Is baby ready for solids?

There are many myths around the signs a baby is ready for solid foods, you may have heard a few.

Baby is watching me eat

Babies learn by watching and doing. It is natural for them to look at you and be interested in what you are doing. This in itself is not a sign that they are ready.

Baby is waking in the night

If only solids would solve this! Unfortunately we parents may never know why our babies wake in the night. It could be hunger, wind, requiring a nappy change, they are too hot, too cold… This in itself is not a sign that they are ready. And, don’t expect your baby to sleep through after you start solids, baby may well be more unsettled as their tummies get used to processing new foods.

My baby is no longer satisfied at the end of a feed

It may be that baby needs more milk but this in itself is not a sign that they are ready. Baby food is not as high in calories as you might think so they actually need to have quite a bit to get the number of calories they get from milk. When you first start weaning, baby will take only very small amounts of food, milk will still be an essential source of nutrition.

My baby isn’t putting on as much weight as they did before

If you look at the growth charts in baby’s red book you will see that the curve is not as steep at 5 or 6 months as it was at 3 months (just as well, your baby would be huge by the time they got to a year!). The growth slows and baby develops in other ways. This is natural and not a sign they are ready for solids on its own.

Baby is big

This in itself is not a sign that they are ready, you need to look for the developmental signs as big babies can get all they need from milk in the first 6 months of life.

The baby foods in the baby food aisle say ‘from 4 months’

This just means they are not safe before 4 months. It doesn’t mean you have to start solids at 4 months.


So what are the signs! When baby has all three of these, they are ready for solids:

  1. Baby can hold their head up unaided. They can sit up with a little support but not require too much support.
  2. Baby can pick something up and put it in their mouth.
  3. Baby can swallow food when it goes in their mouth – you will have to try them with some food to check but if they just push it out with their tongue and don’t swallow it, they are not ready.

These developmental signs usually occur around 6 months in babies born after 37 weeks gestation. This coincides with enough maturity of the gut, kidneys and immune system to cope with solids.

Remember, it is not safe to start your baby on solids before they are 17 weeks (4 months), the NHS recommendation is about 6 months.


To book onto a course which will guide you through all you need to know about starting baby on solids click here


Parenting · Weaning

Ready to wean but worried about choking?

When it comes to starting your baby on solid foods there is lots to think about… What their first food will be, will I use the baby led or spoon feeding method, which high chair shall I buy, when should I start… The list goes on (That’s why I spend 3 sessions talking about it on my weaning course)!

Some parents are put off giving their baby solids at all because of the fear of choking. It is a risk but baby could pick something up when they start crawling and choke on it so it is about reducing the risk and knowing what to do if they ever choke. Don’t delay weaning your baby because of the fear of choking. Your baby needs to start on solids around 6 months because breast and formula milk alone don’t give them all the nutrition they need long term. They need to develop their ability to cope with different flavours and textures and they need iron as the iron stores they are born with will have largely been depleted.

Before you start it is helpful to know the difference between choking and gagging otherwise you might panic lots which won’t help you or your child develop a healthy relationship with meal times.

What is choking?

Choking is a difficulty breathing because of an obstruction in the throat. Generally with choking there will be no noise and eventually the person will turn blue and lose consciousness. Choking always needs an intervention.

What is gagging?

“an involuntary retching reflex that may be stimulated by something touching the posterior palate or throat region”. Gagging is a normal part of weaning and babies need to be allowed to use their gag reflex to move the food which has got in the wrong place in their mouth. Adult intervention is not usually needed unless the baby is struggling.

So here are some dos and don’ts around choking and weaning:

  • Learn first aid. Consider a Mini First Aid course – they are only 2 hours long and you practise dealing with choking using both baby and child manikins.
  • Don’t delay weaning because of fear. If your baby is ready (holding head up, picking things up and putting them in their mouths and able to swallow – usually around 6 months), don’t delay.
  • Never leave baby unattended whilst they have access to food.
  • If baby gags on a food, try to distract them afterwards with positive attention rather than dwelling on the incident or linking it to that type of food.
  • If baby gags on a food, don’t assume they have an allergy. Baby could gag on any food and there isn’t necessarily a link.
  • If baby chokes, follow what you have learnt on the first aid course and call 999 if the first five back blows do not dislodge the obstruction.
Diet · Health promotion · Healthy Eating · Nursery · Parenting · Weaning

Looking for a nursery – what to ask in terms of food

Looking for a nursery can be a daunting process. It is important you feel comfortable leaving your child there and yet you can only go on other people’s recommendations. Not only should we check Ofsted reports and find out other parents opinions but we also need to ask the right questions when we go to visit. I would suggest you right them down too, if you are anything like me, you won’t remember all of them when you get there.

I have heard people say that they want to start weaning before they go back to work. My answer to this is that if you are not happy for your childcare provider to feed your child and teach them about food then you shouldn’t be using that provider.

