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When to wean

When to wean

What’s the right age to start your baby on solids? We explain the guidelines.

Most mums know that it’s important not to wean your baby too early – but it’s also important not to leave it too late.

Why weaning early can be risky

 The Department of Health recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of your baby’s life. This is because most babies aren’t ready for solid food before then.

There are several reasons for this:

  • Digestion: Babies under 6 months can’t make all the enzymes needed to digest a variety of foods. Their kidneys also might not be mature enough to cope with foods other than milk.
  • Coordination: Babies need to be able to hold their heads steady and swallow their food. Babies under six months won’t have developed this posture and coordination.

Risks of illness and allergies

 If babies are introduced to solid foods too early, they may be at more risk of:

  • Respiratory illness, celiac disease and wheezing
  • Developing allergies
  • Being overweight – introducing solid foods early is associated with an increased percentage of body fat

Why six months is around the right time for weaning

 By the time they are six months old, the stores of iron babies are born with are running out – they need to get new iron from food.

Babies also need to take more and more milk to meet their needs – solid food is more concentrated.

Coordination-wise, your baby is more likely to be ready, too:

  • His jaw and tongue will have developed enough to cope with eating and swallowing food – making weaning a lot less messy
  • The process of dealing with food helps a baby’s mouth and tongue to develop – helping her get ready for talking

Plus, most babies will have begun to cut teeth.

Ready to start?

 Once your baby gets to six months, she might give signs that she’s ready for weaning – picking up things and putting them in her mouth might be one of them. For other things to look out for, see Is your baby ready for weaning?

Mums say

‘I waited until they were six months and it was fine – I don’t think I should have started earlier. Because the guidelines have changed there is confusion about whether you’re doing everything right. Also, a lot of new mums are so desperate because of sleep deprivation, they’ll latch onto anything they think will give them more sleep.’
Eve, mum of 3

Mums say

‘We did sleep training with our baby and when he was about 5-and-a-half months old, the sleep guru suggested the reason he was waking up every half an hour was because he was hungry. I started him on baby rice and it definitely helped.’
Linda, mum of 1

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