​"Weaning describes the period when an infant gradually becomes accustomed to other food than milk," say doctors from the Department of Neonatal and Developmental Medicine, Singapore General Hospital​, a member o​f the SingHealth​ group.

What is the right age for weaning?

There is no right age for weaning your baby. However, you can tell when your baby is ready to be weaned when he or she:

  1. Is hungry before the usual feed time
  2. Dribbles and puts things in his or her mouth
  3. Can sit up with support
  4. Shows an interest in your food

Experts generally agree that from six months old, a baby would need something more substantial than milk.

However, infants who have not grown to the expected size or who lack iron (anaemic) may be weaned earlier, between four and six months old. However, weaning too early, for instance when the baby is two to three months, could lead to digestive disorders. There is also a higher risk of the child developing a food allergy.

On the other hand, if the baby is weaned too late, he or she may not get enough nutrition and this may lead to growth retardation.

Suitable weaning foods

Plain rice cereal is usually the first solid food given to babies. This can be mixed with breast or formula milk.

When the baby is older, you can feed him or her other cereals like wheat and mixed cereals. Some need water to be added; others need to be mixed with milk. You should check the labels carefully before preparation.

These cereals are usually fortified with iron to help meet the baby's increased need for dietary iron at this time.

Another option is blended home-cooked rice porridge using white or brown rice. Vegetables such as cauliflower, carrots and potatoes can be boiled, mashed or pureed and added to the cereal or rice porridge, or served on their own. If necessary, they can be moistened with some milk.

Fruit such as banana, papaya, pear or other soft and ripe fruit can be mashed and added to the cereal or scraped and fed to the baby directly. Strained and diluted fruit juices can also be given.

Stages of weaning

At six months (babies who are totally breastfed)

Food should be slightly thicker than milk so that your baby can lick it off the spoon easily. Start with liquid paste and progress to semi-solids. Your baby should be fed milk first and then the food. At this stage, you are giving solids only to expose the child to different kinds of food and to get your baby used to spoon-feeding. Milk should remain the main source of nourishment.

At seven to nine months

As your baby gets older, he or she will be ready for food of different texture and taste. Your baby's food does not have to be liquid anymore – you may leave it thick. Milk should not be your baby’s only source of nourishment now. Since you want your baby to accept solids from now on, you will have to give the food first followed by the milk.

From nine months onwards

Food does not need to be blended and mushy anymore. Roughly chopped soft food can now be given. You can also start your baby on finger food like teething rusks or biscuits. This encourages the child to eat on his own, however messy the result may be! When your baby is one year old, you can adapt his or her food based on your family meals. There is no need to cook separately for him.

Ref: O17