The Institute of Health Visiting has welcomed the launch of a Government campaign to support parents in introducing their babies to solid food.
Promoting advice from the NHS on weaning, the campaign highlights the ‘clear signs’ that a baby is ready for solid food, such as the ability to stay in a sitting position and hold their head steady. It also provides information on when to introduce solid foods alongside breastmilk or first formula and what to feed babies at each stage.
‘We welcome the Government raising the profile of this very important developmental milestone which highlights the key signs of when babies are ready for solid food,’ said Georgina Mayes, policy and quality lead for the Institute of Health Visiting.
Ms Mayes pointed out that health visitors see all families from pregnancy until the child turns five, offering ‘holistic support to those who are thinking about introducing solid foods to their babies’.
However, she added: ‘Existing cuts to public-health budgets has led to a shortage of 5,000 health visitors and despite health visitors’ best efforts, one in five babies are missing out on vital health and developmental reviews and the vital support they need.
‘Health visitors, when adequately resourced, can provide extra support across several adult and child physical, social and mental health pathways.’
A resource, the ‘Start of Life Weaning Hub’, has been launched online, featuring NHS-endorsed advice on allergies, food hygiene and avoiding choking, along with videos and recipes.
‘This campaign will ensure parents have the confidence to introduce their babies to solid food at the appropriate time and provide practical advice and a support hub to ensure their diets include a wide variety of foods,’ said Neil O’Brien, minister for primary care and public health.
The campaign follows a survey by Censuswide that found 50% of parents in England were confused about how much to feed their baby and 47% were unsure about the age to start weaning.
The survey also found that 46% of parents believed that solid foods should be introduced at around five months or earlier, whereas NHS guidance recommends the gradual introduction of solid foods from around six months alongside breast milk or infant formula.