Premature baby: The lowdown on weaning
If your baby was premature, you may need to take a slightly different approach to weaning, here’s what you need to know
How to recognise when it is a good time to start weaning your premature baby
It can feel hard to choose the right age to wean any baby although around the six months mark is the usual guidance advice. Whilst the six months guideline is a useful approximation for most parents of term babies, the advice can feel confusing for parents of babies born prematurely, because their situations will all be very different.
Even the research is divided as to when exactly is best to wean a premature baby. Many of the studies into weaning premature babies agree that it is very hard to choose a single age at which all premature babies should be weaned. The studies also show that you do not need to wait for your baby to reach a certain weight before weaning.
If your baby was born prematurely you’ll probably be familiar with health care professionals talking about your baby’s ‘corrected age’ and ‘uncorrected’ age:
- Corrected age is your baby’s age from the date your baby was due.
- Uncorrected age is your baby’s age from their actual birth date.
Healthcare professionals advise that most premature babies show the signs that they are ready for more solid foods somewhere between five to six months ‘corrected’ age.
You should always follow the advice of your healthcare professionals when it comes to feeding your baby. Premature babies have special needs and not all babies will be ready for solid foods at the same time.
Although some premature babies are ready to wean at five months, most premature babies are a little older and closer to eight months before they start to wean. Unless you have been advised by your doctor or dietitian, it is best not to wait longer than nine months because your baby may not be as open to trying new foods by then, so it can be a little more challenging them to wean them and try new tastes.
Signs to look out for to start weaning
- Can your baby be easily supported in a sitting position? Premature babies might need extra support
- Can your baby hold their head in a stable position?
- Is your baby showing interest in other people eating?
- Does your baby lean forward and open their mouth towards food or a spoon?
- Is your baby putting things in their mouth and making up and down munching movements?
Once your baby shows these signs, the weaning guidelines for premature babies are similar to the guidelines for full-term babies.
Your baby might show one of these signs first, but it is recommended to wait until you see a few before starting weaning. Remember, and be confident that your baby will show you when they are ready.