What age should I start weaning my baby?

When is the best age to start weaning?

Knowing when to start giving your baby solid food can be a confusing time for parents. Recommendations have changed over the years so whilst our parents and/or grandparents might have started weaning their children at 4 months, research suggests that there is often no need to start that early. If you are starting too early you may be just making more work for yourself – weaning is quite a time-consuming and messy business! Solid food is required when breast milk or infant formula is no longer enough to meet the nutritional needs of the growing baby.

Each baby is different and will be developmentally ready for food at different times. The four signs which together indicate a baby is ready for solid food;

  1. Your baby can sit up (some support may be needed but baby can sit with a straight back)
  2. Your baby can hold their head steady
  3. Your baby has good hand-mouth coordination – can pick food up and bring it to their mouth
  4. Your baby can swallow food (this one might be more trial and error but their tongue thrust reflex, which will shove all the food back out, should have disappeared).

These signs will normally occur together at around 6 months – it may be slightly earlier or later.

It is a myth that babies start to wake up more frequently at night or want extra milk feeds when they are ready for solid food – welcome to the 4 month sleep regression! Putting their fists or fingers in their mouth is also a common sign mistaken for a baby being ready for solid food.

 

When is it too early to start weaning?

Introducing complementary foods too soon (before 4 months) can increase the risk of infections (gastrointestinal, respiratory and ear infections) and allergies, as your baby’s digestive system and kidneys are still developing.

Occasionally, paediatric specialists may advise slightly earlier weaning (at 4 months), for example with some babies at high risk of food allergy.

 

When is it too late to start weaning?

It is important that introducing solid food is not delayed much beyond 6 months (i.e. after 7 months) as;

  • your baby will be running out of nutrient stores (particularly iron)
  • your baby has an increased requirement of certain nutrients
  • your baby may be less likely to accept new foods.

 

At Yummy Tummy Nutrition we offer evidence-based family nutrition advice for pregnancy, weaning, feeding toddlers, fussy eating and more through private 1-2-1 consultations (online and in person) and group workshops. So, if you would like to book a session or find out more about the services we offer, please get in touch.

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