A government campaign is to be launched in the England after a survey conducted on behalf of the NHS found gaps in knowledge around weaning babies. Health education and advice is being offered to parents on how to safely introduce their babies to solid food.
The advice contains information around the best age to introduce solid foods, while continuing to feed breastmilk or first infant formula. While the vast majority of parents followed baby-led weaning, there was confusion over the signs that their child was ready to be introduced to solid food.
Results from the survey found that half of parents in England (50%) were confused about how much to feed their baby and what age to start weaning (47%), with many saying they had received conflicting advice on both points.
It also found that nearly half of parents were influenced by behaviours that can be mistaken by parents as signs that their baby is ready for solid foods, such as seeing their baby grabbing food (47%) or looking at food (43%).
A baby is ready for their first solid food if they can:
- stay in a sitting position, holding their head steady
- co-ordinate their eyes, hands and mouth so they can look at their food, pick it up and put it in their mouth
- swallow food, rather than spit it back out
With spiralling rates of childhood obesity in the United Kingdom, experts and health officials are keen that weaning should stand babies in good stead with a healthy varied diet from the beginning. The new campaign aims to promote healthy eating at home with weaning being led by single vegetables and fruits that are mashed or blended, rather than manufactured weaning foods.
Many snacks and foods positioned at toddlers contain high levels of sugars, both added or naturally occurring in fruit. The high sugar diets of infants and young children are concerning nutritionists who say these types of sugary food may expose a child to develop a sweet tooth and preferences for a high sugar diet later in life.
Public Health England (2023) Better Health Start for Life Introducing Solid Foods