When to start weaning your babyMarch 23, 2017
When it comes to deciding when to start weaning your baby onto solid foods, you might well come across a lot of people with very different ideas.
That said, it is generally agreed by experts, including the NHS and the World Health Organisation (WHO), that you should not start weaning your baby onto solid foods until after they are six months old. Up until that time, research shows that your baby will be able to get all the nutrients it needs from breast milk or infant formula.
What’s more, it is not advisable to feed your baby solids before then as their digestive system will not have developed enough to cope with solid foods. As such, any solid foods, including puréed food and cereals mushed up in milk, should not be given to your baby until they are six months old.
However, after six months, the WHO recommends that you start feeding your baby nutritionally-adequate and safe solid foods whilst also continuing to breastfeed until they are at least 2 years old.
Of course, if you do not want to breastfeed after your baby is six months old or you are not able to, infant formula is also fine for your baby in combination with solid foods.
What if your baby isn’t ready to wean?
Although you should not start weaning your baby onto solids until they are six months old, there is no need to panic if your baby isn’t ready to try solids straight away.
In fact, if they are not ready for solids you will often notice that they push their food back out with their tongue, so they get more round their face than they do in their mouths.
In other instances, they just won’t seem interested in anything other than breast milk. Just remember that every child is different, so don’t feel pressured if it takes a while for them to wean.
Of course, there are things you can do to start introducing them to the world of solid foods. For example, you can allow them to pick up food with their fingers and taste it.
In the early days, they are unlikely to want to eat a lot of solid food, so don’t be down-heartened if they only try a couple of spoons of puréed food a day.
Also, you should definitely not force them to eat solids if they do not seem interested. Just wait until the next feeding time then try again. Sooner or later, they are bound to want to try something new.
Which solid foods should you start weaning your baby onto?
When your baby is six months old, you can start weaning them onto vegetables and fruit that is cooked, mashed and, of course, properly cooled.
You can also mix baby rice and baby cereal with their normal milk, but do not be tempted to use whole cow’s milk until they are one year old. That is because younger babies cannot digest whole cow’s milk as fully as breastmilk or infant formula.
What’s more, it doesn’t contain all of the necessary nutrients for your baby and its high concentration of protein and minerals can stress your baby’s immature kidneys.
Also, it is important to remember not add salt, sugar or stock cubes to your baby’s food or to the water you use to cook their meals. That is because salt is not good for your baby’s kidneys and sugar can lead to tooth decay.
In addition, you should also make yourself aware of the other foods that you shouldn’t feed to babies. Check out the handy infographic at the bottom of our page for advice on this.
As your baby gets used to mashed and cooked food, you can then start giving them pieces of soft fresh food, such as banana, that are about the size of your finger. This will help them learn to chew.
Once they are used to that, they can then also be introduced to foods like soft cooked meat, pasta, noodles, mashed egg and full fat dairy products like yoghurt.
From 8 to 12 months of age, your baby should move towards eating three meals a day. Make sure they are having a balanced diet of fruit, vegetables, protein, carbohydrates and dairy products.
Of course, you should also keep breastfeeding your baby or giving them infant formula until they are one year old.
Even then, if you don’t want to stop breastfeeding then that is not a problem. Some mothers stop breastfeeding as soon as their babies are eating three meals a day, whilst others keep breastfeeding until their babies are four or five years old.
In the end, the decision as to when it is time to stop breastfeeding is down to you and your child and that can be as much about being emotionally ready to move on, as about practical reasons for doing so.