Today, the Department for Health and Social Care’s Office for Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID) launches the Better Health Start for Life Introducing Solid Foods campaign. This new campaign is to support parents and carers on their weaning journey as many first-time parents find knowing when to start weaning confusing.

Weaning is when you introduce your baby to solid foods alongside breastmilk or infant formula, and it is a crucial milestone within the first 1001 days. The NHS recommends that most parents should wait until their baby is around six-months old before they start introducing solid foods. By this point, babies can cope better with solid foods and are more able to feed themselves. They are also better at moving food around their mouth, chewing and swallowing.

The campaign promotes waiting until your baby is around six months to introduce solid foods alongside breastmilk or infant formula foods. At this stage, they need solid foods as well as, and not as a replacement for, their usual breastmilk or first infant formula (which is why it’s known as complementary feeding).

Lots of parents wonder when and how to start introducing solid food, so a dedicated weaning hub has been created on the Better Health website offering support and advice during what can be a confusing time.

Advice for Parents

  • What is weaning?
    Weaning is introducing your baby to solid foods, starting when your baby is around 6 months old. It can be confusing knowing when and how to start introducing solid foods. See here to guide you through the journey and explain what it all means.
  • Is my baby ready for weaning?
    Lots of parents wonder when and how to start introducing solid foods. Read about the signs that your baby is ready for weaning and what you need to get started.
  • What should my baby be eating?
    There’s lots of information here on what to feed your baby and how much – find out about different food groups, baby-led weaning and how much milk your baby should be having.

All of the above links and more can be found on the weaning hub which is available on the Better Health Start for Life website to help parents introduce solid foods to their baby. The weaning hub is packed with NHS-endorsed advice, videos and tips, plus simple, healthy recipes, it puts everything parents need to know in one place.

Most children and teenagers do not become seriously ill with COVID-19, but doctors have seen a very small number of patients with an unusual condition which seems to be linked to the virus. Paediatric Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome temporally associated with SARS-CoV-2 (PIMS-TS) is very rare; it occurs in less than 0.05% of children with COVID-19. Most children with the condition will not be seriously affected but, in some cases, it can be serious.

This news story has been written in collaboration with Dr Sanjay Patel (paediatric infectious disease and immunology consultant – Southampton Children’s Hospital) to raise awareness of this condition and provide some helpful links to trusted sources of information to support you in your work with families.

Signs and Symptoms of PIMS-TS:

  • fever, which persists over several days
  • there’s a very wide range of other symptoms that children might have, including abdominal pain, diarrhoea, vomiting, rash, cold hands/feet and red eyes. These symptoms can be found in other illnesses too.

Children and young people who are seriously affected will have symptoms which are very similar to other life-threatening conditions such as sepsis or meningitis. Some of the symptoms of PIMS-TS can overlap with other rare conditions, such as Kawasaki disease and Toxic Shock Syndrome. Kawasaki disease tends to affect children under five, whereas PIMS seems to affect older children and teenagers.

While most children won’t be seriously unwell, some children may be severely affected by the syndrome. Experts advise, the most important thing is to remember that any child who is seriously unwell needs to be treated quickly – whatever the illness.

Laura is mother to Oliver, and she is raising awareness of PIMS and the symptoms to look out for:

“Oliver tested positive for Covid with no symptoms in March. Four weeks later, he lost his appetite, became lethargic and developed tummy pains. I took him to A&E, where he was diagnosed with tonsillitis and sent home. Over the next few days, Oliver developed a persistently high temperature, a blotchy rash, swelling, deep red lips, palms and eyelids and bloodshot eyes and was admitted to hospital. Oliver’s blood pressure kept dropping and his heart function was deteriorating so he was transferred to the paediatric intensive care unit. Oliver was then diagnosed with PIMS-TS. Thankfully, Oliver has made a good recovery after 5 days in ICU and 2 weeks in hospital, we were able to return home. There appears to be no long-term heart damage, although he still needs regular heart check-ups”.

(Shared with permission from Laura)

Children from all ethnic minority backgrounds have been affected by PIMS. A greater proportion of children from Black and Asian backgrounds appear to be affected by PIMS-TS, although it is still not clear what the reason for this is. Nonetheless, it is important for families from all ethnic backgrounds to be aware of the signs and symptoms of the condition, however rare.

Dr Sanjay Patel said:

 “The good news is that effective treatments are readily available for treating PIMS-TS and the vast majority of children make an excellent recovery.”

