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When your baby is ready to wean, you'll need to choose your approach. Our dietitian has all the advice to help you decide how to wean your baby
The big day has come when your baby suddenly becomes interested in what you're eating. It's time to wean, but what's the best way? Do you lead baby or let baby lead you?
When to wean
Experts recommend that your baby receives only breast or formula milk until the age of six months, but some larger babies can be weaned before this time. Check with your health visitor if you think your baby might be ready sooner. Certainly, no baby should be weaned before the age of four months as their digestive system isn't mature enough, and they can't sit properly in a high chair so there's a risk of choking.
The first taste
At first, your baby will eat only tiny amounts of food, so you can keep up the usual breast or formula feeds alongside. Good foods to try in the early days are soft cooked fruit and vegetables, such as pear or apple, potato, parsnip, yam or carrot. You can also try baby rice or baby cereal mixed with their normal milk. Let your baby eat as much as they like, and don't worry if they refuse. Just try again later.
Once your baby is used to these foods, offer more variety and some protein foods. This may include minced beef, lamb or pork, soft cooked chicken, turkey mince, mashed fish (check carefully for bones), pasta, noodles, toast, lentils, rice and mashed, hard-boiled eggs. Dairy foods, such as yoghurt, fromage frais and cheese, can also be offered.
Baby-led or purée?
There's a trend now for baby-led weaning where babies are offered a variety of finger foods, such as cooked carrot sticks, mini rice cakes or chunks of banana, as well as foods they can spoon themselves. It's up to you since the traditional purée method – where you progress from smooth to rough purées then whole foods – also works well. Or you could combine both methods by giving them baby-led snacks and purée/mashed meals. It really depends on when you start weaning, as babies of six months or more can handle baby-led weaning, while younger babies will need purées. Have a chat with your health visitor if you're unsure.
How much is enough?
Young children are very good at eating the right amounts for their energy needs so don't fret if your baby won't clear the plate. Three small daily meals plus healthy between-meal snacks, such as fruit, is a useful guide. Breastfeeding can continue for as long as you wish. Formula milk feeds should be gradually reduced as your baby eats more solid food. Eventually, you can just offer tap water in a beaker with meals.
By Dr Carrie Ruxton, dietitian and health writer