As a new parent feeding becomes established and you wait eagerly for the first smile from your baby. Then before you know it, you are faced with the so ‘when do I introduce solids dilemma’. Parents in Australia are becoming confused and frustrated at the lack of agreement on when to introduce solids to their baby. Today there are nine sets of guidelines all giving different advice. It really wasn’t supposed to be this hard!
Perhaps a quick recap of the timing of solids will help. Twelve years ago paedtricians advised parents that babies 8-10 weeks of age, if hungry should be started on solids. Then came the epidemic of allergies in children. Solids were the first to be blamed.
Seven years ago, Experts then advised to delay the introduction of solids until at least 6 months and specific foods like egg and peanuts at 9 or even 12months. Fast forward to today, and the delaying of solids until 6 months has made no difference to allergies and allergy experts are now advising to start solids earlier at 4 months of age. Allergy experts believe that the delaying of solids has worsened the allergies in babies.
Start to offer other foods at about 16 weeks (4 months) of age. There is plenty of time for your baby to move from only milk to eating family meals with some adaptations so the process is gradual and largely determined by your baby.
When to Start
At around 4-6 months your baby will be ready for solids foods as well as milk.
Look for these signs to help you work out when to start:
- Showing an interest in foods eaten by others
- Seeming more hungry than usual
- Wanting to chew on everything
- Sitting upright when supported with good control of head and neck
- Starting to wake up at night after previously sleeping well
- Begins drinking from a cup (7-9months)
- Starts to eat finger foods
- Chews on lumpier foods
- Sits in a highchair for feeding
- Begins to hold a cup
- Wants to feed self
Eating is a new sensation and at first your baby may do no more than just taste the food. Soon he will get the hang of it. Be patient, more may end up everywhere else than in his mouth at first. If your baby does not like some tastes, be sure to simply try them again a few weeks later.
What do I feed my baby?
Use single foods first and as time goes on you can begin to combine a couple of foods to provide a more interesting varies. There is no need for salt, honey or other added flavours. Early foods must be pureed or finely mashed with no lumps, if it is a thick food like potato add enough water to get a baby food consistency.
When do I give the food?
If you are breastfeeding, give the solids when your milk supply is at its lowest, which for most women in later in the afternoon / early evening before the night sleep. It also has the advantage of sustaining your baby longer during the night – more sleep. Be aware that the late afternoon is also when your baby is the tiredest, so perhaps some days it is asking to much if they are tired and cranky.
If however you feel that your baby is the hungriest in the morning upon waking you might offer the solids then after a milk feed.
It is difficult to hold them in your lap while spooning food, so it’s best to sit them in a high chair that has support for them. If they slump in it, provide some padding. Always fasten the restraining straps / harness from the very beginning, it’s a great habit to get into and then never becomes an issue.
A small bowl is needed and a baby spoon, there is a variety available, a soft plastic flexible one is ideal. There are heat changing spoons however just as you did with formula baby food does not need to be heated unless cold and is ideal served at room temperature. When you use commercial jars of baby food, the same applies, room temp., thus eliminate the need for heating. Lastly a nice big bib, the most useful are the type that slip straight over their head without tricky velcrose, fastenings or ties and a damp face-washer for all those spills.
In the first week or so your baby will be able to handle only a teaspoonful or two of food at a sitting. Give the formula or breast milk feed first, solids second.
Let your child increase the quantity slowly – let her decide. Be patient; meal times should not be rushed and your baby will decide when she is full. It’s always good to try a second taste sensation, so two courses. For example a vegetable dish followed by a fruit dish.
Finish when your baby has lost interest, the signals will be clear a head turned away, a mouth clamped shut, food spat out or thrown around.
When do I give up breast or formula milk?
Ideally, it is desirable to keep breast feeding until the age of one, or even later. Certainly, you should keep up either breast or formula milk until that age or ideally nearer to age two. Sometimes you may find that your baby decides for himself when to give up breast-feeding. This is usually more traumatic for mum than baby but when they decide to stop they just do and refuse the breast.
Which foods should I introduce first?
Below is the ideal order in which to introduce foods, one stage at a time. From “What should I feed my baby?” Suzannah Olivier
The aim is to introduce foods in the order in which they are likely to do the least damage to the digestive tract and to avoid setting up sensitivities, or allergies.
1 Vegetables (except the deadly nightshade group see 9)
2 Fruit (except citrus)
3 Pulses and beans
4 Rice, buckwheat, quinoa and millet
5 Poultry, meat and fish*
6 Egg Yolks
7 Oats, barley, corn and rye
8 Live yoghurt
9 Deadly nightshade family (potatoes, tomatoes, aubergines, peppers)
10 Whole eggs*
11 Soya products*
15 Dairy products
16 Seeds* and nuts* (not peanuts)
Age 5 years
- The foods marked with an asterisk are those most commonly associated with the classical Type I food allergy (as opposed to food intolerance or sensitivity). Do remember that the protein component of any food can provoke this sort of reaction. This programme below errs on the side of caution and these foods are put at the stages when most children can tolerate them. If you are happy to take the risk, you may want to introduce them a little earlier as they are all good nutritious foods.
