Campaign to tackle parents’ confusion on when to switch babies to solids

A campaign is being launched to give parents better support on weaning their babies, after research suggested 40% of first-time mothers introduced solid food to their child earlier than the NHS recommends. Babies are usually ready for foods other than breast milk or formula at the age of six months, according to health service guidance.

But the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID) said its research had revealed confusion among parents about when to wean. Their findings suggested 40% of first-time mothers introduced solid food when their baby was five months old, and almost two-thirds (64%) said they had been given conflicting advice on what age to start weaning.

The Department of Health said introducing a child to solid foods before six months can reduce the amount of breast milk consumed and be associated with greater risks of infectious illness. It added that breastfed infants who have solid food before six months might consume less breast milk without increasing their total energy intake or increasing weight gain.

The NHS said signs that a baby is ready for weaning include if they stay in a sitting position, holding their head steady; coordinate their eyes, hands and mouth so they can look at food, pick it up and put it in their mouth; and if they swallow food, rather than push it back out. Weaning is described by the department as a “key milestone” in a child’s life which can influence eating habits and their health later in life.

Health Minister Maria Caulfield said: “The first 1,001 days are crucial for development and impact a child’s health for the rest of their life. Every child should have a solid foundation on which to build their health and I am determined to level up the opportunities and support for all children, no matter their background or where they grow up.

“This campaign will ensure parents have the support and confidence to introduce their babies to solid food and ensure they have the opportunity to thrive and achieve their full potential.”

The campaign features an online Start for Life Weaning Hub which has tips, advice and guidelines from the NHS, as well as more than 120 healthy recipes and meal ideas.

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