Weaning is a big step in your baby's life and it's one that needs to take place at the right time. Too early and her immune system isn't mature enough but too late and milk alone will fall short in giving her enough nutrients, particularly iron.
When to start weaning?
The guidelines on when to wean have changed over time. In recent years, the Department of Health has recommended that you start weaning at 6 months, as at this stage, your baby's immune system, digestion and muscle control are all developing well. New research has now suggested that it may be healthier to start weaning from four months, but so far, the Government has yet to revise its guidelines.
Some babies develop and mature more quickly and may be ready to start weaning earlier than 6 months. If you feel your baby is ready at an earlier stage (but no earlier than 4 months) talk it through with your health visitor or GP. If your baby was born prematurely you may need to check with your health visitor as to the right time to start.
It's not a race, even if everyone else's baby seems to have got there first. It's much better to wait until your baby is ready (but don't start later than six months).
Signs that your baby is ready to wean:
The NHS's Start4Life launched a campaign in February 2019 to help parents understand a bit more about if their baby is ready to wean. They've dispelled some of the myths about signs your baby is ready, and shared just 3 things to look out for to help you know if your baby is ready to wean.
Your baby is ready to start weaning if:
- she sits still and can keep her head steady
- she's actually swallowing food if you try and give it to her - and not spitting it back out again
- she can co-ordinate her eyes, hands and mouth so that she can look at food, pick it up and put it in her mouth.
If you recognise these signs in your baby, and they're the right age, it could be time to start weaning. Check out Start4Life's weaning hub
Your baby isn't necessarily read to start weaning just because:
- she is chewing her fists
- she wants extra milk
- she's waking up in the night more than usual.
These are all things that your baby would do anyway, and are not necessarily a sign they are ready to wean.
Starting solids brings a whole new routine, so be prepared before you begin. Not sure where to start or worried about any weaning problems you might encounter? Our week-by-week weaning meal planner will take you through the first four weeks.