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Most babies are ready to wean between five and eight months of age. However it is best to wait until they are at least three months corrected age so that they can develop enough head control. Few babies are ready to wean at five months, but you can start to look for signs that your baby may be ready. Likewise few babies will need to wait as long as eight months.
There are government guidelines recommending that, for most babies, weaning is not advised before six months; however premature babies are not included in these guidelines.
Is your baby ready?
Look out for these signs:
- Can your baby be easily supported in a sitting position?
- Can your baby hold their head in a stable position?
- Is your baby alert and looking ready for a new type of feeding?
- Is your baby showing interest in other people eating?
- Is feeding from the breast or bottle going well?
- Can your baby bring their hands to their mouth and are they putting things (e.g. toys) into their mouth?
- Are they making “munching” (up and down) movements with the mouth when putting things to their mouth?
Some changes are not needed to start weaning
Babies can manage solid food without teeth, even when they first go onto lumps. Look out for the following signs:
- Being able to take all the food from a spoon cleanly in one go.
- Keeping their tongues in when food is put into their mouths.
- Getting to a certain weight.
- Increased number of feeds. This is often due to a growth spurt; try offering your baby more milk and eventually the number of feeds should reduce again.
It is not recommended to wean before five months
Premature babies’ digestive systems are usually not developed enough to take solids before five months. Also they may replace milk with less nutritious solids.
If you wean after eight months
You may miss a good time for your baby to begin developing eating skills.
These skills begin as early ‘chewing movements’ from around four to five months, when the instinct to suck becomes less strong. At this time tongue and lips are used to explore toys and food. Starting solids after these chewing, lip and tongue movements start may help babies to practice and develop them further.
Also between five to eight months old, babies are usually willing to try new flavours but, as they grow older they can become more reluctant.