One in four mothers unsure about how to wean their baby

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A Government-backed campaign aims to help parents with weaning and tackle widespread myths about the signs a baby is ready to try their first solid foods.

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10-month-old Mo features in the Start4Life weaning campaign, which has been developed with parents

A new weaning hub has been launched on the Start4Life website with NHS-approved advice and tips for each stage, with recipes for each age group and videos highlighting the signs that a baby is ready to be weaned and how much food to give.

The campaign by Public Health England has been launched to boost parents’ confidence in weaning their baby, after a survey found that one in four mothers did not feel confident in introducing solid foods.

A survey of 1,000 mothers of young children carried out for Public Health England in December 2018 found that:

  • Around one in four mothers (26 per cent) are not confident in introducing solid foods to their baby.
  • Just under half of mums (46 per cent) think that wanting extra milk feeds is a sign that babies are ready for solid foods.
  • A third of mums (32 per cent) believe that a baby chewing their fists is a sign that they are ready to start weaning.
  • Just under a quarter of mums (24 per cent) believe that waking up in the night is a sign a baby is ready for weaning.

The campaign is being launched as part of the Government’s Start4Life programme, which aims to help parents adopt healthy behaviours during pregnancy, birth and their children’s early years.

Public Health England nutritionist Orla Hugueniot said, ‘Introducing solid foods is an important stage in a baby’s development. It’s a great opportunity to guide their taste preferences and help them learn healthy eating habits that will stay with them for life. 

‘We know that parents have lots of questions about weaning and that many feel nervous about it. That’s why our new weaning hub on the Start4Life website puts all of the NHS advice in one place, helping parents to be more confident and enjoy this big milestone in their child’s life.’

Official advice published last year by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition is that most babies should not start solid foods until they are around six months old, as by this point their bodies are better able to cope with solid foods, they are more able to feed themselves, and better at chewing, swallowing and moving food around in their mouth.

The last UK Infant Feeding Survey in 2011 showed that three-quarters of parents ahd introduced solid foods by the time their baby was five months old.

Ruth Blayney, mother of 10-month-old Mo, who features in the campaign, said,I initially found weaning quite daunting as there’s so much conflicting information out there that it was difficult to know who to listen to. I was worried about what age to start introducing solid food to Mo, what food to give him, and what size to cut the food.’  

Dr Cheryll Adams, executive director of the Institute of Health Visiting, said the hub containedlots of important information that will help parents feel confident introducing solid foods to their baby for the first time. We recommend that mums still unsure about how to wean their children ring their health visitor or attend a child health clinic to seek advice.’

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