Unlike schools nurseries and childminders are not required by law to keep to strict nutritional standards. There are voluntary guidelines developed by the Children’s Food Trust but they are not mandatory.

So here are 10 questions I think you should ask:

  1. Are they signed up to the voluntary guidelines?
  2. What is on the menu? – if your child is eating all their food at nursery, they need to have 5 portions of fruit and veg included each day, a portion of oily fish a week, some wholegrain foods, 2-3 portions of dairy and some red meat. There shouldn’t be too much processed food, high sugar foods or high salt foods.
  3. What do they give the children to drink? Children don’t need juice or squash. Ask the nursery whether they offer these or whether they stick to water – children will want what their peers are having. A portion of milk a day is a great way to get some calcium but toddlers don’t need milk all the time. (the age of the child will determine how much water and how much milk they should have)
  4. How much water to they encourage the children to drink? Did you know that a 1 year old needs about 1 litre of fluid a day? Good hydration is good for concentration and crucial for good dental health too.
  5. Do the staff eat with the children? Role model are SO important. Do the staff model eating fish and fruit and veg.
  6. Are children expected to finish what is on their plates? What happens if they don’t? The current recommendation is to let children say when they have had enough so they can learn to regulate appetite.
  7. What is offered if the child doesn’t like the food? Children should not be offered a high fat/high salt/high sugar alternative. They can be given choice but within the same food group. Otherwise children hear, you need to eat this nasty thing to have this yummy thing. Ideally you want a nursery which will reward children (with a sticker not a food reward) for trying the food.
  8. Is food given as a reward for good behaviour? This is not recommended and nurseries should try to use other things as rewards, otherwise food is used to treat – a cycle which can continue into adulthood.
  9. What are children allowed to take in on their birthday to share with their class? If there are 40 children in a nursery and every birthday comes with sweets and cake, that is a lot of additional sugar. Fruit or a special story to share with the group are a great alternative.
  10. How much physical activity is encouraged during the day? Children need to be active. They can be active in play as well as sport. Do they have plenty of space to run around, dance, kick a ball?


This is not an exhaustive list. I’d love to hear if you have any other suggested questions.



Diet · Healthy Eating · Parenting · Weaning

Arsenic in baby food products?

Having heard headlines about arsenic in baby food products (baby rice, rice cakes and rice based cereals) I have been asked by parents whether they should stop giving their children rice.

Firstly when we think arsenic we think poison. Yes, arsenic is a carcinogen and we shouldn’t have too much of it but this is not a case of poison being added to baby foods. Arsenic is found naturally in the soil where rice is grown and so rice does contain arsenic. Most of this is found in the bran section (which is removed in processing white rice). We have long known this.

Back to the headlines; there is a great breakdown of the research study which prompted the headline here. Critically the study falls down on a number of levels – the very small number of people studied, not stating whether the arsenic levels in the babies’ urine samples were toxic or just raised compared with pre-weaning, and the lack of evidence that it is indeed rice based products which have caused this rise.

There are regulations around how much arsenic is allowed in water and food within the EU, although the latter only came into effect in January 2016, a month before the samples for the study were purchased. There are also already recommendations around rice milk for the under 5s – they should be avoided and an alternative milk used.

So, what do we do with this information? The current evidence shows it is safe for babies and young children to eat rice products (not drink rice milk though). They should be consumed as part of a balanced diet. Baby rice is a useful food in weaning but if weaning at 6 months we should be starting with a variety of foods including meat, fish, dairy foods, eggs, vegetables, fruit and starchy foods. Rice based cereal products are only one of the many suitable cereal products baby can have so you could choose an alternative or chop and change – just make sure it is age appropriate. My personal view on rice cakes – there are far more nutritious snacks to give children, which are not full of air, some of which are also much cheaper. Cubes of cheese, salad sticks and homous, yoghurt, homemade pancakes (with less sugar), plain popcorn, and fruit are a few examples.

Healthy Eating · Parenting · Weaning


With government cuts there seems to be less and less information available for parents from health professionals about all sorts of parenting issues.

Are parents supposed to reply on instinct, the internet, books and word of mouth?

With an obesity epidemic and rickets (vitamin D deficiency in children) on the rise we really shouldn’t be taking such a risk with weaning and toddler diets? Cuts mean we are creating an even greater divide between the well off and the not so well off – depending on whether parents can get the information or not.

If you are a parent reading this, why not check out the Infant and Toddler Forum which has loads of information on feeding babies and the under 5s.

If you would like to do a weaning course and you are in the Manchester area, contact me – aliya.porter@gmail.com or 07986 809633. I can run a course for you and a minimum of 4 of your friends in your home. I will do 3 or 4 90 minute sessions on weaning and feeding babies and toddlers.