Starting Solids & General Routine
There is no exact time to start solids. There are different rules in different cultures, different social groups and different families. The advice which you will receive from health professionals is often different and thus it becomes confusing for parents.
My advice is that for a fairly large majority of the babies that I look after that they are interested in solid food by 3 months.
The boys seem to be a little more hungry than the girls.
How do you know when?
There is two different signs that I look for to know when your baby is ready for solids,
- First sign is if their sleep is going well your baby may begin to sleep through the night in the second month or at least be having big blocks of sleep which are 6-8-10 hrs long. Then for no reason your baby starts to awaken during the night, they are genuinely hungry and looking for a feed. Your baby is showing you their need for extra nutrition. It may be time to start solids.
- Second sign is that your baby’s weight gain begins to decline. If you are watching their weight gain eg 30 gm per day and this starts to decline over one to two weeks then you may find that introducing solids will bring the weight gain back into the normal range for your baby.
How to start
Start at the evening meal first. The breast or bottle feed is given first and the solids are a follow on. In some children a 15 minute gap between milk and solids is better as they are too full immediately after finishing their milk feed to eat again, they just need a little break..
Begin with a small volume and increase as your baby shows interest, let them be your guide. It generally takes 2-3 days for your baby to learn the new swallowing style. Once your baby begins to understand solids then increase the volume as your baby shows interest.
This can be mixed vegetables or farax. If using vegetables which is my preference, then start with potato as the base and add apple or pear or pumpkin or carrot etc for taste. Potato alone is too bland when compared to breast or bottle milk. Breast milk has a sweet taste, so adding a bit of fruit helps their adjusting taste.
By 6 months many of the babies I am caring for will be eating between 50% and 100% of the mothers food volume. So don’t be only offering a little amount, once your baby shows you that they are interested, give them as much as they want. Be guided by them, not how much you think they should eat.
Milk first or solids first?
Solids are given after the milk feed until about 6-7 months. At that age the you change it around and give the solids first followed by the milk part of the feed.
What time of day?
There is a lot of flexibility in the timing of solids. I tend to recommend solids in the evening as the first solid meal. Then breakfast and then lunch. However there is no hard and fast rule about this. If you start solids at breakfast that is fine. You can be flexible.
When do you move from one solid meal to two?
- Establish one meal of solids to a point that your baby is eating about ½ a cup plus and then consider going to two meals.
- The second indicator is age. If solids have been given successfully for say 2-4 weeks then move to a second meal.
- Some mothers say that their baby is very interested in the solids and their babies interest then leads the mother to move to two meals and then three.
- I tend to aim for a three meal day i.e. breakfast lunch and dinner by 6 months.
Routine for 4 - 8 months – what to aim for
6.00 -- 6.30 am. (Type I waking)
- This is the first day feed.
- Make this a “full” feed which will usually be just milk.
- Put your baby down as soon as possible and let them return to sleep. (This is actually referred to as the last night sleep)
- Occasionally some babies will wake fully and have a longer wake period and are not interested in returning to sleep. Try and keep this as short as possible.
7.00 - 8.30 am. (Type II waking)
- As your baby becomes older they are more likely to awaken at this later time. Some baby’s will alternate between Type I and Type II waking; which is fine.
- If you have a baby that woke at 6/6.30am ( Type1 waking )and then returned to sleep this will be their second day feed.
- Make this a “full” feed. This will be where the breakfast solids are given for most babies.
- This is followed by the first happy wake time (HWT) of the day. Please note that the HWT is still fairly short eg 30-45 – maybe 60 minutes after the feed has finished. Watch for the early signs of the ‘beginning of the end’ of the happy wake time. If the waking time goes too long your baby will have increasing amounts of trouble going to sleep because of over - tiredness.
During the day there are three day sleeps (if we have a perfect outcome!)
1. The first day sleep will often be early morning e.g. 9 to 9.30 am. (Note that this sleep starts usually within about an hour of waking.) This sleep will be ideal if it is 2 to 3 sleep cycles long e.g. 90 to 150 minutes.
2. The second day sleep is early PM e.g. 12 noon to 1 pm . Again this is often 2 to 3 sleep cycles long.
3. The third day sleep is a ‘pre-dinner nap’ and may be 30-45 minutes and will often exist at 4 to 5 pm.
A common night-time routine may be similar to this.
6.00 – 7.00 pm. Final feed completed and down to bed for the night.
- From bed time on there is no contact until the rollover/dream feed if you still do this. The rollover feed/dream feed continues for many babies. A common question is when to stop this. There is much variation in this for different babies, my rule of thumb is that the rollover can be stopped once your baby is on three meals of solid food per day where each meal is of approximately 1/2 cup in size.
- For those babies who do not have a rollover feed and who continue to have a breast or bottle feed between 1 and 4 AM this really should disappear, by getting later and later over the next few months.
- Milk is still the main source of nutrition. However solid food is becoming increasingly important.
- During the day - plan to feed solids at breakfast, lunch and dinner by five months. There is a lot of difference between babies as to the speed which with which they move from 1 to 2 to 3 feeds.
- There is also a lot of difference in the volume of food which your baby will eat compared to another baby. A slightly simplistic statement which I have found useful is "a baby eats for the adult they will be rather than the baby they are". Thus as a rule of thumb a boy with tall parents and relatives may eat a remarkable amount even by 4 or 5 or 6 months. On the other hand a girl who is genetically going to be petite may have a much more relaxed and less demanding approach to solid food.
- It is important to allow the your baby to guide you with how much they want to eat.
- A common question parents have is overfeeding. It is not my experience that children overfeed. Make sure the food you offer are good and healthy and appropriate choices include breast milk, formula, mixed vegetables, mixed fruits, cereals appropriate for babies and a range of other appropriate pre prepared foods. In my experience with these type of foods obesity later is not a problem. The one exception is where the choice of foods is inappropriate.
- High sugar and high fat foods are inappropriate.
- Babies can be quite "round and chubby" at this age and will then be tall and slim by two years of age.
- You can be flexible about whether you give milk or solids first from 5 –7 months. Some babies soon tell you what they prefer, ie. refusing their milk but gobbling down their solid food.
- By 7 months solids are first for many children.