When To Start Weaning

When To Start Weaning

Knowing when to start weaning your  baby can be very confusing for parents, especially with your first baby. Although there is a lot of conflicting information around the subject, new research shows that delaying starting to wean until your baby is six months is a little too late. I believe this is very true and you need to give your baby at least two weeks to get used to solids. This will ensure that from six months your baby can move quickly, ready for the different stages of weaning.

According to the recent guidelines on best practice for infant feeding in Ireland;

'The introduction of solid food to an infant’s diet should take place at about 6 months of age. The recommendations for the age of weaning are the same for both breastfed and formula fed infants. The exact timing to begin the process should be driven by the unique need of the individual infant'.

We are therefore none the wiser!

You should not start weaning before 4 months (17 weeks) because:

  • You may reduce the volume of breast and formula milk taken, too soon.
  • Your baby’s coordination may not be developed enough for proper head control to allow sucking and chewing of solid food.
  • Babies at this stage don’t usually like different tastes and textures.
  • Your baby’s system is simply not ready at this stage and weaning could increase the risk of allergies and illness.
  • There is evidence to show giving energy-rich foods too soon may result in your baby becoming overweight.

Delaying beyond 6 months can have the following effects:

  • Your baby’s increasing energy and nutrient requirements will not be met by milk alone beyond 6 months of age.
  • Your baby needs to get used to the foods before he/she actually needs it.
  • Delaying weaning also means the process may prove much more difficult. This is because babies are usually most willing to try new foods and flavours when they are between four and six months old.
  • Babies weaned later are less likely to go on to eat a varied diet.
  • Babies weaned later may not advance to family foods until after their first birthday.

So while the idea that full breastfeeding for about 6 months is a desirable goal, the reality is quite different. Dr Gillian Harris, Consultant Pediatric Clinical Psychologist at the Children’s Hospital, Birmingham, feels strongly that starting solids at 6 months is cutting things a bit fine. She says:

‘I believe that introducing solids between 4 and 6 months is important. There is no evidence that it increases the risk of allergies. Babies are least neophobic (afraid of new foods) at this age. The evidence shows that giving lots of different tastes very early on – and just a taste is fine – increases the child’s readiness to accept a wide range of foods later.’

At Mummy Cooks, we believe parents should aim to start weaning just before 6 months. This gives your baby a chance to build up to what is ahead at six months of age. I believe the best time is between five or five and a half months, starting slow for two or three weeks. At 6 months, we would then encourage introducing lots of variety into your baby’s diet. Include herbs and spices as well as a wide variety of fruits, vegetables and grains. It’s all about getting baby used to different tastes and textures, making them less likely to become a fussy eater later on.

Signs your baby is ready to start weaning

  • They sit up well without support.
  • They’re developing a ‘pincer’ grasp.
  • They are starting to demand feeds more often.
  • They have lost the tongue-thrust reflex and don’t automatically push solids out of their mouth.
  • They are a keen participant and eye up your food at meal times.
  • They’re ready and willing to chew.
  • They are waking up during the night rather than sleeping through the night.

First tastes

The very first foods must be easy to digest. The texture needs to be runny and smooth, with no lumps. You can achieve this by cooking your fruit or vegetables for a little longer than your own. Add a little of the reserved water or baby’s milk to make it even smoother.

Foods to start

 Start by offering very smooth, runny purées like apple, pear, carrot, sweet potato, potato or butternut squash to your baby. This Carrot Puree is perfect to start. Store it in portions using the 4-6 Month Weaning Pots from the Starter Weaning Set for a quick and easy weaning meal. If your baby doesn’t like the taste or texture of the spoon, try putting the food on your (clean) finger and letting them suck it off.

If you are staring to wean closer to 6 months of age it would be advisable to start with fruit or vegetables. When you feel your baby is ready try increasing the thickness and texture as your baby gets to grips with eating. It is not necessary to start with baby rice. It seems like an easy first food as it is bland and soft on your baby’s immature digestive system. But I recommend starting with single fruit or veg purees, and using baby rice to thicken them as desired to make them more filling.

Finger Food

Finger food should be introduced from as early as six months to get your baby used to feeding themselves. They may not master this until 7 months as they begin to pick up objects with their thumb and forefinger. But don't be afraid to let them get messy! Remember teeth are not essential for good nutrition during weaning, and babies will use their gums to chew lumpier food. These Sweet Potato Tots are a perfect baby led weaning finger food from 6 months. The sweet and savoury bites are perfect to batch cook and freeze in 9-12 Month Weaning Pots from the Starter Weaning Set.