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When to start offering solid foods to baby

Posted by Joe Wicks in Recipes, Wellbeing

Charlotte Stirling-Reed is a registered Nutritionist who specialises in maternal, infant and toddler nutrition. Charlotte will be working with me to develop my first baby recipe book 'Wean In 15'. This blog is the first in a new series where Charlotte will be offering some tips and advice on infant nutrition for anyone who is starting out on their parenting journey.

By Charlotte Stirling-Reed, @SR_Nutrition

For many parents the question of WHEN to start offering solids to baby is a tricky one. You can read lots of varied answers online and many people have hugely differing opinions on this topic too. The advice, unhelpfully, often varies from country to country as well. 

The Government in the UK recommend that the introduction to solid foods (termed complementary feeding or weaning) begins at “around 6 months of age”. This advice is in line with the World Health Organisation who recommends that exclusive breastfeeding should continue until 6 months of age with the gradual transition to solid foods thereafter (references 1, 2).

However, in reality many parents offer their baby solid foods before they get to 6 months of age. In fact in the UK our Infant Feeding Survey (2010) shows that around 64% of babies are offered solid foods between 4 and 6 months of age and 30% even before 4 months. This happens for a variety of reasons and in my experience, many parents clearly feel that their little ones are ready for solid foods before they hit that 6 month mark. 

As with all aspects of development and milestones, babies are individuals and grow and develop at their own pace. It’s unlikely that all babies will be ready at exactly the same time as each other, however it is good to be mindful that your baby will probably be ready close to the 6 months mark and to look out for signs that they are approaching the complementary feeding (weaning) milestone. 

Indie's first food, 22nd January 2019

Some of these signs might include the following: 

1. They can stay in a sitting position and hold their head steady.

2. They can co-ordinate their eyes, hands and mouth so they can look at the food, pick it up and put it in their mouth, all by themselves.

3. They can swallow food. Babies who are not ready will push their food back out with their tongue, so they get more round their face than they do in their mouths.

Other signs such as chewing fists, showing a real interest in your foods and seeming to want more milk might also be apparent, but they can also be signs of other things such as teething, learning or having a growth spurt. There is also no conclusive evidence that feeding your baby solid foods will help them to sleep through the night – unfortunately there is no quick win on that one.

Try to look out for multiple signs on multiple occasions, rather than just one offs so you really do know that your little one is ready for their first foods. 

In practice I really noticed my son paying attention to the foods I was eating but he was also sitting upright properly and could easily pick objects up and put them in his mouth by the time I began solid foods. Joe has said himself that he’s noticed Indie, at 5 months, is starting to show real signs of being interested in starting solids too. Her eyes light up when she sees food and she’s currently reaching out to grab the food he’s eating.

So remember – don’t rush, look out for signs and lastly don’t think that introducing foods means that baby stops drinking milk – more on that later.

NB - If you are wanting to offer solids to your baby before six months it’s best to have a discussion with your health visitor or GP first or get in touch with a Registered Nutritionist who can help you look for signs that your baby is ready to start accepting and tasting foods other than milk.


A little more about me…

I qualified as a Nutritionist after undertaking a degree in Nutrition and Human Biology and a Masters in Nutrition and Public Health, following which I spent a few years working in the NHS as a Child Nutritionist. Since starting my own Freelance work I have been working really closely with the media, appearing across TV, radio and print discussing a variety of nutrition topics, but more recently, since I’ve had my son, Raffy, talking more about maternal and child nutrition. I also work with brands and the food industry to spread more evidence-based messages about the food we eat and the food we feed our kids too.  

You can find out much more about me, about the work I do and about Maternal and Child Nutrition by visiting my website www.srnutrition.co.uk and by following me on Instagram @SR_Nutrition where I share my own food journey with my little boy who is currently 1.5 years old. 


References:

1. https://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/statements/2011/breastfeeding_20110115/en/

2. https://www.who.int/nutrition/topics/complementary_feeding/en/

3. https://digital.nhs.uk/data-and-information/publications/statistical/infant-feeding-survey/infant-feeding-survey-uk-2010

4. https://adc.bmj.com/content/94/2/79

Others: 

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/j.1740-8709.2011.00360.x

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Joe Wicks

About Joe Wicks

Joe Wicks is the online nutrition coach inspiring people all over the world to cook with his #Leanin15 video meals on Instagram. He is also transforming the lives of thousands of people with his tailored online nutrition plan, The 90 Day Shift, Shape & Sustain plan.

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