Parents often ask me “When should I start introducing solid foods to my baby?” and many are confused by what the advice is.
The Department of Health recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life, followed by the gradual introduction of solid foods. Previous advice was to introduce solid foods to baby at around 4 months of age, however, the World Health Organisation and the Department of Health changed this advice in 2001. This was due to sufficient scientific evidence suggesting that exclusive breastfeeding until 6 months of age was adequate.
However there is still a lot of confusion from parents, health visitors and even the infant feeding industry about when to start introducing solid foods to babies. This is partly because many parents would seek advice on introducing solid foods from friends, parents and relatives who had all been told to introduce solid foods at around 4 months of age, based on previous public health recommendations. On top of this, food products for babies still said “suitable from four months” which didn’t help to encourage the new recommendation to delay the introduction of solid foods until 6 months.
Current recommendations for introducing solid foods to babies..
However, since 2001 research has moved on and although the current Department of Health advice is still to introduce solid foods at around 6 months of age, there is more recognition that there is a need for flexibility when giving advice about introducing solid foods to babies. Certain organisations such as the British Dietetic Association and ESPGHAN take a more flexible approach to the recommendations, suggesting that solid foods should be introduced “by 6 months of age, but not before 4 months”.
Signs your baby is ready for solid foods:
The need for this slightly more ‘flexible’ approach is because children are all individuals and will grow, develop and even be ready for solid foods at different stages. There are certain signs to look out for that might suggest that your baby is ready for trying solid foods such as; sitting up and holding their head steady themselves, taking a real interest in solid foods and the foods you’re eating, coordinate their hand, eyes and mouth (you might notice them being about to pick up and put things in their mouth themselves). It’s important to try and wait for these signs to appear together before starting to offer solids to your little one.
Should I start weaning early?
If you do decide to introduce solid foods to your baby before 6 months, it’s a good idea to speak to your Health Visitor before you do so, to ensure you know what foods are good options and what foods you should avoid offering to baby. Additionally make sure you never offer baby solid foods before 4 months of age!