Are you getting ready to go back to work and hoping to start weaning your baby onto solid foods before you go?
Does your baby show a surprising level of development for his or her age?
Do you feel like it’s time to start weaning even though your little one isn’t six months old yet?
If any of these are true of you and your baby, it may be time to learn how to start weaning a baby at 4 months. And if you’re looking for that kind of information, you’ve come to the right place!
In this article, we’ll teach you everything you need to know about weaning a 4-month-old baby. You’ll learn about milestones that are important to the weaning process and you’ll find out why some people are for early weaning while others are against it.
If you choose to give early weaning a try, we’ve even got a sample schedule for you to follow so the process goes as smoothly as possible.
In no time, you’ll have all the answers you need to the question, “Can I wean my baby at 4 months?” So let’s get started!
4-Month-Old Developmental Milestones
Weaning your baby at 4 months depends a lot on his or her developmental milestones. You’ll start to notice a lot of exciting changes taking place in your little one at this stage of his or her life, and there are a few specific milestones you need to keep an eye out for if you’re trying to determine whether or not your child is ready to start weaning. Check out our list below to help you understand more.
- Sitting up and rolling over: This is a fun milestone for any baby! When your child is able to sit up on his or her own without assistance and keep from wobbling around, that can be a good sign it’s almost time to start weaning. You should never try to feed solid foods to a baby who has yet to master the skill of sitting up without help.
- More babbling: Although babbling may not have much to do weaning, it is another great milestone you’ll start to notice more around this time. You may even notice your baby stringing sounds together that are getting closer and closer to “mama,” which can be even more of a special time!
- Better eyesight and perception: When your baby’s eyesight begins to develop and his or her perception improves, this means your child will be more interested in what’s going on in the surrounding world. This also means that he or she will start to take notice of family meal times much more frequently. This is another important milestone in the weaning process. When your baby is able to pay more attention to what everyone else is eating and how they’re eating it, eventually he or she will become interested enough to want to try it too.
- LCP nutritional needs: Finally, your baby still needs LCPs in his or her diet. Two of these LCPs, Omega-3 and Omega-6, are especially important at this stage of development. As your baby’s nervous system and eyesight continue to develop, these LCPs will remain crucial. They are both naturally found in breastmilk, so it’s important to remember that your baby’s diet needs to be based more heavily around breastmilk at this stage than on solid foods.
However, that doesn’t mean you can’t start introducing purees or some solids at this time, as long as you keep breastmilk as the most important factor in your child’s diet.
Can You Wean a Baby at 4 Months?
Chances are, if you’ve talked to any nursing mothers, you’ve probably heard a few stories that begin with “I started weaning my baby at 4 months, and…” While most of this advice and anecdotal assistance is usually meant well, sometimes it can make matters much worse when you start comparing yourself to the experiences of others.
In this section, we’ll give you some quick facts for every possible answer to the question “can I start weaning my 4 month old baby?” This way, you’ll be better able to make a good decision for yourself and your baby’s needs.
- Studies from the World Health Organization have shown that there’s “no compelling evidence” for exclusively breastfeeding babies for the first six months.
- Some studies have even determined that breastfeeding for six months keeps some babies from getting all the nutrients they need in their diets.
- Babies who are weaned partially onto solids as early as four months have shown less risk of anemia than those who aren’t.
- As long as babies are properly monitored and given age-appropriate foods under the supervision of a pediatrician, there’s no evidence that early weaning is harmful to them.
- It’s not currently advised to start giving babies solid foods at 4 months.
- Babies at 4 months may not have developed better tongue thrust and gag reflex control, and therefore may be unable to swallow well.
- At 4 months, babies do not have strong immune systems and may develop allergies or illnesses from the solid foods they eat.
- Babies should never be given solid foods younger than 4 months under any circumstances.
- Even if your baby’s appetite is increasing, that doesn’t necessarily mean he or she needs solid foods just yet.
- All babies are individuals and what works well for one child may not work for another. Always make sure you talk to a pediatrician and consider your own baby’s strengths and weaknesses when determining whether or not to wean early.
- If your baby is unable to sit up without assistance, it’s not the time to start weaning. If so, it may be.
- If your baby is not making pinching motions with his or her fingers, it’s too early to start weaning. If so, now may be the perfect time to try.
- Developmental milestones are the best way to tell if your baby is ready for early weaning.
