This is a controversial subject I know and opinions vary so much. However, over the past few weeks I have worked with a few families who have been struggling with this topic, which has led to problems in other areas, mainly sleeping.
Yes, the NHS guidelines tell you not to introduce solids until 6mths, but in my experience of working with over 200 babies, this just isn’t realistic and weaning is not a thing that can be done with such a blanket approach. Other factors need be taken into account, like baby’s weight, daily activity and sleeping habits… a baby that weighed 6lb at birth probably isn’t going to be weaned at the same time as a baby that weighed 10lb!
Around 4/5mths your baby will be moving around more and using a lot more energy, so more often their appetite will increase now too, therefore it could be time to start down the weaning path now, instead of waiting until 6mths.
Another major factor is changes in sleep patterns, if your baby has been a great sleeper in the night or was only waking just once and it suddenly changes to waking more often or taking longer to settle, then it may be time to add some baby rice to the menu.
Yes, there is such a thing as sleep regression at around 4mths when the babies sleep cycles start to change but if the waking is prolonged, then try giving some solids just to see if it makes a difference.
I have been in more than one job when the baby was aged 19/20 weeks and was waking once in the night and that then started waking more or was getting more difficult to settle and once we introduced baby rice at around 5pm the baby then slept through the night, from then onwards and only really woke due to teething or illness.
The signs that baby is ready to be weaned are:
- They can hold their head upright and move it from side to side
- Good hand, eye and mouth coordination, can they put objects in their mouth?
- Interest in your food, do they avidly watch you eating?
- Ability to swallow food. If you try them with solids and they just consistently push it out, then they may not be ready
- Seem hungry after milk feeds
- Change in sleep patterns, waking more in the night and seeming hungry
Babies can be different ages when these signs are evident, but I would say around 20 weeks, most babies are ready for the addition of baby rice in the evening,
Waiting until 6mths can bring its own set of challenges, as some babies aren’t keen on the introduction of a spoon and prefer to feed themselves, which is fine but some mothers find it difficult to know how much the baby has had to eat. Ideally, what l find works best is if you can give them the pureed version of the finger food and give that by spoon then mum and baby get the best of both worlds.
The main problem I see more and more of, is that around 7mths old the babies sleep has become so bad due to hunger and parents get into bad habits like rocking, holding or staying with the baby until they fall asleep, that they think sleep training is the answer, when most of the time once the baby is having more food the sleep patterns correct themselves, or become much easier to help with.
With 30 years of experience the best advice I can give, is to read your babies signs, don’t just go by their age… and don’t let a man in a Government office tell you when to wean your baby!!