When to start weaning – Expert Dietitian Guide

Introducing your baby to solid foods can be a fun and messy adventure, but getting started with baby weaning can be overwhelming on occasion. As a new parent, there are many milestones to look forward to with your baby, and one of the most significant ones is weaning (or complementary feeding).

Weaning is an essential step in your baby’s development to support hand eye coordination, and knowing when to start solid food can be both exciting and daunting. 

In this blog, I’ll discuss when to start solid foods and give you my top tips to support you on your weaning journey. 

When should you start weaning your baby?

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of your baby’s life. However, we know that this isn’t always possible and if you have had difficulty breastfeeding and started combination feeding or formula feeding then this is fine. It’s important to do what’s right for you and your baby. 

Breast milk or formula milk provides all the necessary nutrients for your baby’s growth and development during the first six months of their life. 

After six months, your baby’s nutrient requirements change, and they need more than just milk to support their growth. That’s when you can start weaning and introducing more solid foods into their diet. 

When it comes to baby weaning it is important to note that every baby is different and that some babies will be ready for weaning before 6 months of age, while others may take a little longer. 

When to start weaning

Signs baby is ready for weaning

Here are some signs to look for to know if your baby is ready to start solid food:

  1. They can hold their head up steady and sit upright with a little support. 
  2. They can move food from their tray or highchair and put it in their mouth
  3. Your baby can close their lips around a spoon and swallow food, they don’t keep spitting it back out. 

If your baby is showing these signs, it may be time to start to introducing solid foods.

I have some free resources available if your baby has a milk allergy that can help to start with weaning.

There are some circumstances when baby weaning may be started earlier than 6 months of age, however, it should never be started before 17 weeks. This is because your baby’s digestive system is not ready before this time. It is unlikely that they will be able to hold their head steady and it weaning early could increase the choking risk. If you have any questions about weaning, get in touch. 

Your baby may not be ready for weaning if;

  • They are waking more in the night – this might be a growth spurt
  • They are chewing their fists – this could be teething
  • They want more infant formula or breast milk

Will milk intake drop when baby weaning starts?

As your weaning baby progresses with starting solid foods it is likely that their milk consumption will reduce slightly.

They older they get your baby may want less breast milk or with formula-fed babies they may drop a feed. This will tend to be around 8-10 months of age.

Remember to offer water from a free flow cup at mealtimes.

Tongue thrust reflex 

All babies are born with a strong tongue thrust reflex and as they get older (towards weaning age) this reduces. This is likely to reduce between 4-7 months of age. The tongue thrust reflex is stimulated when something touches your baby’s lips or tongue. 

The tongue thrust reflex has some important jobs

  • Protecting a baby from choking
  • Helping to keep their airway clear
  • Pushing things out the mouth, this could be a bottle or moving away from the breast if full or pushing out food when weaning. 

When it comes to weaning, the evidence is mixed on whether you should wait until your baby’s tongue thrust reflex is reduced. My advice, stay calm and don’t worry. If you have started weaning and find your baby keeps pushing foods back out of their mouth, give it a week and try again.  

My top tips for when to start weaning

1. How much food? start with small amounts, 1-2tsp will be fine at first. You can start with a smooth puree of vegetables or fruit mixed with baby rice. Remember your baby’s tummy is still small, so start with small amounts of solid food and gradually increase the quantity

2. Start at the time of day you feel ready; if breakfast is a busy time at home try giving feeding your baby at lunchtime or in the evening first when you have more time. You will soon build up to three meals per day.

3. Don’t be scared to give your baby finger foods; Soft cooked foods can be introduced around 6 months. Think soft cooked vegetables such as carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower. 

4. Offer a variety of foods: This includes vegetables, fruits, cereals & grains, and protein-rich foods. This will ensure that your baby gets all the nutrients they need. This helps to develop good eating habits.

5. Be mindful of choking hazards: When feeding your baby solid food, it’s important to keep an eye out for potential choking hazards. Avoid giving your foods in small pieces and that are hard such as nuts, grapes and cherry tomatoes as these can increase the risk of your baby choking. Foods should be given as finger size so your baby can hold onto the food whilst they are eating it. Always sit with your baby when they are weaning. 

When to start weaning

 6. Add herbs and spices to give new tastes; yes your baby can have spice in their food; you could try adding cumin to cauliflower, paprika to sweet potato, or cinnamon to porridge. 

7. Milk allergy; If your baby has CMPA it is important to introduce one food allergen at a time and leave 3 days in between doing so. This is so your can identify what may have caused an allergic reaction if it occurs. See my free downloads for more information on this (insert link)

8. Prepare for introducing solid foods; you can try batch-cooking puree and meals so that you can have them ready for when your baby is ready to start weaning. 

9. Don’t be put off by your babies poo; your baby’s poo will change when they start weaning, this is normal. Check out my baby poo blog for more info if you need it. 

10. Check the labels before you feed your baby; many processed foods contain added sugar, salt and artificial additives. If possible avoid these and opt for fresh ingredients to make up homemade meals.

Finally; Be patient and try not to worry. It may take time for your weaning baby to get used to the texture and different tastes of new foods.  Remember that babies learn best through fun experiences and positive reinforcement. If they need a bit of extra time to adapt, don’t worry, just try again tomorrow. You’ll both get there.

Conclusion

Weaning is an important milestone in your baby’s development. Starting weaning too early or too late can affect your baby’s growth and development. 

My 10 top tips on baby weaning can help, also check out my free guides on weaning with CMPA. The key is to introduce foods one by one and get your little one used to the tastes and textures. Make sure you avoid any foods containing cows milk protein and keep a log when introducing any other common allergen foods. In the first few weeks you can start with small amounts of pureed fruit and vegetables then gradually add more soft cooked finger foods as your baby gets older.

Remember to offer a variety of foods, and be patient as it can take time. Not all weaning babies progress at the same rate.  Allow your baby to feed themselves if they are showing an interest. Keeping mealtimes enjoyable and positive is essential, as this can help encourage a healthy attitude to food in later life.

Finally, enjoy it, it is an exciting time for you both, and remember you’re doing amazing.

Also check out my blog on when can babies have chocolate, I’m sure you’ve been thinking about this question a lot, especially when it comes to dairy free chocolate.

If you need any one to one help then you can Contact me below

Hannah xx

Hannah Whittaker Dietitian Bump2baby Nutrition
Expert Pregnancy & Paediatric Dietitian at | info@bump2babynutrition.com | Website | + posts

Hannah is an Expert Registered Dietitian specialising in Vegan Family Nutrition and Cows Milk Protein Allergy. 

She is a respected figure in the field of nutrition and a captivating speaker and sought after media spokesperson being featured in esteemed publications including the Sunday Times, Independent and Huffington Post.

Credentials

  • Registered Dietitian
  • First Class Degree in Nutrition

Experience

  • Over 15 years experience working in the field of nutrition
  • Respected Media Spokesperson both in the UK & USA; quoted online, TV and in local and international news
  • Writer & Researcher, supporting the BDA and PEN Nutrition

 

 

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