The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health has developed a series of posters and information for parents and young people to help explain when and how to seek medical help for their child:

Further information and answers to commonly asked questions can be found on the Healthier Together website for parents and professionals:

Following the publication of the “COVID-19 restoration of community health services for children and young people: second phase of NHS response“ last week, we launch updated versions of the COVID-19 professional advice documents that were originally published in March. The documents have been developed in partnership with Public Health England, and have been signed off by them, to support the safe and effective delivery of health visiting practice during the restoration of the health visiting service during COVID-19.

The advice includes a clear statement on the redeployment of health visitors by Public Health England that:

“Where services have been interrupted this requires the restoration of elements of the service that were stopped, paused or reduced during the earliest phase of the pandemic and the return of any redeployed members of the health visiting team where this has been the case”.

The refreshed advice also includes the reinstatement of the 6-8 week postnatal review which is particularly important to ensure families are supported and perinatal mental health conditions are identified.

Additional safeguards to protect vulnerable children have been included with advice that “Face-to-face contacts should be prioritised for families who are not known to services, or those with safeguarding concerns, to mitigate known limitations of virtual contacts and support effective assessment of needs/ risks”.

We have also included additional information on the use of virtual contacts – their benefits as well as recommendations to minimise their limitations

Our suite of refreshed documents Delivering the Health Visitor Healthy Child Programme during the COVID-19 pandemic – Professional advice to support best practice include:

Please note: As the COVID-19 situation is rapidly changing, the information in these resources may change. Please keep checking the Government and NHS websites for details.

Also, don’t forget our COVID-19 webpages for health visitors and parents – see details below:

COVID-19 webpages

  • For Health Visitors– These new professional advice documents can be found on our COVID-19 (coronavirus) guidance for health visitors webpage –
  • For parents and families– The iHV is dedicated to supporting the health and wellbeing of all families and we are putting together links and resources from trusted organisations and websites to support parents and families during the COVID-19 pandemic – please see our Parenting through Coronavirus (COVID-19) webpage –

We have waivered our usual restrictions on resources for members so that the COVID-19 sections of our website are “free access” to all to support the national response to this pandemic.

As part of  World Immunization Week 2020, our resources on childhood immunisations have been updated with the latest information and advice during the current COVID-19 pandemic – two Parent Tips and one Good Practice Points for Health Visitors.

The two updated Parent Tips:

  • one providing some basic information on the childhood immunisation programme, explaining how vaccines work, how they are regulated and why it is important to ensure your baby receives all the recommended immunisations
  • the second,  provides answers to “Frequently Asked Questions” and has been written by leading national experts. It covers getting your baby immunised and what to expect, including information on things such as soothing your baby
    during and after vaccinations, and what to do if they are poorly on the day of their appointment.

Just to reassure you that despite the current COVID-19 pandemic, it is still recommended that your child receives their vaccines as this protects them against other serious diseases that can still cause them harm.

These updated Parent Tips, together with those published last week and yesterday, can be found in our **Parenting Through Coronavirus (COVID-19)** webpage


The Good Practice Points for Health Visitors:

The immunisation programme is a key component of the Healthy Child Programme. It is important for health visitors to be aware of current research and practice to promote immunisation uptake and know where to go for information.  Uptake of childhood vaccines in the UK is is generally high, although uptake of the MMR is a concern and the UK lost its ‘measles-free’ status last year. There are also concerns about the impact of the COVID-19 lockdown on immunisation uptake.

COVID-19 webpages
  • For Health Visitors– This updated GPP is available in our GPP resource section of our website and can also be found on our COVID-19 (coronavirus) guidance for health visitors webpage –
  • For parents and families– These updated Parent Tips are available in the Families Parent Tips section of our website as well as our Parenting through Coronavirus (COVID-19) webpage –

We have waivered our usual restrictions on resources for members and the COVID-19 sections of our website are “free access” to all to support the national response to this pandemic.




A new addition to the Parent Tips series to help parents during these times – “Supporting breastfeeding during COVID-19“.

Like other mammal babies, it is natural for a human baby to be breastfed, but many people in the UK have lost confidence and skills in breastfeeding. Breast milk contains anti-viral factors and antibodies which are likely to offer your baby some protection against COVID-19. There is no evidence that the virus can be transmitted through breastfeeding. If you have any concerns, you can discuss them with your midwife or health visitor (online or over the phone).

