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Weaning your premature baby

Mum feeding her baby

This information is about introducing your premature baby to more solid foods, and the steps you can follow as your baby moves from milk to eventually only eating solids. This is called weaning.

You may also hear people call it 'introducing complementary foods', 'complementary feeding' or 'starting pureed food'. These are different ways of describing adding more solid foods to your baby's diet.

The word 'weaning' can mean different things. Often, health professionals use it to mean a baby coming off oxygen when they are in the neonatal unit, or at home. We do not cover this topic in this information. For more information about breathing support, visit our support pages.

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"After a very early arrival at 26+3 weeks, and 11 weeks in the neonatal unit, we found weaning to be a hugely positive experience. Every meal time feels like a further nutrition boost for our now not-so-little superhero!"

Rachel, mum to Charlie

My baby was born at term but sick – can this information help me?

We talk about weaning premature babies in this information. If your baby was born at term but sick you might also have questions and worries about weaning your baby.

It is important that you always speak with your health professional for advice. Your baby’s care will be very specific to their condition, how well they are currently, and many other factors which must be taken into account.

However, a lot of the information here – in particular the signs that your baby is ready to start weaning and how you can approach starting to wean your baby – will also be relevant for babies born at term.

If you have any questions about weaning before you start, and would like specific advice tailored for you and your baby, do talk to your GP, dietitian, health visitor or consultant. This may be most relevant for babies born very prematurely.

Things to know when weaning your premature baby

A lot of parents worry about when to wean their premature baby. It can also be confusing to read guidelines for term and well babies.

There are some important differences to consider when weaning a premature baby. However many of the recommendations for term babies are also true for those born early.

Parents are still looking for the same signs that their baby might be ready, but these signs may come at different stages for premature babies.

Here, Bliss provides information to help you make a decision about how you would like to handle this process. Every parent and baby will feel and react differently to this change in feeding.

You know your baby best, and you are best-placed to recognise the signs that your baby is ready to start weaning.

This information can help you identify what these signs are, and how you want to start weaning your baby.

All ages given in this information are from the date your baby would have been born, if they hadn’t been born early. This is known as your baby’s 'corrected' age, because it 'corrects' for when they were due to be born.

Before you read on…

There are different ways to approach weaning any baby. For those born prematurely, there is not as much scientific research into the differences between weaning a healthy baby born at term (37-40 weeks’ gestation) and those born early.

Because of this, we have provided details of the range of options available. We have used the evidence available, as well as working with health professionals to produce this information.

Quotes from health professionals and parents are also included to provide some practical tips which might be useful.

Bliss does not recommend any particular way of weaning your baby. This information should not be used by itself, but also with advice from your health professional, where appropriate.

Messy baby

Why is weaning important?

How do I know if my baby is ready to wean?

When should I wean my premature baby?

How do I start weaning?

What foods can my baby have?

How lumpy should food be when weaning my baby?

What about food allergies?

What if my baby refuses food?

Which drinks can I give my baby?

Things to remember when weaning your baby


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