SOCIAL media is being blamed for placing too much pressure on parents in north Cumbria, affecting their confidence when it comes to things like weaning.

Claire King, a local consultant in public health, said that both mums and dads in the county tell them that they worry about living up to society's expectations.

She was speaking after new research revealed that one in four mums in the area lack confidence when it comes to introducing solid foods to their baby.

There are also a lot of myths and misconceptions about the signs that a baby is ready to wean, with parents often feeling under pressure to start to early.

Miss King is backing the new national Start4Life campaign, which has been launched to boost parents’ confidence in weaning their baby and ensure they have all the facts.

Herself a mum, she said parents are constantly trying to live up to unrealistic ideals.

"What's been coming out of the work we have been doing in north Cumbria is the pressure that comes from social media to be the absolutely perfect parent.

"It places unrealistic expectations on parents and doesn't give you the full picture. Parenting is challenging and people have busy lives, It can be tough," she said.

Miss King said weaning is one of the areas that really troubles parents.

"Certainly we get a lot of feedback from local women and partners about the experiences of weaning their children.

"With weaning, one of the main issues is when to do it," she said.

"There's often a kind of expectation that you wean your baby as soon as possible.

"But from a public health point of view, we always recommend that you do it at about six months.

"This is because the baby's digestive system is much more able to cope with solid foods.

"The trouble is we have older generations saying they used to wean at three months or that the baby is hungry and ready for solid food. It can be difficult for parents."

She added that there are always parents claiming to have spent the morning making a freezer organic homemade baby food, which can also make others feel inferior.

But she said weaning doesn't have to be that complicated, and urged people to visit the Start4Life website for simple advice that will help take away the stresses of weaning.

"We recommend that you consider starting to wean your baby a six months of age. There is no evidence to suggest you should do it before then," she stressed.

"A common worry is about the baby choking, so speak to your health visitor if you are concerned.

"My advice is that it doesn't have to be complex. Don't put extra pressure on yourself. Start off with something like pureed carrots and fit it in with another mealtime. You don't need to buy lots of equipment. Just mash it with a fork.

"It's also nice for children to be able to play with food so don't be afraid to let them get in a mess. You can also chop things like banana into finger-shaped portions that they can hold.

"It's a gradual process. Start off with one solid feed a day and introduce it gradually."

Miss King stressed that at this age, babies still get everything they need from their milk feeds, so there is no need to worry about whether a baby is eating enough. It is more about experimenting with tastes and textures.

Her final advice was that grapes should be chopped into quarters lengthwise to avoid choking, and that parents should aware that some shop bought baby foods can be higher in sugar than those made at home - though that doesn't mean they can't use them.

To find out more visit: