The weaning from breast milk or formula to solid food is a major step in the development of your baby. However, the information you find online or in books about weaning is often contradictory. We want to make this little adventure in your and your baby’s life as enjoyable and healthy as possible. Our in-house Paediatrician Sophie wants to bring some light into the jungle by sharing her insights from her practice. Let’s hear what she tells parents when they come to see her about weaning.
First of all, what is weaning?
Weaning defines the period when breast milk or formula is gradually substituted by complementary food, such as vegetable puree or finger food. This makes your baby ready to share family meals.
At what age should I start introducing solids?
Most European countries recommend starting between 4 to 6 months. In the UK, the guidelines advise to wait until your baby is 6 months old. As with all recommendations, it is important to keep in mind that these are not rules which are carved in stone. Every baby is unique and has their very own speed of development. Some babies are willing to try new foods earlier. Some others like to take their time.
As a rule of thumb, solids should not be introduced before the age of 4 months because the intestinal tract is not developed to digest the proteins, carbohydrates and fats of solid food. Studies have shown that delaying the introduction of solids to after 7 months of age is associated with an increased risk of allergies as well as feeding difficulties due to picky eating. This means that there is a period of about 2 to 3 months during which your baby will get ready for the adventure of discovering the world of food.
4 signs which indicate that your baby is developmentally ready for solids
Sign 1: Your baby is still hungry after breastfeeding
As your child grows they will need more calories and nutrients, especially iron. If your child demands more frequent feeds at 4, 5 or 6 months of age, or is still hungry after a feed it is a sign that they are ready to wean. Bear in mind that all babies have a growth and developmental spurt between 3 to 4 months when their calorie demand naturally goes up. This is not the time to introduce solids yet but to increase the frequency of feeds until the phase is over.
Sign 2: Your baby can hold the head in a steady position
In order to start solids, your baby needs to master a few motor skills. One of the most important ones is the ability to hold the head in a steady position. This helps your baby to observe how the food makes its way to the mouth and to coordinate chewing and swallowing. However, your baby doesn’t need to be able to sit freely. You can give the first meals having your baby in a half seated position on your lap, stabilizing the back with one hand and feeding with the other. Your baby will show interest in food by reaching with their hand for pieces of food or the spoon.
Sign 3: Your baby shows interest in food
You will notice that your baby watches others eat or intensely looks at the food on your own dinner table. At this stage, babies explore the environment visually and orally – with their eyes and their mouth. This means that at some point your baby will want to try the food rather than only watch you eat it.
Sign 4: Your baby is able to take puree from a spoon
Babies have an inborn reflex: their tongue pushes anything automatically away when it is touched. This is to protect them from aspirating food that they cannot chew yet. Once the key motor skills are developed, this reflex vanishes.
Once you have observed all these signs in your baby, you are ready to start on an exciting and tasty journey - get the washing machine ready!
Please feel free to share your own experiences and we’ll reach out to you shortly.
Dr Sophie Niedermaier
In-house Pediatrician & Co-Founder of Little Tummy