Weaning a premature baby

If your baby arrived a bit early, you might want to consider starting solids a bit on the early side, too. Here's why. 

If your baby arrived a bit ahead of schedule, the standard advice is to start weaning when your baby is between five and eight months old (from their birth date, not their corrected age).

This is a bit earlier than what's usually advised for term babies, but some premature babies take a little longer to catch on to weaning, so they may benefit from starting a bit early. The most important thing is to discuss this with your GP or health visitor, who knows your baby and will be able to advise you best.

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

It's best to start weaning as soon as your baby appears ready, because introducing solids helps strengthen the muscles in the jaw and mouth and improves coordination, as well as making sure that rapidly-growing body is getting all the energy and nutrition it needs.

Some important points to remember

  • If you're concerned about a possible food allergy, speak to your health visitor, GP or a dietitian. Usually food intolerances/allergies are more common if there is a strong family history of allergy.
  • Don't add salt or sugar to your baby's food – it's not needed, and could be harmful.
  • Offer extra drinks of cooled, boiled water at mealtimes once your baby is having 2 meals a day, and between meals if milk is refused. It's best to only offer diluted fruit juice at mealtimes (not between meals), and only if your baby refuses plain water. (Having lots of sugary drinks isn't good for those tiny new teeth!) It's also a good idea to introduce a beaker or cup rather than a bottle as soon as your baby is willing to try one.
  • Offer your baby a wide variety of different flavours from early on. This will help reduce any food fussiness later on, as well as ensuring 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.
  • If your baby has a long-term illness such as reflux as a result of being born prematurely, then he or she might have more complex nutritional and feeding needs. In this case, it's best to seek advice from the health professionals involved in their care, such as a paediatric dietitian, consultant doctor or speech and language therapist.