When is the best time to start weaning? The current NHS guidelines advise exclusive breastfeeding until six months to give the baby’s digestive system a chance to develop properly. Some babies do seem ready for solids before this point, but 14 weeks is too early to start weaning. So much of our future health depends on our digestive system, and introducing solids too early could lead to issues like allergies and problems with the immune system.
Before you begin, look out for signs that your baby is really ready to start weaning.
If your baby seems hungry at this point, rather than introducing solids, it’s better to increase the amount of milk you’re offering. Babies go through growth spurts when they may seem unsatisfied with what they’re getting, so if you’re breastfeeding, you may need to go back to feeding on demand for a few days until the spurt is over. If you’re bottle feeding, you may need to increase the size of your baby’s bottles; he may also be thirsty, so try offering him a small amount of cooled boiled water between feeds.
Some babies also like to suck for comfort, which can be mistaken for hunger, especially if they’re colicky. In this case, making sure you wind him properly and giving him a nice gentle massage after his bath could help to soothe him.
If your baby gets to 17 weeks and you still feel that he is ready for solids, speak to your health visitor or GP. It’s best to wait until at least 20 weeks if possible, but despite the guidelines, all babies develop at different rates. It may be appropriate to introduce a small amount of solid food before six months, but do seek expert advice before you start.
Answered by: Catherine Jeans, clinical nutritional therapist, www.thefamilynutritionexpert.com