The general rule is that babies should be weaned from around six months old; this is the age recommended by Government guidelines. Milk provides all the nutrients your baby needs for the first 6 months or so, but some parents feel that their babies are ready before then. If this is the case with your baby, it’s acceptable to introduce solids a little earlier, but not before 17 week as his gastrointestinal function won’t have fully matured. Every baby is different, and in families with a history of food allergy, hay fever, eczema or asthma, it’s best to try to exclusively breastfeed for the first six months.
If weaning is delayed until after six months, some babies can have difficulty eating foods with lumps. Also as your baby gets older he will need more iron and nutrients than milk alone can provide.
Signs that your baby is ready for solids:
- Your baby starts demanding feeds more often
- Your baby still seems hungry after his usual milk feed
- He was sleeping through the night but has started to wake for an extra feed when previously he slept through
Importance of milk
When you start weaning, milk will still form a major part of your baby’s diet. Whether you are breastfeeding or using a bottle, milk will provide all the nutrients they need. Babies should continue to have breast or formula milk throughout the first year. Up to the age of one year, your baby needs a minimum of 600ml (20 oz) of breast or formula milk a day.
Recently the advice was to introduce every new food separately with a space of three days before introducing another food. However, unless there is a history of allergy or you are concerned about your baby’s reactions to a certain food, there is no reason why new foods should not be introduced on consecutive days, provided you keep to the list of the best first foods.
When to introduce cow’s milk
Cow’s milk and goat’s milk aren’t suitable alternatives to breast or formula milk before one year, as they don’t contain sufficient iron and other nutrients. However, they can be used in cooking or with cereal from six months. Use full-fat milk, as babies need the calories for growth.
Annabel’s tip: Occasionally, parents make the mistake of giving their babies solid food when they’re hungry, when what they actually need is an additional milk feed. Plus, giving a baby too much solid food too quickly may lead to constipation. First foods are more about introducing food than giving a full meal.
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