One in four parents in the West Midlands lack confidence weaning their children

Wednesday, 6th February 2019

One in four mums in the West Midlands region lack confidence introducing solid foods to their baby, new research has suggested.

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

Official advice is that most babies should not start solid foods until they are around six months old.[1] By this point, their bodies are better able to cope with solid foods and they are more able to 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 5 months old.[2]

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

  • 51% of mums mistake wanting extra milk feeds as a sign that their baby is ready for solid foods;
  • 36% of mums mistakenly believe that a baby chewing their fists is a sign that they are ready to start weaning.
  • 23% of mums in 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 around one in four mums (24%) in the West Midlands saying they didn’t feel confident when they introduced solid foods to their baby. Among 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/guardians 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.

David Elliott, programme lead for PHE West Midlands Health and Wellbeing team, said: “Many parents and guardians worry about when they should start the weaning process, with around one in four mums in the West Midlands unsure of when to introduce solid food to their baby. Generally, we would advise six months, because by this point the baby’s body is better able to cope with solids and they are more able to feed themselves. They are also better at moving food around their mouth, chewing and swallowing.

“Parents hear lots of conflicting advice and it can be hard to know when to start weaning. Half (51%) of mums in the West Midlands mistake wanting extra milk feeds as a sign that their baby is ready for solid foods; while over a third (36%) mistakenly think that if their baby chews its fist it is time to begin weaning. Our new Start4Life weaning hub is packed with NHS-approved advice and tips for each weaning stage plus simple, healthy weaning recipes – putting everything parents need in one place. The online resource includes videos showing signs babies are ready to wean, how much food to give, plus weaning tips from other parents.”

West Midlands case study

Ruth, 33 years old from Birmingham is the mother of 9-month-old Mo. Ruth began the process of weaning Mo at 6 months old as he was already sitting up straight and showing an interest in food. Influenced by her family’s experience, Ruth decided on baby led weaning for Mo, which he has taken to tremendously.

Within the first few weeks he was playing with the food and getting a sense of it and within the last month his coordination, precision and the amount he eats have all improved. As well as advice from family, Ruth gained insight from social media, books and even took part in a local first aid course to reassure her from the worry of choking.

Baby Mo and his mum, Ruth.
Baby Mo and his mum, Ruth.

Ruth said: “We’ve been bowled over by how well Mo has taken to food. There’s nothing he won’t try. He likes strong flavours-especially his dad’s homemade curries. My husband and I have always enjoyed cooking, food is a big deal in both of our families and we are enjoying sharing this with Mo. We feel we are helping set up habits for a lifetime.

“My tips for other mums would be to not be afraid to try lots of different flavours and don’t worry too much about how much they are eating as it is all a process. Just enjoy them being a part of the family meals.”

Public Health England nutritionist Orla Hugueniot said: “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.

For expert advice and support on weaning, visit: www.nhs.uk/start4life/weaning