WHEN to start

When should I introduce solid foods?

 Key message 1:  Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended for around the first 6 months

Breastmilk provides all the energy, nutrients and fluids that your baby needs in order to grow and develop healthily during the first 6 months of life*.

Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended for the first 6 months because of the many benefits for both mother and child – you can read about these here. When breastfeeding is not possible or not chosen by the mother, infant formula is the only appropriate substitute for breastmilk.

*Vitamin D supplements are recommended for exclusively or partially breastfed infants, see supplement section here  for more information.

 


 Key message 2:  Introduce solid foods at around 6 months, alongside continued breastfeeding for at least the first year

Introducing foods other than breastmilk before 6 months is associated with increased risk of gastrointestinal and respiratory infections. Leaving complementary feeding too late (longer than 6 months) may mean your baby doesn’t get enough of all the nutrients they need. This is because stores of essential nutrients, such as iron, decline from birth and by 6 months need to be replenished with food.Complementary feeding is a gradual process of moving from a milk-only diet to family foods. The UK Department of Health and World Health Organization recommend starting complementary feeding when your baby is around 6 months old. Breastfeeding alongside complementary feeding for at least your baby’s first year of life is recommended as this continues to benefit the health of both mother and baby.

If your baby was born prematurely, speak to your midwife, health visitor, paediatric dietitian or GP for advice about when to start complementary feeding, as premature babies can have different needs.

What are the signs my baby is ready for solid foods?

Most babies are developmentally ready for solid foods by around 6 months. Babies develop at different paces and some may show signs of being ready for solid foods before others.

Some parents can worry about whether milk feeds are enough to satisfy their growing baby and move on to complementary foods too early. If your baby is younger than 6 months and seems hungrier than usual, try breastfeeding more often or offering more milk at each bottle-feed.

Normal behaviours that do not necessarily mean your baby is ready for solid foods include:

  • Waking up in the night when they have previously slept through
  • Chewing fists
  • Wanting to breast feed more frequently or for longer

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