Weaning for premature babies

Advice on when to start and how to wean your premature baby

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First foods can present a challenge when it comes to premature babies, but we’ve got some help and advice to see you through those messy mealtimes!

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Q Why are premature babies different?

Low birth weight babies miss out on some of the normal nourishment that is passed from mum to baby in the womb. Therefore some prem babies may need extra nutrition later in order to ‘catch up’. Also, the process of weaning may take them a little longer to establish than full-term babies. 

Q When should I start?

Special care and premature baby charity Bliss recommends that weaning starts when your baby is between five and seven months old, basing that on the actual age from birth, ie calculated from the date your baby was born, however premature your baby was.  

Q How will I know my baby is ready to wean?

Look out for these signs at around five, six or seven months:

  • Baby shows an interest in other people eating
  • Baby puts things into his/her mouth
  • Baby seems less satisfied with milk alone, and ready for something new
  • Baby can be easily supported in a sitting position

Read more information on the signs your baby is ready to wean

Q Where should I feed him?

Make sure your baby is upright and well supported. Nover leave your baby unattended when eating. Although it’s OK to feed your baby in your arms to start with, it is better for their development if they are in a proper seat. Try using a car seat or bouncy chair placed on the floor, and sit on the floor yourself to you can make eye contact. If your baby finds it difficult to hold their head up use a small, rolled, soft towel to help keep the head in line with the body.

Q What about drinks?

Preterm babies should usually continue drinking breast or formula milk until at least a year after their due date. Your local medical team may give you advice on when your child is ready to go on to cow’s milk. Babies on breast milk as their main drink will need vitamin D and iron supplements up until at least 12 months old, so be sure to continue giving these supplements as advised by your local medical team.

Q How will I know if my baby is getting enough?

Each prem baby has his/her own individual growth plan, particularly if they have longer-term health problems. Many prem babies will be small compared to the typical milestones; some catch up, others don’t. For those who don’t this is perfectly normal for them, as long as they are following their own growth curve. Your local baby clinic is the best place for regular weight, length and head circumference measurements.

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Always ask your health visitor if you need more information.

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