Weaning a premature baby

young babyIt is recommended that weaning your premature baby starts when your baby is between five and eight months old, the age they are from their birth date and not from their corrected age date. This differs from Government guidelines for term babies which states that weaning shouldn’t usually start until 6 months, but occasionally a premature baby may benefit from weaning earlier than this. The important thing is to discuss this with your healthcare professional, who will be able to advise you on the best time for your baby.

Signs that your baby is ready to begin weaning may include:

  • baby is showing interest in other people eating
  • baby is putting things into his/her mouth
  • baby seems less satisfied with milk alone
  • baby may begin waking in the night, where before they slept longer.

Starting weaning as soon as your baby appears ready is important as introducing solids is an important stage in your baby’s development. It helps with jaw and mouth muscle development, coordination, as well as helping to ensure your baby is meeting all his/her energy and nutrient needs.

Some important points to remember about weaning

  • If you are concerned about food allergy, speak to your health visitor, consultant or a dietitian. Usually food intolerances/allergies are more common if there is a strong family history of allergy.
  • Do not add salt or sugar to your baby's food.
  • Offer additional drinks of cooled boiled water at mealtimes once your baby is having 2 meals a day, and between meals if milk is refused. Diluted fruit juice should only be offered at mealtimes, not between meals, if baby refuses water. Sugary drinks can increase the risk of dental cavities if not used sensibly. Try introducing a beaker or cup rather than a bottle as soon as baby appears ready to try one.
  • Offer your baby a wide variety of different weaning foods from early on. This will help to ensure your baby is less fussy later on, as well as ensuring your baby gets a good balance of nutrients.
  • Whatever age your baby is at the start of weaning, try to introduce lumpy foods that require chewing by the age of 9 months at the latest to help ensure this critical stage in your baby’s development is not missed.
  • If your baby has, as a result of being born prematurely, developed a long-term illness such as reflux, then they may have more complex or specifical nutritional and feeding problems. In this case you should seek advice from health professionals involved in their care, such as a paediatric dietitian, consultant doctor or speech and language therapist.

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