Making the shift from breast milk or formula to food is such an exciting time in your baby’s first year. It can however be a time of confusion.
“How will you know when to start feeding your baby?”
“What if other babies the same age are eating and yours isn’t?”
“How will you know if they are getting enough?”
These are common questions I hear from parents wanting to give their children the best start in life.
When should I start solids?
*For ease and consistency I will refer to a baby as a female in this blog post.
You should start solid foods at around 6 months of age, and when your baby is showing signs of readiness. You will know this if she is:
- Watching you eat with interest
- Salivating and moving tongue around when near food
- Tongue no longer pushes food out of mouth (extrusion reflex)
- Can sit upright
What food should I feed my baby first?
Generally speaking, I recommend that parents start with vegetables as they are less sweet than fruit, and most babies will accept fruit due to this sweetness. Well-cooked and peeled, pureed pumpkin, sweet potato or carrot is a good place to start. You could also try avocado or zucchini mixed with a little bit of breast milk/formula to make it familiar taste.
How do I start feeding my baby?
Introducing food is a new and exciting time, so make sure baby is relaxed.
- It doesn’t really matter what time of day you start, however I found mid morning helpful as I was less busy and tried after the first morning nap.
- Give your baby half a feed, then sit her up in high chair (if able), or on your lap with one arm tucked behind your back.
- Let your baby hold a piece of what you are offering (e.g. softened carrot) and try with a teaspoon of puree.
- The baby may only take 1/4 teaspoon at first exposure, and that is absolutely ok.
- If your child is disinterested, wait another few days or week and try again. Work with your baby.
- You do not have to wait 3-5 days between trying new foods, keep trying lots of different foods.
- Your baby’s iron stores start to diminish after 6 months, so iron rich foods will be beneficial to include. Good iron rich foods include pureed beef, lentils, eggs, tofu, beans, smooth nut pastes and iron-fortified baby cereals.
Top 7 Tips For Starting Solids
- It’s not a competition. Between 6 and 12 months of age is a massive food exploration phase for a baby, not a race to see who can eat 3 balanced meals a day. Try not to compare your child to what another is doing as they all develop in their own time.
- Never force food. Babies are born with intrinsic internal hunger cues (thanks to evolution); they are great at letting us know when they are full. Try to never force food if your baby is closing her lips, turning her head or not interested. Contrary to old advice, the bowl does not need to be finished.
- Learn to love the mess. We know from research that kids who are exposed to a wide variety of textures, flavours and finger foods early on are less fussy. Let your kid get amongst the food, throw some down on the high chair and allow them the time get acquainted with the food and all it’s glorious textures. Babies are naturally curious and this relationship with food needs to be nurtured.
- Keep up the variety. The first three years for a child is critical in developing taste preferences and accepting food. Exposing your child to different foods now will pay off in the long run, and will hopefully mean less dinner battles down the track.
- Don’t stick to purees for too long. It is important to move through the stages of baby food quite quickly (as able) to ensure acceptance of lumps and to have your baby eating family foods at around age 1 (although this might be different for some babies). Purees → Mashed and finger foods → Lumps.
- Food acceptance takes time. It can take up to 20 exposures of just one food before a child accepts it. If your child doesn’t take to something initially, wait a week and keep trying. Food acceptance comes with repeat exposure (desensitisation), so keep offering just one mouthful or piece of food.
- Keep breast/formula feeding until 12 months. Your baby is still getting all of her nutrients and minerals (apart form iron) from milk, so this will be the main source of nutrition until age 1.
What about baby-led weaning?
See my previous blog post on Baby-Led Weaning.
For more information visit Raising Children.
South Australia Health has also produced a useful booklet called First Foods which can be found here.
As always, if you have any concerns with your child please consult with your GP, Paediatrician or Child Health Nurse/ Every child develops differently, however if you feel there is something wrong then seek help.