Introducing Solids. How To Know When To Start
In Australia, breastmilk or infant formula is recommended as the sole nutrition source for the first six months of your baby’s life, after which solid foods can be introduced. If your baby is nearing his six-month birthday, you may be wondering how to introduce solids.
There is a lot of advice out there, so it can be difficult to determine what’s accurate and what isn’t. Infant nutrition is vital to your baby’s growth and development and you naturally want to get it right.
Feeding the first bite of solid food is a milestone that will be memorable to you, as the parent. It also helps you set the stage for healthy eating as your baby grows.
Use this handy guide to introduce solids and give your little one her best start in life.
Introducing Solids: When to Start
One of the most common questions that parents have about how to introduce solids to a baby is when to get started. As mentioned above, six months of age is the current recommendation.
While that’s a good benchmark to strive for, there are some other factors that you can consider when you’re determining if your baby is ready to take the leap to solid foods or not.
Age is only one thing to keep in mind. Your baby may be ready for solid foods before he reaches six months of age. However, it’s not recommended to offer them before four months of age.
Your baby may not be ready for solid foods at six months, and you may need to wait a little longer. Understanding the signs of readiness can help you determine if it’s time to pull out the baby spoon and get started.
Signs of Readiness
All babies develop at their own pace. One baby may be ready for solid food at five months, while another may not get there until seven months.
For that reason, it’s a good idea to watch for your little one’s signs of readiness. This will tell you that he’s ready for his first baby food. Without those signs, it may be too soon.
The most important thing to look for is your baby’s posture. If she can sit in a high chair without having her head and back supported, chances are she’s ready for solid food.
If your little one doesn’t seem satisfied with breastmilk or infant formula alone, he’s probably ready to supplement that with solid food. If he’s interested in what you’re doing during mealtime, it’s another sign that solid food is on the horizon.
Getting excited about food and opening her mouth when a spoon is offered are other signs to be on the watch for. Loss of the tongue-thrust reflex and reaching a weight that is twice the birthweight are also signs that she’s ready.
Introducing solids to a baby is likely to get messy. You will want to be prepared with a bib or towel to catch what doesn’t stay in your infant’s mouth. In warmer weather, some parents simply remove their baby’s clothing.
You should start slowly. Don’t jump right into combinations of foods. Instead, start with a single food and aim to get just a few spoonful’s into your baby’s mouth.
Many experts suggest introducing solids after your baby’s morning feed. This is when your little one is likely to be alert and amenable to trying something new. It also prevents night-time discomfort after a new food is introduced.
Be sure you use a small infant spoon. This will be more comfortable for your baby and makes it easier to get the right amount, so you don’t have to worry about choking or spitting the food back out.
First Food Options
It’s best to start with something mild when you introduce solid foods to your baby. She’s new to the process and you don’t want her to get overwhelmed right off the bat.
A single grain cereal is the most commonly offered first food. This might be rice, barley, or oats. Mix the cereal with a small amount of breastmilk or water to create a thin consistency.
This allows your baby to get used to the texture and taste of something new as he learns to eat from a spoon. It’s a good idea to choose an iron-fortified cereal to optimize your baby’s growth and development.
Around eight months of age, you will likely be at a point where you can offer fruit and vegetable purees. Yoghurt and mashed avocado are other good options at this age.
Moving toward your baby’s first birthday allows you to introduce mashed or pureed meat, pieces of fruit and cooked vegetables, mashed eggs, and shredded cheese.
Variety as your baby gets older is important because it ensures that they are getting adequate amounts of the vitamins and minerals they need to grow and to support overall health.
How Much to Feed
As important as what you feed your baby is how much you offer. Initially, just a couple of teaspoons to a tablespoon is all an infant needs at mealtime.
It’s important to remember that breastmilk or infant formula is still vital for your baby until they reach at least one year of age. Solid foods should not replace breastmilk or infant formula until your little one gets older.
If you find that adding solid foods to your baby’s diet is slowing her down on her intake of breastmilk or infant formula, you are likely giving her too much. Scale back until she’s back to the recommended amount of breastmilk or infant formula each day.
In addition to offering an age-appropriate serving size when introducing solids, it’s also a good idea to watch for signs that your baby is full and has had enough.
If you offer a spoonful of solid food and he turns his head away or pushes the spoon away, he’s likely satisfied. Losing interest in eating or refusing to open his mouth are other signs he’s full.
It’s never a good idea to promote overeating. Never try to get your baby to finish a certain amount of food. Respond to her appetite cues to promote healthy eating patterns as she grows.
What About Allergens?
Something that many parents worry about when starting solid foods is allergies. With the rise in food allergies, this is a legitimate concern that should be considered carefully.
Most experts suggest introducing foods that are common allergens during the first year. This can help decrease the risk of developing allergies, as compared to introducing them after your baby reaches his first birthday.
This includes eggs, fish, and soy. It also includes peanut and other nut butters. Keep in mind that nut butter poses a choking risk so only offer it in very small amounts. Experts suggest bites that are the size of a grain of rice.
Introduce common allergens one at a time. This way you can monitor for potential allergic reactions. If you offer more than one at a time, you won’t know which one is the culprit.
Signs of an allergic reaction include a rash and trouble breathing. If you notice these symptoms after starting a new food, contact your baby’s doctor right away.
Wait two or three days between trying new foods to allow for the chance to watch for signs of a food allergy.
What Not to Feed Your Baby
There are plenty of options for solid foods in your baby’s first year. However, some foods should be avoided until your little one reaches a certain age.
In some cases, this is due to the risk of choking but could also be because the nutrients aren’t appropriate at a younger age or the food could make your baby sick.
Honey should be avoided until after your baby’s first birthday to prevent the risk of botulism. Undercooked or runny eggs should also be avoided because they pose a risk of food poisoning.
Don’t offer cow’s milk until after your baby turns a year old. Low-fat milk should be avoided until after your baby’s second birthday. Make sure that any dairy you offer is pasteurized to lower the risk of illness.
Likewise, any milk substitutes should be avoided until after your little one turns two years old.
Limit or avoid soft drinks, fruit juice, and baked goods. These items are very high in sugar and can take the place of nutrient-dense foods that are vital to healthy growth and development.
Salty foods should also be limited as they are often low in nutrients and raise the risk of health problems down the road.
Taking the First Step
Introducing solids is a big step for you and your baby. It should be fun and enjoyable for both of you, as the saying goes – Food under 1 is just for fun!
Remember that solid foods should be offered in conjunction with breastmilk or infant formula until your baby is at least one year old. Once your little one gets into the swing of things, variety is important for her health.
We believe it takes a village to raise a child. Find out more about the Nutura Village and how we can help you raise a healthy and happy baby.
This article is designed to provide general advice for parents and guardians, for specific health advice, please consult with your child’s healthcare practitioner.