How to Start Weaning a Baby at 4 Months
There are a few specific steps you should take when learning how to wean a 4 month old baby. Weaning younger infants can be a little bit of a different process than it is with older children, so pay close attention to the requirements your baby has if you plan to start weaning at this early age. Remember, however, that you may need to change this process slightly depending on what your child needs and how developed he or she may be at this point.
- Be sure your baby is showing all the signs of readiness to wean. If even one of these signs is missing, then you should wait another few weeks before trying.
- Remember that your child is still getting all the nutrition he or she needs from breastmilk. At this point, you don’t need to worry about providing anything more nutritionally to your child, at least for a couple more months. Your main focus should be on making sure your baby is able to swallow and can get used to the feeling of eating solid foods before you move on to the next stage of weaning in a few months.
- It’s a good idea to start with something smooth, simple, and bland. A teaspoon of baby rice is a great first solid food to begin with. You might also want to start with thoroughly mashed or pureed banana. Whatever you choose, be sure it’s soft, mushy, and presents absolutely no choking hazard.
- Put your baby in a high chair or other comfortable, safe feeding seat. You may want to let your baby play with the solid foods a little first to better understand what they are. Chances are good your baby will put the food in his or her mouth at some point while playing with it.
- You may also want to let your child play with his or her baby silverware to get used to it as well. This can help cut down on any nervousness your child may feel upon seeing something unfamiliar at feeding time.
- Be sure you keep your baby close to you during feeding, even when you’re offering solid foods. Your baby has gotten used to being near you during meal times, and that may be one of the most drastic changes that can lead to unsuccessful weaning.
- Move on to smooth and slightly thick purees once your baby is getting more interested in the feeling of food in his or her mouth. You can easily cook carrots, apples, or pears until they’re very soft, then put them in a blender and puree them into a completely smooth consistency. These are all great options for early baby weaning.
- Do not replace any milk feeds with solid foods at this time. You should still be giving your baby the same number of breastmilk feeds every day that you have been because this is still the primary source of nutrients for your little one.
- Try feeding solids to your baby about halfway through a normal milk feed. This way, your child isn’t going to be frustrated and fussy from being hungry, but also won’t be too full to be interested in eating anything else.
- Remember to be patient and take your time. If your baby is unwilling or unable to eat solid foods at first, there’s no harm in waiting a week or two and trying again.
- Be sure to experiment with lots of fun flavors for your baby once he or she gets used to eating purees. There are plenty of great fruits and vegetables you can serve to babies from a very young age. Just make sure to cook them until they’re very soft with no salt, seasonings, fats, or oils, then use a blender to puree them until they’re free from any lumps at all.
- Never give 4-month-old babies peanuts, eggs, gluten, or honey. Gluten and eggs may be introduced after 6 months of age, while honey should be saved for at least a year, if not later. Peanuts should be kept out of your baby’s diet until he or she is a toddler.
Are Solids Safe at 4 Months?
There are a few different ways you can determine whether or not solid foods are safe to feed 4-month-old babies. Once again, please remember that all babies are different and one 4-month-old may not be ready for solids while another is happily munching away on cereal. Pay attention to the following tips to help you determine if solids are safe for your baby.
- If your baby is less than 17 weeks old, solids are never safe. This is specified by several organizations worldwide, and it is backed up by every health care professional. No one will recommend weaning a baby before the age of 17 weeks, so be sure you aren’t starting this process too early for your child’s safety.
Just because your baby hits the 17-week mark doesn’t necessarily mean it’s time to immediately begin weaning, either. Pay attention to the physical and developmental cues your baby is showing you to help you figure out if it’s time to start the process.
- If there is a history of celiac disease or severe food allergy in your family, solids may not be safe at an early age. At this age, your baby’s digestive system and immune system both haven’t developed completely yet. This means that anything upsetting to either of these vital systems may do a lot more harm at an early age than it would in a couple of months.
If your family has a history of celiac disease or food allergies, be sure you talk to your pediatrician about starting your baby on solids at all. You’ll need to know which foods are safe to begin the process with. Many pediatricians will encourage caregivers and parents to refrain from giving babies anything containing gluten until six months of age.
- If your baby is hungrier than he or she used to be, that doesn’t necessarily mean solids are safe to begin. Just because your baby’s appetite is increasing doesn’t mean you need to worry about whether or not he or she is getting enough nutrition. For the first six months at least, your baby can get plenty of nutritional benefits from breastmilk alone.
