Tips For Introducing Solid Foods
Your little angel is now ready for solids! Yay! Congratulations! You have both come a really long way and you should be really proud of yourselves.
The next step in your baby’s life will now be one full of adventure as they discover flavours and develop their taste palette. So, be sure to have your camera ready to capture their delighted giggles as they taste something delicious and new!
Before you can give them that first spoonful of pureed veggies, though, there are a number of things that you need to keep in mind. This article will cover everything you need to know to help make the experience a positive one for both you and your baby.
When weaning should be started?
Generally speaking, most babies are ready for solid foods between 4 and 6 months. Paediatricians also recommend breastfeeding exclusively for at least 6 months or waiting 6 months before you can introduce solids.
That said, every baby is different. Your baby’s development should be the first thing you look at before deciding whether or not to spice up their diet with solids. When they are ready, you’ll know.
There are actually several reasons why introducing solids too early is a bad idea:
- Breast milk or formula alone is enough to meet all your baby’s nutritional needs for the first 6 months. No need to supplement with anything extra.
- Early introduction to solids has been known to trigger allergies.
- Very young baby’s digestive systems are not ready for solids. Their tongues instinctively push out anything solid that’s placed on them, which could make them choke. Plus, their intestines still lack several essential digestive enzymes.
- Introducing solids too early can affect your baby’s eating habits. When they instinctively reject those spoonfuls early on and you keep pushing, they will keep rejecting them as they grow. If you manage to sneak in solids somehow (especially for formula-fed babies), it can lead to childhood obesity.
This, however, does not mean that you should become the overly cautious parent. Waiting too long can also be problematic. The older they are, the harder it is for them to learn new complex skills like chewing and swallowing solids. This often means that they will cling to what they have grown accustomed to, so it will be a lot more difficult to cut off the bottle or stop breastfeeding.
Signs your baby is ready for solids
As mentioned earlier, your baby will let you know when they are ready for solids. From the age of 4 months, you can start looking for the following clues. If you notice them, your next step should be to consult your paediatrician:
- They can hold their head up when in a sitting position. This means it will be easier for them to swallow strained foods. Wait until they are able to sit up alone before introducing chunkier solids.
- They no longer have the tongue-thrust reflex. Babies are born with this reflex, and they should be on a strict breastmilk or formula diet until it is gone. You can find out whether or not your little one still has it by mixing a tiny portion of baby-appropriate food with breast milk or formula, then gently placing it in their mouth using your finger or a spoon. If they push it back out with their tongue, they still have the reflex and aren’t ready for solids.
- They are interested in table foods. Have you noticed them reaching for your food? Do they grab your fork or spoon, or watch intently as you eat? This might be a sign that they want to try something new.
- They can make back-and-forth or up-and-down motions with their tongue. If you watch them closely, this should be pretty easy to tell.
- They can open their mouth wide enough for a small spoon to fit in.
Tips for introducing solid foods:
1. Talk to your GP
The the start may be confusing and it comes with a lot of questions:
When is the perfect time to start?
Should you give your baby their first spoon when they turn 4 months, 6 months, or somewhere in between?
Are veggies better than fruits?
How about infant cereal?
The fact is, there is no right or wrong answer for any of these questions. Which is why you need the expert opinion of your GP. Talk to them first because they are in the best position the let you know whether or not your little one is ready. They will also advise you on the type of meals to go for.
2. Watch your baby’s cues
When your baby starts eating solids, there is another new skill they will have to develop: self-regulation. As they are starting out, they still do not know what being hungry or full really means. In most cases, if they like something, they will keep eating until you stop offering it.
It is, therefore, your job to learn their feeding cues. How do they communicate when they have had enough or when they still need to eat more? A few common signs to look out for include clumping their mouths shut, turning their heads away from the food, and becoming fussy when they have had too much. Knowing your baby’s cues can help you avoid overfeeding them and the problems that come with that, such as obesity.
3. Be smart about how you time your mealtimes
Plan to feed your baby when they are only slightly hungry but still happy. When they get too hungry, they’ll be uncooperative and grumpy. Too full and they might throw up everything, then you’ll have to start over.
Timing your mealtimes appropriately means starting the feeding session when the baby is alert, cooperative, and receptive of new foods. Consider starting with a little formula or breastmilk to get things going, then move on to the main course.
4. Use the right equipment
First feedings need to be done right or risk disaster. Do it wrong and it will mean having a fussy eater on your hands, setting the tone for all your baby’s future feedings.
The good news is that this can be avoided by using the right equipment. If we were to name one piece of equipment which would make the most difference, undoubtly it would be a highchair. A child may spend up to 1000 hours a year in the feeding chair, so make sure to buy one that would be, comfortable, adjustable and will secure right body posture.
Use spoons and bowls that are soft and tender on their gums. Avoid metal stuff completely. Also, be sure to stock up on bibs, because if there is one thing you can expect from these sessions, it’s lots of messes and spills!
5. Make feeding time fun!
Babies are supposed to play with their food! So instead of shoving spoonful after spoonful into that tiny mouth, give them a chance to first get to know what they are eating. Let them interact with it the best way they know how: by grabbing and squishing it and spreading it all over!
Place a small amount of the food on a tray then leave them to their own devices with it. Doing this will help them get used to the food’s texture, smell, and taste. Who knows, they might even start feeding themselves without your intervention!
6. Keep an eye out for allergies
Food allergies come in various forms. Severe allergies often set in within a few minutes to a few hours. Reactions like swelling, hives, and difficulty breathing will be pretty easy to identify. However, other less severe reactions can appear after several days. This includes everything from diarrhoea to constipation to eczema.
The only way to know what food is responsible for what allergy is to introduce new foods slowly. Do it one by one and wait at least 2 to 4 days between new meals. Consider keeping a simple journal of baby’s meals to help you spot patterns faster.
7. What if your baby keeps rejecting the food?
Babies rejecting new foods is quite common, especially during those first few weeks. When they do this, don’t give up. Instead, keep introducing these rejected foods every day until you wear them down.
Your baby needs to be used to as many different flavours as possible. So just be patient. It might take some time, but it will eventually happen.
Best first foods to put on baby’s menu:
More important than the nature of the food itself is the texture. Babies can’t chew, and they can’t swallow well enough yet. Therefore, you need to make sure that everything you give them is super smooth (no lumps, preferably strained or pureed), and light enough to easily drip off the spoon. If anything seems too thick to you, thin it with an appropriate liquid.
From the age of 7 months onwards, as your baby becomes more used to solids, you can gradually start reducing the amount of liquids that go into the food. Thicken the texture slowly over several weeks until they are finally able to bite and chew solid finger foods.
Here are a few great options that most babies start with as their first meals:
• Cereal – Go for single-grain, whole-grain, iron-enriched varieties. Brown rice, whole-grain barley, and whole-grain oats are good options.
• Vegetables – Start with mild orange or yellow veggies like carrots and sweet potatoes before moving to the greens like peas.
• Fruit – Great fruits to start with include bananas, pears, peaches, avocados, and baby applesauce.
There you have it. With these tips, introducing your little angel to solids should be a breeze. Alternatively, you can try something different: baby-led weaning. This approach to introducing solids have you presenting the foods in long, slightly thick pieces that your baby can hold in their fists and gum on at their own pace.