At around six months, your baby starts to need more nutrients than milk alone can provide. They are getting bigger and more active, and use more energy than before. They also require a whole new list of nutrients that their increasing mobility demands. When your baby reaches this stage, you should slowly start weaning them onto solids, first by feeding them puréed or smoothly mashed foods, then gradually building up until they can handle coarser substances. At 5 or 6 months milk is still very important for your baby but you can start giving them small amounts of solids, starting with a spoonful or two, and gradually building up to three solid meals a day.
 
Weaning a baby can be a difficult process. In order to prepare them for the huge developmental leaps ahead, you need to include a wide range of vitamins and minerals in their food. They will still need their milk however, as it provides a wide variety of vitamins and minerals including calcium, which is essential for healthy bones and teeth. Aside from this they need protein to help the growth and maintenance of their bodies, iron to produce oxygen-carrying proteins, zinc to maintain their immune system and carbohydrates and fats to provide energy. All of these factors are essential for your baby’s growth and health, and must be included in their diet before they start crawling, walking and running.
 
Weaning can also be a highly emotional process. Up until now, your baby has been completely dependent upon you for food. Moving away from their purely milk diet is the beginning of the process of growing up and becoming more independent, so it’s not unusual to feel a little emotional. Your baby may also have an emotional response; this is new to them and they are also being taken out of their comfort zone.
 
Weaning is important for many other skills. Sucking, gumming and chewing help develop the muscles in the neck and mouth, including the ones needed for speech. Learning to feed themselves by hand helps to develop their motor skills; grip and finger dexterity, and it also helps them to perfect their hand-eye coordination.
 
Once you understand the benefits of weaning, it is easier to commit yourself to the task. It may feel painstakingly slow now, but your ultimate goal is to help your baby’s healthy development, which is what being a parent is all about. If you are unsure about anything or just need some advice, feel free to have a look at our weaning questions, or visit the forums to talk with other mums.

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