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How to wean your baby

Weaning is when you introduce your baby to soft and solid foods, which can be both exciting and nerve-racking Although they may not swallow much, to begin with, learning to eat from a spoon or with their fingers, and experimenting with new tastes and textures, marks a significant stage in your child’s development. It is recommended to start weaning your baby at 6 months, as your baby’s digestive system is still developing. Before this, the gut isn’t sufficiently developed to deal with foods other than breast or formula milk, which means it is more susceptible to sensitivity and infection.

Where to start?

When you first introduce solid foods, it’s best to choose a time when your baby is calm and alert, and you have plenty of time to let them explore and experiment, as well as time to clean any mess. It is not recommended to give them solids when they are really hungry, too tired, or expecting their usual milk, as they could get frustrated. If your baby consistently refuses food, it could simply mean that they’re not ready for weaning, so stop and try again another day. Every baby is unique so don’t worry if your baby is ready to start weaning earlier or later than 6 months.

Signs they are ready for weaning:

  • Sitting up independently – can they sit easily in a highchair with their back supported?
  • Holding head upright – can they hold their head steady and move it from side to side?
  • Coordinating hands, eyes, and mouth – can they grasp objects, like teethers, and put them into their mouth?
  • Interested in your food – do they avidly watch you eat or try to take food from your plate?
  • Able to swallow food – babies who aren’t yet ready will push their food back out
  • Still hungry after a milk feed – this could be a sign, or they might be growing

What is baby-lead weaning?

Baby-lead weaning is when babies should be encouraged to feed themselves, with little or no help from mum. Usually, this involves finger food such as steamed carrots and broccoli. Although baby-led weaning has various benefits, it is recommended to begin with purées. Starting with a variety of softer puréed foods is a safe and effective method that helps babies get the wide range of nutrients they need. However you choose to introduce your baby to solids, it’s important to look for the signals that tell you they’ve had enough. They may turn their head or simply close their mouth. Once your baby progresses to soft finger foods, they can practice self-feeding and practice their hand-to-mouth coordination.