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Diet and lifestyle

‘Nothing but milk for the first 6 months’ is a Medway Community Healthcare campaign to encourage parents to give only breastmilk or formula milk to their babies until they are about six months old. Starting solid foods is an exciting time for families and an important developmental stage for babies as they start to learn about different flavours and textures, and can enjoy eating together as a family.

Babies are developmentally ready to start eating solid foods when they can

  • stay in a sitting position and hold their head steady
  • reach for food, grab it and put it into their mouth without help
  • swallow food without pushing it back out with their tongue

These three signs occur together at about six months for most babies. Before this their digestive system is not fully ready to cope with solid foods, and it may increase their risk of illness or allergies.

Sometimes chewing fists, waking at night or wanting more milk are thought to show that babies are ready to start eating food; however these are normal behaviours and unless they occur at about six months along with the developmental signs above they are unlikely to mean that baby needs solid foods.

It is important for babies to continue having the same amount of breastmilk or formula milk until they are twelve months old. Breastfeeding can continue beyond this for as long as mum and baby wish; after twelve months babies who are formula fed can move onto full fat cow’s milk.

Children’s centres in Medway are running fun sessions for parents and families to learn more about how to tell their baby is ready to start eating and talk about the types of food babies enjoy. Health visitors and children’s centre staff have more details about these sessions.