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


Healthy Eating · Parenting · Pregnancy

Eating healthily whilst pregnant and nauseous

Congratulations you are pregnant! Exciting times ahead and what a responsibility; you are the sole provider of nutrition for your unborn baby. And as if that wasn’t enough, you also have to deal with nausea, tiredness, aches… Who would be pregnant!?

As someone who couldn’t open my mouth without being sick for a period of pregnancy I would rather not repeat, I am very sympathetic of the reader who requested this post.

Here are some tips for eating well whilst being nauseous.

Tip 1: Keep Hydrated

The most important thing to make sure you do when you are pregnant and nauseous is to stay well hydrated. This is often the reason women end up in hospital in pregnancy with their ‘morning sickness’. Small sips of water totalling about 2 litres a day is the aim. If you can’t stomach plain water, add unsweetened squash or have some decaffeinated tea (although don’t drink 2 litres of tea or it may affect your iron absorption!). Avoid sweetened drinks, for the sake of your teeth but also your mood. Avoid having more than 2 cups of caffeinated tea or coffee a day.

Tip 2: Snack well

You may find it helpful to have small meals or snacks throughout the day, rather than big meals. Strong flavours and smells can often make you feel more nauseous so dry foods such as wholemeal crackers or breadsticks can help. Better still, vegetable sticks such as carrots, celery, cucumber, peppers, and raw baby sweetcorn or raw sugar snap peas are a great snack. If you feel you need more calories, dip them in homous or have them with a handful of nuts or seeds. Plain yoghurt is also a good snack with a handful of berries.

Tip 3: Limit sugary and high fat snacks

If you don’t have sugary or high fat snacks in the house, it makes it a lot harder to eat them! Yes, you can send your partner out to get some but at least they are not right under your nose. If you can, limit sugary or high fat snacks to one a day. This includes highly processed snacks. Remember cravings last about 20 minutes usually. If you feel like you want a snack, have a drink of water, go away and do something else and if you still want something to eat, try and have something savoury and within the balance of the Eatwell Guide. If you can have snacks which are high in fibre, this can help reduce the risk of constipation too.

Tip 4: It’s all about balance

As always, try and stick to the Eatwell Guide. If you have already had lots of starchy carbohydrates today, it might be time for some protein (eg pulses, meat, fish, eggs, nuts), some fruit and veg, or some dairy (or alternatives like almond or soya milk).

Tip 5: Don’t kid yourself, you are not eating for two.

Yes, you are eating for 2 in a sense but not in the way we often think of it. You need nutrients for your baby but you only need extra calories in the last trimester. Even then you only need 200kcal extra a day (which you get from 50g cheese, a chicken leg or a bagel). If you eat lots of extra calories in pregnancy, you only have to get rid of them later, so if you can avoid unnecessary weight gain in pregnancy, it helps later down the line.

Good luck!

For further tips on eating well during pregnancy, check out First Steps Nutrition



Health promotion · Healthy Eating · Parenting

Portion sizes for children

All children are different and have different appetites. Here are 8 tips to help all those with responsibility for feeding children to know how much to give them.

  1. Know the child’s weight and get them weighed regularly (at least once a year for school-age children, more often for younger children). If they are tracking along their growth chart, they are probably getting the right amount of food (although not necessary the right type of food)
  2. Look at the balance of food across their day. Focus more on the variety and types of food, rather than just the amount. Focus on fresh, unprocessed foods. Focus on the nutrients rather than just the calories. From the age of 2, children’s diets should reflect the Eatwell Guide.
  3. Make sure your child is well hydrated. Children should have about 1-1.5l a day and more when it is hot. Water is the ideal drink. It is important to limit sugary drinks as well as limiting fruit juice to 150ml a day). For more specific amounts for different age groups click here
  4. Give your child a small amount of each food and let them ask for more. This will help them to regulate their own appetite
  5. Banish the rule which says you have to finish everything on your plate
  6. Encourage your child to have regular meals and not snack in between meals and your regular snack times
  7. Don’t be afraid to say ‘no’ or ‘you have had enough’.
  8. If in doubt, ask a health professional


Remember, food is not just about calories, it is amount nutrition, social activity, learning and new experiences. Get your child involved with every stage as they learn to love food.



Consultation on Nutrient Profiling

There is currently a consultation out on the thresholds for which foods can be advertised to children.


Here is my response:

I welcome the proposed changes in the nutrient profiling. I specifically welcome the change from total sugar to free sugar in line with the SACN recommendations for free sugars. There is a lot of confusion around labelling of sugar so I hope this change in the nutrient profiling will lead to a change in labelling in due course. I also welcome the update in the fibre amounts as this is a crucial nutrient for health which is often overlooked with the focus on calories. I hope these changes will go some way in supporting the education of the consumer on the foods which make healthier choices. I also hope that the food industry will respond by reformulating products across their whole to make them higher in fibre and lower in free sugar, salt and fat as we know children don’t always choose the food advertised, rather they choose that brand.

Aliya Porter – Registered Nutritionist – Porter Nutrition


I would like to see a ban on advertising foods to children on TV because it is all about brand awareness and there are no regulations on the other foods that brand sells but this is a step in the right direction.


Musings of a nutritionist in Scarborough


On a recent trip to the seaside (in a rather cold week in February) I came across a couple of activities in the market hall in Scarborough which I thought I would share.

As I entered into the old hall I was pleasantly surprised to see a traditional butcher and masses of fresh fruit and vegetables. Around the edge of the lower section of the hall were stalls and eateries including an intriguing shop full of barrels of food.

In these barrels you could find pulses, pasta, rice, cereal, scone mix, dried fruit and much more. You could by in weight so you didn’t have to buy a full box. What a great way for a single person to shop – or someone on holiday for a short period of time. Students, the elderly and many more who shop for one could benefit from this kind of service. Prices were comparable to packets you would find in the supermarket and shoppers would save on food waste and packaging too. I hope we get one of these in Manchester soon…

Upstairs in the market hall we were able to have fish and chips with a twist (yes, a nutritionist can enjoy fish and chips!). The Seafood Social is a social enterprise which aims to tackle homelessness and the issues that lead to homelessness. Profits from our lunch go into the support and employment opportunities are given to support vulnerable people. It’s not the place I would recommend you get your portions of fruit and veg but the food was well cooked, not too oily and freshly made.

Pictured below are the scampi and the seafood platter both of which were yummy (I had one of them!).

A nutritionist is never really on holiday. Food is everywhere but one of the things I love about my job is being able to see how different parts of the country (and the world) interact with food. And as The Seafood Social shows, food can be a driver for positive change.

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.

Association for Nutrition network (north west) study day 2018

The theme of the day was Nutrition in a Growing Ageing Population. We had a great set of speakers with lots of time for networking. About 120 people present. Here are some of the tweets to give you a flavour of the day. All the tweets can be found here


Views of those who have tweeted are not endorsed by Porter Nutrition or the Association for Nutrition.