Introducing Solids to Baby

Introducing Solids is a gradual process with the best approach being trial and error. It is an exciting and challenging time for you and your bub (remember to have your camera ready for that first feed). Many parents often feel overwhelmed when the time comes to start a baby on solid foods. By 6 months most bubs are ready to begin solids. Here are some general guidelines on how to proceed and introduce healthy eating.

  • Introduce solids slowly. All babies are different and progress at a different pace.
  • Start with rice cereal, commercial or home made. Try one or two teaspoons mixed with breast milk, formula, boiled water or fruit juice.
  • Try feeding at any time of the day that suits you. It does not need to be the same time of the day each day until your baby starts to expect food.
  • If the food is going down with a reasonable amount of success for a few days then increase the quantity by a teaspoon a day until they are having about 2 tablespoons at a time.
  • Try a new food every couple of days to allow your baby to get used to the taste and texture. Choose from things such as lightly cooked apples and pears, mashed banana or avocado, steamed vegetables or natural full fat yogurt.
  • Don’t give your baby egg yolks before 6 months or egg whites until 12 months and avoid honey altogether for the first year in case of allergic reaction.
  • What goes in must come out so be prepared for more solid bowel movements and dirtier nappies.
  • Be cautious about choking. Always watch your baby when he/she is eating.

Still there are many Questions often pop up, such as: “When can a baby start eating solids?”, “How do I know they are ready?”, “What kinds of foods should I give them?”, “Which ones should I avoid?”

When can I introduce baby to solids?

As mentioned earlier it is recommended that babies begin solid foods at around 6 months of age. This however, is dependent on each individual child and their state of development. Some babies may be interested in solids as earlier as 3 to 4 months.

How do I know they are ready for baby solids?

Some of the best way to tell if your baby is ready is to simply watch their behaviour. Some of the signs may include:

  • Your Bub’s feeding and mouth motions start to change from sucking to chomping and chewing – the tongue no longer protrudes in order to take fluids.
  • Your Bub can sit and control their head movements unaided, as well as grasp an object.
  • They start to show an interest in the foods you are eating – this however is not necessarily a distinct sign as a bub’s mouth is their whole world, and so they will often put anything and everything in their mouths (so keep this in mind).

Remember though –

  • Starting too early isn’t recommended as it may disrupt baby’s young immune and digestive systems – also leading to the risk of food allergies. If starting solids earlier than 6 months it is recommended that you seek advice from your Doctor or other Health Professional.
  • Delaying solids can impair nutrition and motor development skills such as chewing or hand-eye coordination.
  • Babies who say “no”, refuse food or when your baby is just not interested, be patient and keep trying. If baby is still rejecting solid foods after 7 months of age you may want to consult your doctor.

What kinds of foods should I give them?

Because of bub’s increased nutritional requirements for nutrients such as iron, iron-fortified baby cereals are an ideal starter. Once they are eating 2 tablespoons of baby cereal introduce vegies: it doesn’t take long for those innate preferences for sweet and salty to kick in. Encouraging your baby to accept vegetables early on can help avoid the development of fussy eating habits later. Sweet potato is a great vegetable to start with as it is tasty and has a low GI. Avocado (which is in fact a fruit) is also an excellent starter as its fat composition is similar to breast milk.

Ideas on starting baby solids

  • Start with an iron-enriched infant cereal. As they commonly have a high GI, most infants find them easy to digest and swallow. Mixing the cereal with breast milk or formula so it forms a smooth paste will make the food more sustaining.
  • Use cooked and pureed vegetables such as sweet potato, pumpkin, carrot, choko, parsnip, broccoli, peas, potato, zucchini and cauliflower. Introducing one vegetable at a time.
  • Once you have introduced a few vegetables you can start to mix them and create interesting combinations.
  • Mashed/cooked/pureed fruit such as avocado, apple, banana, pear, choko etc. can also be introduced, but keep an eye on any over fondness for sweet foods.
  • If a fruit or vegetable is too runny, use baby’s rice cereal as a thickener. Don’t flavour baby’s food with sugar or salt.

Which ones should I avoid?

There are a few foods that aren’t ideal for bubs under 12 months (some aren’t ideal right throughout childhood). These include:

  • Honey should not be given to children under 12 months.
  • Tea which has tannin and caffeine-containing drinks such as coffee have a powerful drying effect on the body’s liquid stores and tannin reduces iron absorption.
  • Nuts should not be given to infants because of the risk of choking and possibly allergy.
  • Don’t give your baby egg yolks before 6 months or egg whites until 12 months.
  • Small, hard foods should be avoided as they pose a risk of choking, e.g. nuts, seeds, popcorn, whole grapes and whole beans.
  • Spinach and other high oxalic acid-containing foods may also be a problem until later in the first year. Wholegrain products may not be suitable for babies due to the seeds, although light wholemeal bread is fine.
  • Sugar and salt should not be added to foods for children.
  • Cows milk and other milk alternatives as a drink are not ideal for infants under 12 months as they are not nutritionally balanced to meet baby’s needs.
  • Fruit juices are not recommended as they pose a risk of tooth decay and diarrhoea (especially apple and pear juice).
  • Fizzy drinks or soft drinks contain a lot of sugar and some contain artificial sweeteners; none provide any nutritional benefit.

For expert advice and more information on starting solids 'What to Feed My Baby' cookbook By Leanne Cooper is the solution. Available to purchase on www.bubs.com.au.

Related Articles: Baby Bottle Safety - Growth Spurts - Toilet Training

References: 'What Do I Feed My Baby' by Leanne Cooper, Wholesome Baby Foods, Kid's Health

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