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Better Health Start for Life Introducing Solid Foods

This campaign promotes waiting until your baby is around six months to introduce solid alongside breast milk or infant formula foods. At this stage, they need solid foods as well as- not as a replacement for- their usual breast milk or first infant formula (which is why its known as complementary feeding). Weaning teaches your baby how to move solid food around their mouth, chew and swallow solid foods.

Campaign details

Related website
www.nhs.uk/start4life

Target audience: Healthcare professionals, Parents and children

Topics: Early years

Overview

On 4 March 2022, the Department of Health and Social Care's Office for Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID) launched the Better Health Start for Life – Introducing Solid Foods campaign.

The campaign offers parents support and advice on introducing solid foods to their baby, during what can be a confusing time.

Weaning is a crucial milestone within the first 1,000 days. Children's food preferences and eating habits are formed early in life, with consequences for a range of health and development outcomes in later life.

Official advice is that most babies should not start solid foods until they are around 6 months old. This gives them time to develop properly so they can cope with solid foods. The campaign promotes waiting until your baby is around 6 months to introduce solid alongside breast milk or infant formula foods.

At this stage, they need solid foods as well as, not as a replacement for, their usual breast milk or first infant formula. This is why weaning is also known as "complementary feeding".

Weaning teaches your baby how to move solid food around their mouth, chew and swallow solid foods.

Research for this campaign

An additional focus for this year's campaign is around the theme of confusion. New survey data of 1,000 parents with children aged 3 to 18 months shows:

  • 3 in 5 (59%) first-time parents found the decision to start weaning confusing
  • almost two-thirds (64%) have received conflicting advice on what age to start introducing solid food
  • 2 in 5 (40%) of new mums have already introduced solid foods by the time their baby is 5 months old, even though experts recommend that solid food should be introduced from the age of 6 months
  • after partners, grandmothers are the biggest influence on decision making with more than a quarter (28%) of first-time mums reporting their mother had the biggest influence on their decision to start weaning
  • the majority (73%) agree there should be a single official source for weaning advice

Start for Life weaning hub

As part of the campaign, a weaning hub is available on the Better Health Start for Life website to help parents introduce solid foods to their baby. Packed with NHS-endorsed advice, videos and tips – plus simple, healthy recipes – it puts everything parents need to know in one place.

"Complementary feeding" is the term often preferred by policymakers and practitioners because weaning can be misinterpreted to mean the cessation of breastfeeding rather than the introduction of solid foods.

However, a keyword analysis of search engine queries conducted by OHID, illustrated that weaning is the term most used in search queries on this topic, indicating that this is the most commonly used and understood term among parents.

To mitigate any potential for confusion in our materials, we define weaning as the process of introducing solid foods alongside breast milk or baby's usual infant formula.

Published: 28 March 2022