Current guidelines state that babies should be weaned from around 6 months old. This means your baby may be ready a little before or a little after they have turned 6 months. My advice would be to let your baby guide you. Do not start weaning before your baby is four months old (17 weeks) though as their digestive system will not be ready.
Before you begin weaning, check the latest NHS guidelines on what you can and cannot feed your baby. Things change regularly so it is important to have the latest info to hand.
How you choose to wean your baby is up to you but here are a few tips to make it go smoothly.
Make sure your baby is ready
Your baby should be able to stay in a sitting position and hold their head steady.
Your baby should be able to co-ordinate their eyes, hands and mouth so they can look at, pick up and put food into their mouth by themselves.
Spoon fed or Baby Led?
I think this largely depends on your baby. Some babies hate being fed and want to do it themselves while others find feeding themselves hard work and get frustrated. You may find that doing both works but the main thing to do is stay calm and listen to your baby.
Don't start on an empty stomach
Don't try introducing foods if your baby is hungry, they will not be interested. Don't try introducing foods when they are full up on milk either. The ideal time is about an hour before their next feed. Start small and see how your baby goes.
Follow your baby's lead
To begin with your baby may prefer to play with their food rather than eat it. That is fine and milk should still remain their main source of nutrition. Your baby though, like one of my own, may take to weaning straight away so let them show you when they are hungry or full and go with the flow. Remember, what works for one baby won't always work for another though so don't compare them to friends babies or how their siblings weaned.
Give it time
It can take up to 20 times of having a food before your baby will like it so give it time and keep offering them as many different, nutritious foods as possible.
What to feed them
You may want to offer a variety of foods from the start or you may want to just start with fruit and vegetables. A taster of fruit or veg to start is a good way to gauge how your baby is going to like weaning. If they enjoy eating straight away then offering more is fine. Again, follow your babies lead and avoid processed foods which contain salt and sugars and any foods that the NHS has recommended to avoid such as honey which babies can't have until they are a year old.
Dropping milk feeds
As your baby starts to eat more food, they will start dropping their milk so do not worry if they refuse a feed. Make sure that they are eating a well balanced diet and if they drop to less then 500ml of formula milk a day they will need a vitamin D supplement.
Both my babies were prem and finding advice on weaning 8 years ago was difficult. In the end the peadiatrician advised following Ella's lead and as long as her actual age wasn't under 17 weeks they didn't see why weaning shouldn't begin if she was ready.
Today, there is still no set advice as all premmies situations are different. The Bliss website does give advice on signs to look for to see if your baby is ready though. These are by looking at their facial expressions and body language. Are they reaching for other peoples food or watching people eat?
This was definitely our clue that Ella was ready, she was just turning 6 months, actual age and although she couldn't sit up unaided, she did have good neck control. Baby led weaning was not an option to begin with but with encouragement it didn't take her long to pick up the skill.
If you require any further help or advice on weaning, I would be happy to support you and your baby so please do get in contact by clicking here to book a consultation.