Stages – the four stages
Stage 1: First tastes – smooth foods
4-5 months to 6-7 months
Stage 2: Learning to chew – soft lumps
6-7 months to 8-9 months
Stage 3: Self-feeding – finger foods, firmer lumps
8-9 months to 12 months
Stage 4: Family diet with some changes from 12 months on
First Tastes – Smooth Foods 4-5 months to 6-7 months
Foods to give
- Baby rice cereal
- Fruits – cooked, pureed apple or pear, banana, avocado etc
- Vegetables – potato and pumpkin first, then carrot, peas, zucchini, broccoli, sweet potato etc. All well cooked and pureed.
- Milk foods – custard without egg, yoghurt.
- Smooth, pureed (use blender, food processor, mouli or sieve) semi liquid at first, (add water), then more paste-like.
- Start with 1 teaspoon and build up to 2 tablespoons, or more if your baby wants it.
- Start once a day, at a suitable time for you. When this is taken well, try twice or perhaps 3 times a day by the end of this stage. Always give solids after or between milk feeds, not before as yet. Your baby still needs to take plenty of milk.
How to Give
Every bite counts.
Every bite is important, as a parents one of the best decisions you can make for your child is to introduce them to healthy food. Don’t waste their limited capacity for food on non nutritious food such as sugary biscuits, cakes, lollies (these should be rare).
A great tip is to give them foods as close as to their natural state as you can get. For example the more the food has changed the more processed it has become and chemicals may be added or nutrition lost. So select fresh fruits and vegies over processed, canned or dehydrated ones.
It is essential to make sure that you are developing a healthy eating plan for your baby, nutrition is linked to many problems later in life for children and adults. From behaviour to disease. The eating habits you help your baby to develop now will continue throughout their life.
So how much of what? Over the next few months start introducing the Infant Daily Dozen see below, gradually adding new foods and increasing quantities to those outlined. When your baby is nearer to one year old the Toddler Daily Dozen will be more appropriate.
The Infant Daily Dozen
The best way to tell is you baby is having enough to eat is to be logical: is he too overweight? Then he is getting too many kilojoules. Or is your baby very thin or not growing slowly? Then he is not getting enough. You don’t need to count kilojoules or weigh your baby weekly unless you are concerned. Most of their food requirements come from their breat milk or formula and gradually bit by bit more of them will come from solid foods.
Two or three tablespoons twice a week of meat, chicken, fish, cottage, cheese, custard or jogurt will do while the greater share of protein is still from their milk.
Breast milk and/or formula supplies adequate calcium, however as this decreases you need to increase calcium in their foods: hard cheese, yoghurt, custard and milk (when introduced).
Whole grains & other carbohydrates
Two to four servings of grain foods, legumes or dried peas a day will add essential vitamins and minerals as well as a bit of protein to baby’s diet.
1 serving = ¼ cup of baby cereal
½ slice of wholegrain bread
¼ cup cooked wholemeal ceral or pasta
¼ cup of pureed lentils, beans or peas (don’t expect this intake for months)
Green leafy, yellow vegetables and Yellow Fruits
Two or three tablespoons of squash, sweet potato, carrots, broccoli, apricots, peaches (pureed at first) or ¼ cup of rockmelon or mango when baby moves on to finger foods will provide enough vitamin A
Vitamin C Foods
60 mls of fresh fruit juice – orange will provide enough vitamin C introduced after eight month. So will ¼ cup of rockmelon or mango cubes, orange, mandarin or ¼ cup pureed broccoli, cauliflower or tomato.
Other Fruit & Vegetables
If your baby has room for more food add one of the following daily: 1 or 2 tablespoons of apple puree, mashed banana, pureed peas or green beans or mashed potatoes.
High Fat Foods
While your baby is only fed on milk they get all the fat and cholesterol needed. But as the change starts to take place be sure to keep the fat and cholesterol intake adequate. Therefore all dairy products given should be full fat – whole milk.
Do not add other fats to baby’s diet, ie. Fried foods
Iron Rich Foods
Adequate iron is contained in baby’s milk when going through the change iron rich foods are meat, wheat germ, wholegrain breads and cereals, dried peas and other legumes.
Baby’s foods should not contain added salt. A baby’s kidneys can’t handle large quantities of sodium. Most foods contain some sodium naturally eg. Dairy foods and vegetables so there is no need to add salt.
When introducing solids you will also need to start introducing small amounts of fluids, joices, water as the amount of milk decreases. Dilute fruit juices with water. Water is the best drink or milk in a bottle (breast or formula).
Vitamin supplements are not needed for baby’s. Unless there is a specific problem which will be advised by your doctor.
Infant Daily Dozen sourced from ‘What to Expect the First Year’ Eisenberg, Murkoff and Hathaway.