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Weaning: When to start weaning and how to begin

What is weaning?

Weaning is the gradual introduction of solid foods into the diet of your baby.

At the end of the process your baby will be eating most of the same healthy foods as the rest of the family - as long as it is chopped-up or mashed.

When should I start weaning?

The question of when to start weaning is the subject of frequent debate among health professionals and parents.

The official advice - endorsed by the Department of Health and others - is that infants should start to be weaned at six months.

Signs to look for that your baby is ready to start the weaning process are:

  • They can stay in a sitting position and hold their head steady
  • They can co-ordinate their eyes, hands and mouth so that they can look at the food, pick it up and put it in their mouth, all by themselves
  • They can swallow food. Babies who are not ready will push their food back out, so they get more round their face than they do in their mouths

A larger appetite and teething are often mistaken for signs that your baby is ready to be weaned.

Why should I start weaning at six months?

For around the first six months of life babies needs nothing more than breast milk or formula milk, which provide all the nutrients and vitamins that they need.

Health experts agree six months (26 weeks) is the ideal time to start introducing your baby to solid foods. Before this, your baby's digestive system is still developing and weaning too early may increase the risk of allergies and infections.

At, or around, six months a baby's body starts to run out of some key nutrients, such as iron. It is therefore important that when babies are introduced to cow's milk around their first birthday, they are getting these nutrients through a variety of solid foods.

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