When to wean?

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We all know the Department of Health’s advice that we should start weaning our darling sprogs when they reach 6 months and not a moment before. Even if our little ones are performing impressive contortionist acts in order to get to our cake (in my experience mums do eat a fair amount of cake in those first 6 months- I certainly did!) we know we must say ‘no, little dumpling, your body is not ready for food yet’.

Or should we……..?

Just over a year ago, researchers released findings that suggested that the WHO and DoH guidelines might be slightly antiquated and that we should be starting our babies off on fruit and veg (the first stage of weaning) at an earlier stage or age.

The researcher argued that breast milk alone was not enough for babies ¹ and that they needed food which contained more calories and provided babies with more iron in their diet. This belief is shared by weaning guru Annabel Karmel who has advised parents to ignore the official weaning guidelines and to start giving babies simple fruit and veg purees after 17 weeks ². She adds that the advice to exclusively breastfeed until 6 months were relevant in third world countries, but misplaced here as ‘people know the importance of sterilisation’.

However, a strong counter argument has been launched by the WHO, DoH and the Royal College of Midwives as they believe changing the official guidelines “plays into the hands of the baby food industry”. The Department of Health maintained its guidelines should stand and didn’t amend them.

I personally feel slightly frustrated that there is yet another sticky (and not the good, jam on fingers type, sticky) topic within the larger field of weaning that seems unclear and unresolved. More importantly, there is no mention of individualism in babies and an acknowledgement that some babies seem very keen to start eating as soon as possible, while others need more time to adjust to food and are happy to wait until 6 months.

When weaning our son, he made the decision fairly easy for us and he didn’t show any interest in food before 6 months. He was quite happy with his Mums milk and seemed quite aghast and a bit peeved that food was being added to the mix (he has since done a 180° and LOVES almost everything). However, and at the other end of the scale, when my friend’s babies were fairly young (around 20 weeks) they felt extremely hard done by if food was present, and they weren’t offered some (and in some cases staged lie down protests which included a full repertoire of agony and despair). If this wasn’t a cue that their babies were ready for food, I’m not sure what is!

So what do you think? Did you wait religiously for the 6 month mark to come before introducing food to your baby, or did you start earlier? Was it you that initiated feeding with your baby, or did your baby let you know when they were ready? I would be very interesting to hear a range of different ‘when to wean’ experiences so do let me know…



Rosie Wright runs weaning workshops for first time parents in Brighton.


[email protected]


Twitter: @rosieweaning

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4 comments for “When to wean?

  1. Hazele
    28/06/2012 at 3:29 pm

    I started to wean my son at around 20 weeks as he was just desperate for food, started very slowly and will build him up. The 6 months are new guidelines, a generation before babies were weaned much closer to 3 months, I think all babies are individuals and should be allowed food when they want it.

  2. sandra
    28/06/2012 at 4:06 pm

    Pure organic fruit n veg purred were brought in st 5 months and she loved them

  3. 14/07/2012 at 3:51 pm

    As infants have hardly any amylase until about 20 months, they can’t easily digest anything with carbohydrate in it. Would you eat something you couldn’t digest? On a positive note, babies can digest fat and protein, and that’s what they need!

  4. Rachel
    27/07/2012 at 2:40 pm

    “We all know the Department of Health’s advice that we should start weaning our darling sprogs when they reach 6 months and not a moment before…More importantly, there is no mention of individualism in babies…”

    Can I just say that the Department of Health guidelines actually recommend introducing solid foods at ‘around’ the six months of age because they recognise the fact that babies develop at different rates and should be managed individually. Breastmilk or infant formula is the only food a baby needs until around six months of age.

    Personally, I prefer to take advice on health issues such as infant nutrition from DH/WHO or a health professional rather than a self-styled ‘guru’ such as Ms Karmel, who does not hold any scientific qualifications necessary to critise the scientific research.

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