The new Supporting breastfeeding during COVID-19 Parent Tips includes:

  • How breastfeeding makes a difference
  • Can I breastfeed my baby if I have suspected or confirmed coronavirus?
  • Starting Breastfeeding
  • How to tell if your baby is getting enough milk
  • Common Challenges
  • Looking after yourself

These new Parent Tips, together with those published last week, can be found in our **Parenting Through Coronavirus (COVID-19)** webpage


Following the Prime Minister’s announcement last night of more stringent guidance to “Stay at Home”, we know that many of you will be asking questions about how this impacts your families and the important services that you provide. This is also a worrying time for families who may be wanting to access helpful parenting information. The Institute is doing all we can to support the government-led decisions (nationally and locally) by disseminating any guidance as soon as it is published to avoid confusion and mixed messages at this time when clarity is needed.

We have a dedicated COVID-19 section of our website which we are using to provide updates as and when they are received.

Our colleagues at Public Health England and local government are moving at extraordinary pace and scale at this time – we thank and applaud them for all their efforts during the unfolding events of this pandemic.

Following the PM’s announcement last night, the latest advice has been received:

Outline details of priority work is set out in the NHS COVID-19 Prioritisation within Community Health Services published last Friday.  The NHS are currently developing a more detailed Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) that will be published soon – the NHS are custodians of the SOP as this avoids confusion, retaining a single line of communication.  It is high level covering all community services (under NHS standard contract). PHE expect that common approach will be applied across all services.

PHE are aware that families understandably do not want home visits so it makes sense to prepare advice ahead of the SOP being published.

Viv Bennett, the Chief Nurse at PHE, has given us the following holding advice: “I think that what is clear is that the presumption should be that contacts will be virtual – skype, facetime and failing that phone call.  There will need to be individual assessment of compelling need for face to face contacts and then decisions re PPE”.

The iHV will be supporting this work by developing guidance for health visitors to address questions like, “What makes an effective virtual visit especially for AN breastfeeding support and NBV”.

We share some of the latest Government guidance on our website – both for families and healthcare professionals:

This information is being regularly reviewed and updated.  We will be adding more content regarding supportive resources for parents and carers in the coming days and weeks make this a repository of best advice for families during these difficult times – so bookmark these pages for any further updates. We have waivered our usual restrictions on resources for members and the COVID-19 sections of our website are “free access” to all to support the national response to this pandemic.

We suggest that you also keep a look out on the government COVID-19 update web pages and contact your local commissioner and Director of Public Health who will be coordinating the response to the NHS guidance in your area.

Public Health England (PHE) has launched its first ever Start4Life campaign to help parents introduce their baby to solid foods.

Official advice is that most babies should not start solid foods until they are around six months old. By this point their bodies are better able to cope with solid foods and they are more able feed themselves. They are also better at moving food around their mouth, chewing and swallowing.

Dr Cheryll Adams, Executive Director of the Institute of Health Visiting, commented:

“This is very helpful advice. PHE’s new Start4Life hub contains lots of important information that will help parents feel confident introducing solid foods to their baby for the first time. We recommend that mums still unsure about how to wean their children ring their health visitor or attend a child health clinic to seek advice.”

The  brand-new weaning hub has been launched on the Start4Life website to help parents during their weaning journey. Packed with NHS-approved advice and tips for each weaning stage, plus simple, healthy weaning recipes for different age groups, it puts everything parents need to know in one place. It also includes new videos showing the signs that indicate babies are ready to wean, how much food to give, and weaning tips from other parents.

A new survey of 1,000 mothers of young children conducted for Public Health England found that common myths persist about the signs a baby is ready for their first solid foods, including:

  • Just under half of mums (46%) think wanting extra milk feeds is a sign that babies are ready for solid foods;
  • A third of mums (32%) believe that a baby chewing their fists is a sign that they are ready to start weaning;
  • Just under a quarter of mums (24%) believe that waking up in the night is a sign a baby is ready for weaning.

The survey revealed that many parents have concerns around weaning with more than a quarter saying they didn’t feel confident when they introduced solid foods to their baby. Choking topped the list of worries about weaning, with mums also concerned about allergic reactions to new foods, how much food to give their baby, and concern that their baby won’t eat enough or will reject food.

Telling parents about the hub is a simple way to help them access information that they know they can trust. To support your conversations, PHE has created a new weaning leaflet which is available to order free of charge by health visitors and early years professionals via the PHE Campaign Resource Centre. It comes in a handy pocket-size format which folds out to a wall-planner, with tips for each stage of weaning. A social media toolkit is also available on the Campaign Resource Centre.