Babies may start to develop more of an appetite at this stage because they are starting to be more active. Although eventually, this will mean that you need to think about feeding your child more, it doesn’t mean you automatically have to start offering a lot more food than you have been. Slow and steady increases are best, as long as that’s what your pediatrician recommends.
- If your baby still has a tongue thrust reflex, solids are not yet safe. Up until a certain stage of development, babies instinctively push things out of their mouths. This is for their safety since they are not yet able to swallow without choking on most items. However, this also extends to any food items that may make their way into the baby’s mouth.
If your baby is still pushing things out of his or her mouth and seems to be struggling with swallowing at four months, do not try to force weaning. It’s much safer for your baby and easier on you, too, if you wait until your child is physically able to handle more solid foods.
- Baby led weaning is not safe to begin until six months of age. Although baby led weaning may work very well for some infants, and it’s well worth considering when you’re planning your weaning options, 4-month-old babies should never be given any solids other than pureed or very well-mashed, smooth foods.
Never leave a baby alone with solid foods. Always supervise baby led weaning as well as feeding purees and mashes.
Baby Weaning Schedule for 4-Month-Olds
So, you’ve learned a lot about what to look for to determine if your baby is ready for weaning. You know more about how to start weaning a 4-month-old and you understand the different opinions on the matter. If you’re still interested in getting started with early weaning, you may be wondering what to feed your baby and when. Below, we’ve got a schedule to help you get started. With this baby weaning schedule 4 months can be the perfect age to begin introducing solids to your little one.
- 7 am: Wake up for a morning milk feed.
- 11 am: Mid-morning milk feed.
- 2 pm: Lunchtime milk feed. You may try offering 1 tsp of pureed solid food at this time, halfway through the milk feed.
- 5 pm: Dinner milk feed.
- 7 pm: Mid-evening milk feed.
- 9 pm: Bedtime milk feed. You may try another 1 tsp of pureed solid food halfway through this milk feed as well.
- 10 pm: Bedtime
- During the night: Continue with normal milk feeds when your baby wakes up during the night. There is no need to offer solids or cut back on nighttime milk feeds at 4 months.
- 17 weeks: Begin with one or two teaspoons of solid pureed food offered halfway through normal milk feeds. Do not replace any milk feeds with solid foods at this time.
- 18 weeks: If your baby has taken to the first few tries with solid food, you may add another teaspoon of solid food halfway through the dinner milk feed at this time. Do not replace any milk feeds.
- 19 weeks: Start offering solid pureed foods at your mid-evening milk feed. Do not replace milk feeds with solids at this time.
- 20 weeks: Finally, at 5 months, you may begin offering a small amount of pureed food with every milk feed, except for those during the night. Once again, it’s too early to replace any breastfeeding sessions with solid food at this point.
- 21 weeks: Encourage your baby to eat more solid foods than he or she has been. Be sure you’re still feeding between 24 and 44 ounces of breastmilk per day, with solid foods as supplements.
- 22 weeks: Consider introducing some new, different purees at this stage. This will help keep your baby interested in the weaning process and may encourage moving on to the next stage as well.
- 23 weeks: Your baby may be ready to begin replacing milk feeds with solid meals at this time. If so, you may want to begin with lunchtime for this step. Talk to your pediatrician to determine if this is right for your baby.
Please remember that this is only a suggested weaning schedule. Your baby may not move at this rate, and that’s okay. If he or she is taking some time to reach the next step of the weaning process, there’s no harm in slowing down. Conversely, if you and your pediatrician both think your baby is ready to go on to the next step, there’s nothing wrong with that either.
Always do what is best for your baby!
So, can you wean a baby at 4 months? By now, the answer to that should be pretty clear. Of course, when it comes down to it, the answer also differs for every baby and every situation, so it’s important to figure out what’s best for you and your little one in terms of a weaning schedule.
Remember that you should never force your baby into the weaning process. Weaning baby onto solids 4 months and younger may be unsafe if your child isn’t ready for it, so pay close attention to the cues your baby gives you about what he or she is capable of.
As always, be sure you talk to your pediatrician before making any drastic changes in your baby’s nutrition or lifestyle. Your pediatrician knows your baby’s health needs best and will offer you any advice or warnings you might need before you get started.
Early weaning can be fun and rewarding if you work through it in the correct way. With the information provided here, you should have no trouble figuring out if this process is right for your baby, and if so, how to best accomplish it.