10 Excellent Signs a Baby is Ready for Weaning
What are the signs my baby is ready to wean? You’re not alone if you have a feeling that your baby is ready to eat solids but you aren’t exactly sure what are the signs a baby is ready for weaning.
It can be hard to know exactly how to spot such an important milestone in your baby’s development!
Perhaps your friends have babies of a similar age who are already weaned or maybe your well-intentioned mother in law is quizzing you about when to take the plunge and move your baby to solid foods!
We know from experience that, when it comes to your baby and their development, everyone has an opinion and isn’t afraid to share it!
The signs baby needs weaning can be subtle and, frustratingly can often be mistaken for other signs of healthy baby development. It can be a difficult call to make and there is no magic formula to be 100% sure. Is my baby ready to wean or am I mis-reading the signs?
Do not despair however as there are a number of excellent signals which can give you a really good steer in the right direction and provide you with a clear indication of the signs of baby led weaning.
1. Your baby can sit up with your support.
If your baby is ready for solid food then you should be sure that they are able to sit in an upright position relatively easily and independently. This may be on your knee (not necessarily in a high chair, though this is a great sign too) and with you gently supporting their back – but you should be confident that they have enough dexterity and strength in their back to hold that position for a reasonable period of time.
This is a really important sign as it will ensure that, when eating solid foods, your baby’s body will be in the correct, vertical position in order to properly chew, swallow and digest the food that he or she eats.
Give this one a try yourself to check your baby’s progress. Lift your baby up, place them on your knee and put the palm of your hand on the small of their back, using your other hand to fully support their front. Can they sit upright, with other light support from you? If so, read on for the next telling sign your baby is ready for weaning!
2. He or she can hold their head steady.
This is a really simple one and something that you will inevitably have noticed about your baby’s development during the course of the previous few months. If he or she can hold their head upright and steady, without it lolling to the side or rolling forwards or backwards, then this is a great first step.
The next step is for them to be able to hold their head upright and steady for a prolonged period of time – that is, without it dropping forwards, backwards or to the sides.
It probably goes without saying that this is a critical factor as it means that your baby will be able to hold food in their mouth, chew it and swallow it whilst keeping their airways clear and without choking. If you aren’t sure about whether or not your baby has cracked this step yet, hold off – it’s probably one of the biggest indicators there is and one of the key signs to wean baby onto solids.
3. Your baby is interested and curious about food.
You may have found yourself asking “is my baby ready for weaning?” whilst watching your baby trying to grab a piece of food from your plate! Whilst a lot of the other signs your baby is ready for weaning are quite physical and specific, this one is more of a feeling and can be a little more subjective.
You may notice that your baby becomes quite animated at dinnertime, starts watching what you are eating and develops a real interest, even nosiness, about what is on your kitchen work surfaces and dinner plate!
No-one knows your baby better than you do so trust your instincts on this one! If you get the sense that he or she has developed a curiosity about what you and your family, or even other people in restaurants or on the street, are eating, chances are you are right and this is one of the signs to start weaning baby onto solid foods.
Hopefully it will also mean that he or she will develop a healthy appetite for a range of different foods when they are fully weaned, but there is no simple way of ensuring this unfortunately!
4. They try to chew on other objects (usually things that they shouldn’t!).
This is a classic sign, often the first signal that people think of as one of the key signs baby wants to wean. Perhaps you have noticed that your baby suddenly has his or her hand in their mouth constantly, or are gnawing away on their toys or the side of their cot!
This can often be a good sign that your baby is ready for weaning however it can also be easily confused as it is also a sign of teething and general good child development. As with all of the signs talked about in this article, use them together rather than separately, to build a good, general picture of your baby’s development and his or her readiness to wean.
5. Your baby can use his or her hands to pick food up and put it their mouth without your help.
This sign is similar to the signs discussed earlier in this article about baby’s ability to sit up and hold their head steady, as it is a visible and physical signal. You might have noticed that, at this stage of their development, your baby is using his or her hands more and more to touch, hold things and even pick things up. This is an exciting phase and really enjoyable for a parent to watch!
