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Feeding the Child

How can I tell if my baby is ready for solids?

If you are thinking of weaning your baby there are some signs to look out for that will help you decide if the time is right. Your baby may be ready if she:

- Can hold her head up. Your baby needs to be able to maintain a steady, upright position, to take her first foods.

- Sits well when supported. You may have to have your baby on your lap at first. A highchair can be pulled into action a bit later when she can sit up by herself.

- Makes chewing motions. Your baby should be able to move food to the back of her mouth and swallow. As your baby learns to swallow efficiently you may notice that she dribbles less. She may even have a tooth or two.

- Has gained a healthy weight. Most babies are ready to eat semi-solids when they've doubled their birth weight. This may happen before or around their sixth month.

- Is curious about what you're eating. Is she eyeing your meals and reaching out to try foods you're moving from your plate to your mouth?

However, even when you see signs that your baby is ready to start solids it may be best to wait until your baby is around six months before starting weaning.

Waiting until six months to introduce your baby to solid food protects her health. It reduces the chance that she will develop allergies or pick up an infection from food, because at six months her immune system is stronger.

It's especially important not to give your baby food before six months if you have a family history of allergies or coeliac disease.

Coeliac disease is triggered by the gluten in grains. The number of babies having coeliac disease has dropped since the government introduced advice to start solids at six months instead of at four months.

If you feel your baby needs to start solids before six months, bear in mind Department of Health guidelines. These state that babies should not have solid foods, at the earliest, before the end of their fourth month (17 weeks). You should also only give her foods that are suitable for her age.

If you are planning to start your baby on solids before six months talk to your health visitor first. This is particularly important if your baby was born prematurely.