Ok so you’ve decided to go down the spoon-led or baby-led route or perhaps you plan on adopting a combined approach, but how do you know when your baby is actually ready? As with most big milestones in parenthood, nothing is ever black and white. Fist chewing, more frequent night wakings, or wanting more milk feeds aren’t actually reliable signs of readiness.
Remember that weaning is a gentle process – it’s about introducing a variety of new tastes and textures rather than the volume of foods that contribute nutrients and calories (not just yet anyway). So, it’s important to remember that your baby’s usual milk will still remain the most essential dish on the menu with around 500–700ml of breast milk or formula needed each day up until their first birthday.
Introducing complementary foods at around 6 months is the age advised by the World Health Organisation. If your baby starts to show the signs of wanting solids a little earlier than 6 months, then it’s fine to start but it’s important to note that babies should never be weaned before 17 weeks, as research suggests that your baby’s digestive system and kidneys might not be developed enough to cope with solid food at this point. If you’re unsure and want to start a little earlier than 6 months, do check in with your health visitor or GP.
Although all babies develop at their own pace, knowing what to look out for will certainly help to further reaffirm your gut feeling that your baby is ready to tackle solids. There are 3 clear signs which, together, show your baby is ready to start out on their food adventure!
Key signs that your baby is developmentally ready to wean:
Sitting-up and supporting their head in a stable position
• They need to be able to stay seated in a sitting position without intervention.
• A highchair will provide the additional support for the feet, bottom and back while eating.
• Your baby needs to be able to coordinate food and direct it into their mouth.
Tongue-thrust reflex has disappeared
• Most babies are likely to have lost this protective reflex by 6 months.
• Once disappeared, they will be better able to move food from the front to the back of their mouth and swallow it.
• Not all babies lose this reflex by 6 months but don’t delay on this account as gentle weaning will naturally help baby lose this reflex.
Offer your baby a breastfeed or a little formula before you give them food. By making sure your baby is relaxed, content, and not too hungry, they are more likely to be accepting of exploring new foods. Their usual milk is still so key at this time as it is far more nutrient-dense than the amount they’ll be taking in through food.