When it comes to weaning, many parents are often concerned about WHEN to offer their baby solid foods. Should it be 6 months on the dot? or 4 months? Or earlier?
I’m here to answer this question, to try and clear up some of the confusion around this topic for parents and babies. Just to point out that there may be medical reasons why health care professionals recommend starting your baby earlier than recommended (but they should still be developmentally ready for solid foods). Additionally there are varying recommendations for when to start weaning from different countries around the world, which can add to current confusions – so this advice is based on general advice for healthy babies within the UK.
The NHS in the UK recommends weaning starts at “around 6 months”, allowing for the fact that babies are all different and will reach developmental milestones at slightly different times. However, around 6 months is thought to be the time that babies are most likely to be developmentally ready to start eating solid foods.
Before this age, many babies may not quite be showing some of the important (if not essential!) developmental signs of readiness, such as:1. staying in a sitting position, holding their head steady
2. coordinating their eyes, hands and mouth so they can look at their food, pick it up and put it in their mouth3. swallowing food (rather than spitting it back out)
(pointers taken from NHS website)
If your little one isn’t yet showing these signs (regularly and at the same time) they may not be ready to start their weaning journey, just yet.
Without the ability to hold their head, neck and trunk successfully, it can make eating solid foods and swallowing much harder for babies. In order to eat, babies need to be able to hold their trunk up and concentrate on moving their hands and arms to feed themselves.
If baby can’t self- feed or pick up and move foods to their own mouth just yet, they may need a little more time to develop this skill before weaning starts. Although self-feeding is a skill that babies will hone and develop with practice once weaning begins. Practising self-feeding is one of the reasons why finger foods are also important to be offered to baby from around 6 months of age too.
Additionally, a baby who is not quite developmentally ready may have a fairly strong tongue thrust reflex, meaning that they push out more foods than they are able to swallow. In my book “How to Wean Your Baby”, I talk in detail about when to start weaning as well as what first foods to offer baby as you being their journey onto foods. I also cover how to introduce allergens and when you might expect baby to master certain feeding milestones to help you see how and what foods your little one might cope with and which stage!
How To Wean Your Baby By Charlotte Stirling-Reed is out now, published by Vermillion.