If you have noticed your baby actually moving their hands to pick food up from their plate or high chair tray themselves, without you handing it to them, they are giving you a clear signal that they could be ready for weaning!
6. He or she is around 6 months old and is the correct weight for their age – usually around double their weight at birth at 6 months.
One of the more traditional signs of baby weaning is to check the baby’s age and weight to work out whether they are developed enough to be weaned. But be careful with this sign – as we all know too well, babies don’t follow textbook rules and every single baby is unique and different. We have moved away from the days of expecting each baby to progress at exactly the same rate, and rightly so, as there are a whole host of other factors which influence and individual baby’s development!
So, on its own, this sign should not be relied on. But it is good background and if your baby has reached the six month old mark and is a good, healthy weight for their age, as confirmed by your health visitor or midwife, plus meets a number of the other signs mentioned in this article, it could be a positive sign that they are ready to take the next step and move onto solid foods.
It should be noted that it is not generally advisable to being to wean your baby before they are four months old as you need to be confident that their digestive system is ready to cope with the changes that the progression to solid foods brings. Don’t be afraid of consulting your medical professional for advice in your particular case.
7. Your baby can swallow food.
It should probably go without saying that this a critical factor – quite simply, if your baby cannot swallow food easily yet then he or she cannot be ready to move to a solid food diet!
However, it can be much easier than you might think to mis-read the signs on this one. Your baby may be happily accepting food and moving it around their mouth with their tongue and, as babies generally make a bit of a mess when eating, it’s hard to tell whether they are swallowing some, if any, of the solids, right?
It may appear that your baby is swallowing, but if aren’t quite ready to do so, you will notice them reject the food back out of their mouth, leaving traces of it on their tongue and even around their lips and chin.
Watch closely to see how much food actually gets swallowed – if it’s minimal, this is a sure sign that your baby is not ready to be weaned just yet. They will get there – keep practicing and be patient!
8. They are able to make chewing movements with their mouth.
This sign follows on from the previous pointer that I have discussed in the point above. Not only do you want to see your baby swallow food, you want to be able to see their mouth moving in such a way as to chew or grind the food using their teeth so that you know that it has been chewed into small enough pieces to be swallowed with ease.
If your baby seems to be making chewing movements but isn’t actually swallowing their food yet, they are probably nearly there and just need a bit more time to get it right! The more you observe them and watch out for the small changes in their development, the more certain you will be when they reach the point of being ready to eat solids. What’s more, it can be great fun to watch some of the funny faces that your baby makes when they figure out how to use their tongue and teeth to chew food!
9. Your baby is waking in the night hungry or is generally less satisfied following a milk feed.
Perhaps you have noticed your usually contented baby is still displaying signs of hunger after their usual feeding routine and / or demanding feeds more regularly than usual. Or maybe they are just generally less interested in the milk that they used to enjoy and you sense that they are craving something a little more substantial.
These signs can vary from baby to baby but you will recognise the signs that your own baby is hungry and dissatisfied, be it crying, restlessness, inability to sleep etc.
Again, this alone can be a normal sign of baby development but watch to see if it occurs in tandem with some of the other signs that we have talked about here.
10. Your baby is able to regulate the amount of food he or she eats
Another of the great signs a baby is ready for weaning is when he or she demonstrates a preference for how much milk they want to take. Rather than you controlling the quantity that they are given depending upon their age and weight, your baby may begin to show you that they are “full” – usually by turning their head away from the bottle or your breast. This shows you that they are ready to move to solids and control how much food they want or need independently, so you can be sure that they are getting the right quantities.
So there we have it, 10 great signs baby is ready to wean! Use these pointers to help guide you and your family to recognise the key changes in your baby’s behaviour so that you are well prepared to help them along the exciting journey of their transition onto solid foods. Know your baby, watch their development but also relax and enjoy the process to be sure to give positive associations about food to your growing child.