The claim by Gill Rapley, deputy director of UNICEF UK’s Baby Friendly Initiative, comes after research backed by the World Health Organisation showed that feeding babies pureed food was unnatural and unnecessary.
If weaned too early, it is feared babies could lose out on vital nutrients derived from breast milk, which protect against common infections and allergies. Spoon-feeding with pureed products could also delay their chewing ability, cause them to become fussy eaters and increase the likelihood of constipation.
Instead Rapley believes infants should be fed exclusively on breast or formula milk for the first six months, then weaned onto solids. This idea is called ‘Baby led weaning’.
Mrs Rapley said: “Parents often think that their babies need something more than milk when they get to four months or so, but scientists and government advisors now agree that this isn’t the case.”
She added, “After six months, babies should still be breast fed but they should also be given solids – proper pieces of meat and veg that they can chew and suck. There is no need for pureed food at all.”
Department of Health guidelines suggest that mothers should breastfeed exclusively for six months. However, all babies are different and some are ready for solid food earlier.
This is an issue that weaning expert Annabel Karmel feels very strongly about. “I prefer babies to be weaned at around 5 months,” she says. “If you feel your baby is ready at 5 months, and providing your baby isn’t premature and is a good weight then trust your instincts.”