WITH so much conflicting advice about weaning out there, it can be hard to know the right time to do it.
Now medics have issued a warning after research revealed that half of parents are weaning their babies at the wrong age.
Experts at Censuswide found that almost half of parents in England didn't know when to start giving their babies solid food.
An equal amount were easily swayed by common myths abouthow and when to wean.
GP Dr Helen Lawal commented on the findings: “Weaning is a crucial milestone in the first 1,001 critical days of a baby’s life; however, today’s research results are showing that almost half of parents are introducing solid foods to their babies too early."
Around 2,000 parents weaning their children were quizzed for the study -including those with babies aged three to 18 months – from August last year to February 17.
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Responses showed that nearly half of parents were influenced by behaviours that can be mistaken as signs that their baby is ready for solid foods, such as seeing their baby grabbing food (47 per cent) or looking at food (43 per cent).
The survey also showed that nearly half (46 per cent) of parents believed that solid foods should be introduced at around five months or earlier.
But NHS guidance recommends that parents gradually introduce solid foods from around six months – alongside breast milk or infant formula.
This is what The Sun's GP columnist, Dr Zoe Williams previously advised parents to do.
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Waiting until six months will give babies time to develop properly so they can cope with solid foods, the NHS said.
In response to the survey's findings the NHS launched a campaign and the Start for Life Weaning hub to clear up misinformation and confusion around weaning.
It includes tips and recipes, as well as prompts on when, why and what to feed babies at each stage of their development, including three clear signs that indicate they're ready to be weaned.
Your baby is ready for solid food if they can:
- Stay in a sitting position, holding their head steady
- Coordinate their eyes, hands and mouth so they can look at food, pick it up and put it in their mouth
- Swallow food, rather than pushing it back out
However, there are some behaviours that can be mistaken for signs of being ready, according to the Start for Life weaning hub.
- Your baby chewing their fists
- Wanting extra milk feeds
- Waking up more than usual during the night
These are normal baby behaviours and not necessarily a sign of hunger, or being ready to start solid food, the NHS stated.
Starting solid foods will not make your baby any more likely to sleep through the night, but a little extra milk might help until they are ready for food, it advised.
It's only at around six months old that babies start to need solid foods as well as breast milk or first infant formula to meet their nutritional needs.
Why wait until your baby is around 6 months to wean?
- Breast milk or infant formula provide the energy and nutrients needed until around 6 months
- Your baby will have time to develop so then can cope with solid foods
- Your baby will be more able to feed itself
- They'll be better at moving food around their mouth, chewing and swallowing
This may mean your baby may not need smooth, blended foods at all, but can can have mashed, lumpy and finger foods, NHS guidance said.
Child nutritionist Charlotte Stirling Reed said she was in agreement with Censuswide's findings.
"Weaning can be a very confusing and overwhelming time for parents.
“You can start with single vegetables and fruits that are mashed or blended.
"I’ve always found preparing food from scratch is the easiest and cheapest way to create healthier meals for my children, and have used the Start for Life Weaning Hub for great recipes which are really easy to make and nutritious.”
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Meanwhile, Dr Lawal advised parents to use the hub for tips on essential topics like allergies, food hygiene and avoiding choking.
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