Weaning - starting your baby on solid foods
Introducing your baby to solid foods is often called weaning. This should start when your baby is around 6 months old.
If you are breastfeeding, you don't need to move to formula milk when introducing solid foods.
We recommend you breastfeed exclusively for 6 months. Continue to breastfeed after solid foods are introduced, up to 2 years or beyond.
When to begin weaning
Babies develop at different stages. Begin introducing solids when your baby is ready. This should be around 6 months. Don't wean before 17 weeks (4 months).
Risks of weaning too soon or too late
You should not give your baby solid foods before 17 weeks because:
- their kidneys are not mature enough to handle food and drinks other than milk
- their digestive systems are not yet developed enough to cope with solid foods
- breast milk or formula milk is all your baby needs until they are 6 months old
- introducing other foods or fluids can displace the essential nutrients supplied by breast or formula milk
- introducing solids too early can increase the risk of obesity in later life
- it can increase their risk of allergy
You should not wait later than 26 weeks (6 months) because:
- your baby's energy needs can no longer be met by either breast milk or formula milk alone
- iron stores from birth are used up by 6 months and their iron needs can no longer be met by milk alone
- it delays their opportunity to learn important skills, including self-feeding
- introducing different textures stimulates the development of muscles involved in speech
Signs your baby is ready for solid foods
Between 17 and 26 weeks (4 to 6 months), your baby may begin to show some signs they are ready for weaning. Your baby should show more than 1 of these signs before you think about introducing solid foods, especially if they are 17 weeks.
Signs your baby is ready for solid food:
- Able to sit up with support and can control their head movements.
- Co-ordination between their eyes, hands and mouth - they can look at food, pick it up and put it in their mouth by themselves.
- Can swallow food instead of spitting it back out.
These signs show that your baby is ready for you to begin introducing foods other than milk.
Some signs mistaken for a baby being ready for solid foods:
- Chewing fists.
- Waking in the night when they have previously slept through.
- Wanting extra milk feeds now and then.
These are normal baby behaviours and not necessarily a sign of hunger or an interest in solid food.
Starting solid foods will not make your baby any more likely to sleep through the night. Sometimes a little extra milk will help until they are ready for solid food.
Weaning a premature baby
If your baby was born early (before 37 weeks) you should begin introducing foods other than milk sometime between 'corrected age' 4 and 6 months. Corrected age, or adjusted age, is your baby's age minus the number of weeks or months they were born early.
It is important to look for the signs listed above that your baby may be ready for solids.
Talk to your GP or public health nurse if you have concerns.