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When is my baby ready for weaning?

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Registered dietitian and leading child nutritionist Dr Frankie Phillips shares advice on the signs to look for that show your baby is ready to start weaning.

After getting through those first few sleep-deprived weeks, you may have fallen confidently into a routine where your response to your baby's need to feed becomes second nature. However, after a few months of milk feeds, it’s time to shake things up and reach a new, exciting milestone: the weaning window.

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Discover more about weaning with our guides on what is baby-led weaning? and what can my baby eat and when?

How do I recognise the signs that my baby is ready for weaning?

Little ones naturally develop the skills they need to move on to solid food, and there are three tell-tale signs that appear at around six months:
• Your baby is able to stay upright in a sitting position and hold their head steady
• Your baby can co-ordinate their eyes, hands and mouth, so they can look at food, pick it up and put it in their mouth
• Your baby can swallow food (you’ll know if they aren't ready, because the food will be pushed out with their tongue)
There are many myths about how to recognise whether a baby is ready for weaning, but signs such as chewing on fists, waking more in the night or wanting more milk feeds are not reliable signs of readiness.
Woman feeding baby daughter in high chair

Why are solids important for my baby?

For the first few months, breast or formula milk provides most of the nutrition your baby needs. However, as they approach six months (or 26 weeks) and for the rest of the first year, adding a wide range of foods to their diet to complement the milk becomes more important. This is because your baby’s stores of some nutrients, such as iron, begin to run low, so they need to start obtaining the nutrients they need from the foods they eat. Introducing textures early on is also valuable, because biting and chewing helps develop the muscles in the mouth and tongue, which are needed for speech.

Why is six months the right time to wean my baby?

The World Health Organisation recommends that babies should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life to achieve optimal growth, development and health. In the UK, the Department of Health and Social Care and NHS Choices advise ‘around six months’ as the time to start ‘complementary feeding’ – this is to take account of individual developmental stages, rather than provide a blanket recommendation. ‘Complementary feeding’ is a useful term, as it suggests weaning isn’t just replacing baby’s milk feeds, but accompanying these with new foods as your baby develops the skills of eating solid foods.

Baby food in Tupperware

Can I wean my baby before six months?

Some babies might be ready to start weaning before six months, and if they are showing all the signs, then it’s fine to start. Always check with your health visitor first to be sure.

That said, the latest research shows that it’s best to wait until your baby is at least 17 weeks old, because before this time, their digestive tract and kidneys may not be developed enough. Trust your instincts and your baby’s signals, and ignore pressure from others.

Looking for inspiration? Try our stage-one homemade purée recipes below:

More related content:

Read our review of the best high chairs for babies and toddlers.

Have you got any questions about weaning? Or any tips to share? We would love to hear from you below.


This article was last reviewed on 14 February 2022 by Kerry Torrens.

Kerry Torrens BSc. (Hons) PgCert MBANT is a Registered Nutritionist with a post graduate diploma in Personalised Nutrition & Nutritional Therapy. She is a member of the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT) and a member of the Guild of Food Writers. Over the last 15 years she has been a contributing author to a number of nutritional and cookery publications including BBC Good Food.

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All health content on bbcgoodfood.com is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional. If you have any concerns about your general health, you should contact your local health care provider. See our website terms and conditions for more information.

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