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We recognise that as your new baby grows past those very early few months, the focus for parents often moves onto the introduction of solid foods into their child’s diet.
Some parents feel pressured to introduce solids or wean their baby before the six-month point, where the research shows most children develop readiness. Other parents start to recognise signs that may suggest their child is ready for weaning or introducing solids.
We wanted to make sure you had the key information ready for this new exciting stage for you and your child.
What is weaning?
Weaning is the process of introducing your baby to soft or solid foods while gradually reducing milk feeds. Through this process a baby will develop chewing and swallowing reflexes and also discover new textures and flavours. Your baby will also learn how to feed from a spoon and/or how to feed themselves.
When should you introduce solid foods to your baby?
Until the age of 6 months, babies will receive all of the nutrition they need from breast milk or infant formula. From 6 months a baby’s digestive system will be ready to cope with solid food and most babies will be showing signs of developmental readiness for solid food from this age. Therefore, solid foods should be introduced gradually from the age of 6 months. Your baby at this stage will continue to get most of his/her nutrition from their breastmilk or formula milk.
Signs of developmental readiness for solid food
At around 6 months it is likely that you will start to see the three developmental signs that your baby is ready to start solids. It’s important that you follow these signs to help ensure that your weaning process is safe.
The three developmental signs are:
- Your baby can sit in a sitting position and hold their head steady.
- Your baby can co-ordinate their eyes, hand and mouth and can look at food. They can pick up finger food and put it in their mouth by themselves.
- Your baby can swallow food. Babies who are not ready will push their food back out.
Common weaning worries for parents
Although a worry, choking is relatively rare. Babies will use their gag reflex to move food into a position where they can chew it, therefore you will see them do this quite often. You can find more information on how to help a choking child on the NHS website.
Constipation can be quite common when a baby starts to wean. Fruit, vegetables and water can all help to prevent constipation in the first place. If your baby already becomes constipated, a light massage on their belly can help to relieve pain. If you think constipation is persisting, please give your GP a call for further advice.
When introducing foods that can cause an allergic reaction it is good to offer them in small amounts and offer them one at a time. This is so you can trace back any reaction to a particular food. For babies who have a strong allergy history within the family, you may want to talk through weaning with a member of our public health nursing team via our Public Health Nursing hubs.
What foods are appropriate for babies to eat?
It is suggested to offer a variety of vegetables as your baby’s first foods as it helps to develop a tolerance and enjoyment of savoury and bitter. Try a different vegetable each day introducing different tastes and textures. Then progress on to mixed foods, keeping a variation in texture and taste.
How to introduce solid foods to your baby
When it comes to weaning you will often hear of two methods.
Baby led weaning
This style involves providing your baby with finger food for them to experiment with and to feed themselves with. This can help babies acknowledge when they are feeling full.
Puree / spoon-feeding
This is parent-led feeding which involves serving soft foods on a spoon to your baby. A progression is usually made from blended to more textured and lumpy food to eventually bite-size bits of solid food. This method can be a useful way to introduce tricky flavours and foods that might be harder to chew.
Equipment you may find useful throughout weaning
- Highchair. Your baby needs to be sitting safely in an upright position (so they can swallow properly). Always use a securely fitted safety harness in a highchair. Never leave babies unattended on raised surfaces.
- Plastic or pelican bibs. It’s going to be messy at first!
- Soft weaning spoons are gentler on your baby’s gums.
- Small plastic bowl. You may find it useful to get a special weaning bowl with a suction base to keep the bowl in place.
- First cup. Introduce a cup from around 6 months and offer sips of water with meals. Using an open cup or a free-flow cup without a valve will help your baby learn to sip and is better for their teeth.
- A messy mat for under the highchair to catch most of the mess.
- Plastic containers can be helpful for batch cooking and freezing small portions.
Further help and support
Contacting your Health Visitor
- email your local Public Health Nursing Hub where a Health Visitor will respond to your query
- Text us for health-based advice via our Chat health number; 07520 631721 and receive a response back via text. (This number cannot be used to book or rearrange appointment time)s.
- phone your local Public Health Nursing Hub to discuss any queries with a Health Visitor.
Virtual Family Focus sessions
Devon Public Health Nursing are offering digital group sessions for parents to attend, covering a range of experiences that parents might face during the early days. These friendly virtual parent sessions are undertaken via Microsoft Teams and facilitated usually by one of our Community Health Workers. We call this Virtual Family Focus.
To book your place email your Public Health Nursing hub stating your name, your child’s name, your email address, and your telephone number and which session/s you would like to attend. We will then send you an invite link.
Children’s centres offer families targeted support for a variety of situations. Children’s centres in Devon provide Early Help services to the whole family, from pregnancy through to age 19, when families most need support using the ‘team around the family’ approach.
Action for Children run the Children’s Centres in the Devon County Council area
There’s also a fantastic online option where you can talk to a family practitioner about a range of questions that you may have.
Online Solihull Approach Parenting Course
You can also access an online Solihull course that supports you in understanding your baby at a variety of different points in their life
What will I need to complete the online course?
All you need to get started is your access code, an up-to-date internet browser on a computer, laptop, tablet or smartphone (the local libraries or your school may be able to provide access to this), and an email address. Go to the website www.inourplace.co.uk and apply the code Tamar when prompted. You will be asked for your email address and a password of your choice. This is so that you can return to the site, sign in and your account will remember that you have access to the course(s) and will resume from where you last left the course.
Other sources of information and advice that you may find useful
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