Is your baby is ready to wean? It all depends on how old your baby is. Use our at-a-glance guide to see what that means for your baby:
Your baby is 6 months old: Yes, your baby is ready to start solid food.
Your baby is between 4 and 6 months old: Maybe. If your baby is over 4 months and you can tick off pretty much all of the 7 signs your baby is ready to wean, below, it may be OK to start him or her off on solids. Do talk to your health visitor before you start, though.
Your baby is under 4 months old: No. If your baby is under 4 months (17 weeks), your baby is not ready to wean.
The Expert View - When is it safe to start solids?
"Babies are ready to be weaned at 6 months. However, all babies are different and some may be ready to start a little earlier. Never wean a baby under the age of 4 months." advises Dr Philippa Kaye, GP.
7 signs your baby is ready to start weaning
- She has good neck control and can hold her head up.
- She sits well when supported. She may not be quite ready to sit in a high chair but she must be able to keep herself in an upright position when she's held on your lap.
- She's gaining weight well. Health visitors often like to check she's doubled her birthweight – a milestone that usually occurs around 6 months.
- Showing signs that she's lost an early baby reflex, called tongue-thrust. This is an instinctive reflux to protect babies from choking. As soon as something foreign is put on your young baby's tongue, the tongue-thrust reflux means she'll try to push it out of her mouth. This reflex starts to disappear between 4-6 months. If your baby still has a strong tongue-thrust reflex, you're going to find it hard to feed her. One new skill your weaning baby has to learn early on is to be able to move food from the front to the back of her mouth and then swallow it.
- She reaches out to grab objects and is able to put them into her mouth.
- She watches intently as you eat, looks keen to have the food off your plate and may even mimic you by opening her mouth when you open yours.
- She's over 4 months old (17 weeks).
When do mums actually start weaning?
A poll of 402 MadeForMums mums told us in May 2013...
- At 7 months: 6%
- At 6 months: 34%
- At 5 months: 28%
- At 4 months: 26%
- Before 4 months: 6%
What do mums say about when to start solids?
We can see in our forums that many of you are starting to wean before six months, but it can be a confusing time with lots of conflicting advice. Some of you suggest trusting your instincts but others are not so sure…
"I started weaning Anna when she was four months. The health visitor gave me a lecture about research and allergies but I think every child is different and a mother knows her child." AnnasMummy
"There’s a lot of research showing an increased risk of allergies and bowel problems if you start before four months." katiesmummy
"It's obvious to me that mums wean their babies early for one reason: to make their life as a parent easier, not because they think it's genuinely best for their babies."
“It’s an interesting concept that weaning makes a parent’s life easier. When I was exclusively breastfeeding all I needed was a nursing bra and top and off we went. Once we started to wean, I needed freezer pots, bibs, extra baby wipes, a keep warm/cold lunch box not to mention ensuring that I actually had purees with me everywhere we went.”
Why is it all so confusing?
The honest answer is: because the weaning goalposts keep being moved. The official Department of Health guidelines have changed twice in the past 20 years. And different research studies throw up different conclusions. Here's a quick summary that should help:
What the Government says
The Department of Health (DoH) recommends you wait until six months to start your baby on solids, as at this stage, your baby's immune system, digestion and muscle control are all developing well. These guidelines were introduced in 2003. Previously, the recommendation had been to start weaning at 4 months.
What the latest research says
A 2013 University of Southampton study suggests introducing solid food after 17 weeks, alongside breastfeeding, may help prevent some babies from developing food allergies. And a review of evidence published in 2012 by the British Medical Journal suggested that weaning babies between 4 and 6 months may, in fact, be fine – or even beneficial for some babies. The researchers emphasised that the most important thing is to be guided by your baby and his signs of readiness.
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Last updated: 21/11/13