Katie Hilton – iCandy Expert Midwife & Health Visitor
The Department of Health recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of your baby’s life, after which you can them start to wean them onto solid foods. However, all babies are of course different and you may find that your baby is ready to accept solid foods both earlier or later than six months. Your health visitor will most likely be the best person to advise you on this.
Lots of babies experience a growth spurt at roughly four months of age, this can make them appear temporarily hungrier than normal and can make parents think their little one is ready for weaning, however it is not advisable to start weaning your baby onto solids before 17 weeks of age as your baby’s digestive system is simply not ready before this age, feeding them anything other than their regular milk before this time can be quite harmful.
Even if your baby isn’t showing signs of wanting to begin weaning, it is still best to start the weaning process at 6 months of age as this is a very important stage of their development. Delaying weaning beyond six months can lead to a deficiency of certain vital nutrients such as iron.
Signs of Readiness
Every baby is different, however there are a number of clear tell tale signs which demonstrate that your baby is ready for weaning onto solid foods. It is very rare to see all these signs together before the age of six months.
- Baby can hold head up. Your baby needs to be able to maintain a steady, upright position, to take their first foods.
- Sits well when supported. You may have to have your baby on your lap at first. A highchair can be pulled into action a bit later when they can sit up by themselves.
- Makes chewing motions. Your baby should be able to move food to the back of their mouth and swallow. As your baby learns to swallow efficiently you may notice that they dribble less. They may even have a tooth or two.
- Has gained a healthy weight. Most babies are ready to eat semi-solids when they've doubled their birth weight. This may happen before or around their sixth month.
- Is curious about what you're eating. Are they eyeing your meals and reaching out to try foods They should be able to look at food, grab it and put it in their mouth.
- There are several signs that are often mistaken for a baby being ready for first foods. These include:
- Chewing fists.
- Waking in the night when they previously slept through.
- Wanting extra milk feeds.
It is a good idea to pop along to baby clinic and have a chat with your health visitor before starting to wean, your health visiting team may also hold regular weaning sessions which you will be invited along to. They will offer you tips and advice to ensure you are comfortable and confident in the weaning process. You may also contact Katie Hilton iCandy Expert Midwife & Health Visitor with any questions through her Facebook page.