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Public Health England (PHE) has launched its first ever Start4Life campaign to help parents in the South West introduce their baby to solid foods.

Official advice is that most babies should not start solid foods until they are around six months old. By this point their bodies are better able to cope with solid foods and they are more able feed themselves. They are also better at moving food around their mouth, chewing and swallowing.

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

New research conducted for Public Health England found that common myths persist in the South West about the signs a baby is ready for their first solid foods, including:

– 50% of mums mistake wanting extra milk feeds as a sign that their baby is ready for solid foods
– 33% of mums mistakenly believe that a baby chewing their fists is a sign that they are ready to start weaning
– 30% of mums mistakenly believe that waking up in the night is a sign a baby is ready for weaning.

The survey revealed that many parents have concerns around weaning with one in four mums (27%) in the South West saying they didn’t feel confident when they introduced solid foods to their baby. The list of worries amongst mums included choking, allergic reactions to new foods, how much food to give their baby, and concern that their baby won’t eat enough or will reject food.

A brand-new weaning hub has been launched on the Start4Life website to help parents during their weaning journey. Packed with NHS-approved advice and tips for each weaning stage, plus simple, healthy weaning recipes for different age groups, it puts everything parents need to know in one place. It also includes new videos showing the signs that indicate babies are ready to wean, how much food to give, and weaning tips from other parents.

Rosanne Sodzi, Health & Wellbeing Programme Manager, Public Health England South West, said, “Your baby will be ready to start trying food when he/she gets to six months old, before then they will get all the nutrition they need from breast or formula milk. When they get to six months try introducing your baby to some simple, soft pieces of vegetable and fruit such as parsnip, sweet potato, carrot and apple which have been cooked so it can be mashed.

“It’s important not to add any sugar or salt. In the beginning your baby will only need a small amount of food each day – so don’t worry about how much they eat, the most important thing is getting them used to the idea of eating solid food. If you have any concerns the best person to speak to is your health visitor.”

Public Health England nutritionist, Orla Hugueniot, added, “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.”

Developed in partnership with parents, the weaning hub makes it easy for parents to find answers to their weaning questions and get information relevant to their baby’s age and weaning stage. The campaign is being launched as part of the Start4Life programme, which aims to help parents adopt healthy behaviours during pregnancy, birth and their children’s early years.

To find out more visit: www.nhs.uk/start4life/weaning