We have asked Happy Tums, Registered Nutritionists and experts in infant and child nutrition, to give us the latest advice, tips and reassurance regarding weaning. Here is their advice on spotting the signs showing your baby is ready for weaning.
The official guidelines from the NHS state that babies shouldn’t start eating solid foods until around 6 months of age NHS guidelines on weaning.
There are many reasons for this advice but one of the most important elements is that we need to make sure our babies are displaying the physical signs to actually digest food safely and efficiently. After lots of research and evidence, we know that around six months, our babies are developmentally able to eat solid foods for the first time.
So what do we mean when we talk about the physical signs? Below we have listed the three signs which babies must be displaying before they are introduced to the incredible world of food.
- Your baby must be able to sit up and hold their head steady. If they are still a bit wobbly on the bottom half, you can prop them up with cushions or inserts for your highchair but the most important thing is that their neck muscles are strong enough to hold their head up. They must also be able to turn in a fluid motion to the left and right. Why is this so important? Well, any weakness in their neck muscles could mean that food may get stuck as they are not able to hold their head steady and swallow safely. Babies need to be able to sit up long enough that they don’t need to be reclined – look at their posture and think about whether YOU would like to eat whilst reclining – babies are no different.
- Your baby needs to have hand to mouth co-ordination. They need to be able to bring food from their plate/highchair tray to their mouth. It is likely at this age that they will use the flat of their hand and “scoop” food up – this is known as the “palmer grasp” and allows babies to pick up bits of food and bring it up to their mouth to chew or suck on. Incidentally, at six months, it is almost impossible for a baby to release food from their hand, into their mouth, successfully.
- Your baby needs to have lost its “tongue thrust reflex” before they start solid foods. Did you know that when a baby is born, they have a reflex at the front of their tongue? This is to stop them putting things that could potentially cause choking, into their mouth. Between four and six months, we know that the gag reflex moves to near the middle of the tongue and is designed to eject any food which could cause them any issues. The reflex essentially pushes the food forward to the front of their mouth and then out! Quite often, the food will then get picked up again by gorgeous chubby hands and shoved back in to be devoured safely. For more detail on this reflex, see our blog here Gag Reflex.
The advice to wean around six months is based on much health evidence and because we know that at six months, babies are developmentally ready to accept food safely internally (we know their digestive systems are ready by this time) and externally. So, as you can see, it is more than likely that your baby will be ready to start solid foods as both their physical development will be ready, as will their internal digestive system – and as nature intended, both are ready at the same time – how clever is that!