WHEN TO START
The best way to know when to start introducing solid foods is to observe baby’s development and behaviour. Every baby is wonderfully individual, and signs of readiness will happen at different times for different babies. Signs most commonly occur around 6 months (but can be as early as 4 months or as late as 7 months).
Some of the following signs are indicators that baby is ready:
- Good head and neck control, and baby is able to sit upright in a high chair
- Baby shows an interest in food by looking intently and/or reaching for food being eaten by others
- When offered a spoonful of food, baby responds by opening their mouth
If it is possible, plan ahead. Have your child join in meal times for the week prior to starting solids. For example, sit them in their high chair at the dinner table and give them a spoon to play with that will be used for future feeding. A soft-tip spoon is ideal. Doing this will give them time to get used to their new chair and how the spoon feels in their mouth. Always ensure supervision.
On the day you begin, choose a time when baby is most happy. Offer a taste first of all – about a Tablespoon. Give some on a spoon to eat and some to explore with.
WHAT FOODS? WHEN? WHAT TEXTURE?
There are two common ways of starting solids 1) puree, where baby learns to swallow then chew, or 2) finger foods (known as baby led weaning), where baby learns to chew then swallow. A combination approach can also be taken.
If you start with pureed foods, start to introduce mashed or small, soft pieces of food after about 3-4 weeks. Increasing food texture promotes chewing, and chewing aids in baby’s speech development.
If starting with finger foods, when it comes to introducing meat and chicken it is recommended to offer them minced, as this is easiest for baby in the beginning.
First foods should be easy to digest. Start with fruits and vegetables and progress through the food groups. Introduce some finely minced red meat a couple weeks into feeding solids, as this provides baby with a rich source of iron. A sample outline is provided below (please note: this is not prescriptive):
- Vegetables*: cooked carrot, green beans, pumpkin and zucchini (mashed, pureed or small pieces)
- Fruits*: pear, apple, banana and melons (mashed, pureed or small pieces)
- Meat**: finely minced grass-fed beef, grass-fed lamb, free-range chicken, fish
- Starches*: sweet potato, white potato, rice, oats, lentils and beans
- Fats*: avocado
- Dairy: full-cream A2 milk, yoghurt and cheese (please note: it is recommended to avoid the introduction of dairy until baby is at least 12 months old)
* Organic varieties recommended where possible (see dirty dozen/clean 15 list)
** Blitz minced meat in a food processor to make it very fine
Introduce 2-3 new foods per week. You can also mix foods together to create new flavours and textures.
Remember: talk to baby and create a positive environment in which to learn and discover, and expect mess! There will be food in their hair, on their stomach, in their chair, on the floor etc.
It may be worth considering feeding in just a nappy (if warm enough) and bathing afterwards. You can also buy bibs that have long sleeves for covering clothes (great for the cooler weather). Importantly, let baby take their time!
At about 8 months of age (if not already), offer baby finger foods like pieces of cooked vegetables, fish, fruit chunks (ie. pear, apple) and so on to encourage self-feeding and chewing.
It is encouraged to continue breastfeeding or formula feeding until at least 12 months, even as solids are being introduced.
Once baby is 12 months of age, they can eat the majority of healthy foods the rest of the family enjoy, including: vegetables and fruit, grains – oats, rice, organic wheat, spelt, rye, legumes and lentils, nut butters (avoid giving whole nuts too early, as they can be a choking hazard), grass-fed meat, free-range chicken, fish, tofu, A2 dairy – milk, yoghurt, cheese, and herbs and spices.
In regards to fluids, full cream cow’s/sheep’s/goat’s milk can be used after 12 months. Besides this, and breast milk or formula, baby only needs water. Avoid giving fruit juice, as this is a nutrient-poor choice and may lead to the development of dental caries.
By about 12 months, baby can (or nearly can) hold a spoon properly and drink from a sipping cup.
FOOD ALLERGIES AND INTRODUCING SOLIDS
If baby has eczema or there is a family history of allergies, introduce foods individually (without combining). If a reaction occurs to a food, it is recommended to consult your GP, Paediatrician, Allergist or book in for a Consultation for assistance.
For more information, visit raisingchildren.net.au