Weaning: the right age to start

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Marie-Ange Demory
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For theWorld Health Organization (WHO) no doubt: babies should be breastfed exclusively for six months, and weaning should begin after six months.



The European Society of Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition (ESPHGAN) and the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) also recognize six months as an ideal time to introduce other foods besides milk, but they contemplate the possibility of starting first, however suggesting to stay in a window of four to six months. And also according to the Association of American Pediatricians, the baby should only drink milk for the first four to six months.



Read also: Weaning, when to start

Fourth month weaning is possible in some cases

If on paper the sixth month is the ideal moment for the start of weaning, the fact remains that in some cases your pediatrician may recommend starting it earlier - but after the fourth month - if, for example, the child shows growth difficulties or other signs that they need a transition to solid nutrition.



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Mother's milk or formula milk: there are no differences

The indication to start weaning in the sixth month, and in any case not earlier than the fourth, applies whether the baby takes mother's milk or is fed artificial milk.

Sometimes we tend to anticipate it weaning of babies fed formula milk but in reality there is no need, because this food contains what is necessary for the growth of the child.

Follow the baby

Attention, however: the indications of the scientific community are very important but are valid as general references. Then we must never forget that each child is a story in itself and that we must also take into account the signs that indicate whether he is ready or not. In particular, it is better to wait until the child:

  • know how to sit;
  • knows how to swallow food (having lost that reflex that leads him to stick out his tongue to suck on the breast or bottle);
  • know how to grasp food with his hands to bring it to his mouth;
  • you show interest in the food itself.

Read also: Weaning: 40 expert answers to your questions

Don't wait too long

If the weeks go by and the baby continues to show no interest or involvement in foods other than milk, there is a risk that deficiencies in some micronutrients such as iron and zinc, especially if you are breastfed. For this reason, after seven months it may be worthwhile to insist a little more with the proposals of alternative foods and in any case to discuss with the pediatrician.

Some doctors will invite you to force the child a little, others may instead recommend an iron or mineral salt supplement to avoid forcing and evaluate for some time if the situation clears up by itself.

Sources for this article: Proper nutrition and nutritional education in early childhood, document of the Ministry of Health (2022); Infant and young child feeding, World Health Organization recommendations (2022); A. Ferrando, How to feed my son (LSWR Editions, 2022).

Updated on 02.05.2022

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  • right weaning age
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