When your baby is around 6 months old there comes a point when breast milk or infant formula alone just can’t provide all the nutrients and energy they need – and it’s time to start introducing solid foods to their diet.
Moving onto solid food
Weaning is a funny term and can be taken to mean the time when breastfeeding reduces or stops (at any age) or when solids are first introduced into your baby’s diet – which is not always the same thing.
You can find more information on weaning at: What is Weaning?
The current official recommendation is that solid foods should be introduced at around 6 months of age and that breast milk (or infant formula) should be continued up until they are 1 year old – breast milk still remains an important source of nutrition.
Why around 6 months? At around this age breast milk and infant formula alone no longer provides all the nutrients and energy they need and their digestive systems have developed enough to cope with solid food. They are also able to sit and hold their head up unsupported and no longer just suck things – they can bite! Most babies are well on the way and chewing by the time they are 7-9 months old.
This is also the time during which babies are able to adjust more quickly to the introduction of new food, textures and feeding methods.
Are they ready?
Introducing solid foods either too early or too late can cause problems. For example, when a baby is not developed enough to control their mouth and tongue they tend to push food out of their mouth (this is called the tongue-thrust reflex), or if solids are given too late their growth can begin to slow as they are not getting enough nutrients from breast milk or infant formula feeds alone.
Signs that your baby may be ready for solid foods can include:
- An increased appetite and wanting more feeds
- They have lost the tongue-thrust reflex and can bite and swallow food
- Being more ‘mouthy’ – placing toys or other things in their mouth and ‘chewing’
- Starting to be interested in the food you are eating and what’s on your plate!
Here are a few helpful tips and hints for when you start weaning your baby:
- Try and choose a time when both you and your baby are happy and relaxed
- There are currently no official recommendations on the order or speed in which foods should be introduced – just that they are the right texture and consistency for the baby’s age, and that they are iron-rich foods such as iron-enrich infant cereals, puréed meat and poultry
- If they refuse a food the first time you give it to them, try again the next day.
Starting solid foods is a real milestone in both you and your baby’s journey together – relax, look out for the signs your baby is ready for the next big step and remember to be patient and prepare yourself for a mess!
For more information and tips on when to start introducing solids and the best kinds of foods and textures to start with watch our video Introducing Solids