready to start weaning. They will be able to:
- Stay in a sitting position and hold their head steady.
- Co-ordinate their eyes, hands and mouth so they are able to look at their food, pick up and put it in their mouth.
- Swallow food (rather than spit it back out).
Just to make things more confusing, there are also behaviours that are often mistaken for being ready to start feeding your baby solid foods. These are:
- Chewing their fists
- Wanting extra milk feeds
- Waking up more than usual in the night
These are considered normal baby behaviour and are not signs of it being time to wean your baby.