Starting your baby on solid foods - Tips and advice!

By Yarra Valley Food Pty Ltd

Introducing solids in your baby's diet is important for helping your baby learn to eat, giving them experiences of new tastes and textures from a range of foods, developing their teeth and jaws, and building other skills that they'll need later for language development.

At 6 months, babies need more iron than what formula or breast milk can provide. That is why almost all cereal is iron fortified. Also, by nine months, they need to start on extra protein. It is hard for the body to break it down, so, starting with the veggies and fruits, it prepares the body for the protein and other essential vitamins and minerals it needs.

For about the first six months of life, your baby uses iron stored in their body from when they were in the womb. They also gets some iron from breastmilk and/or infant formula. But your baby’s iron stores go down as they grow. And by around six months, they can’t get the iron they need from breastmilk or infant formula alone.

When should I introduce solids to my baby's diet?

Most babies start to show these signs around six months, but the signs happen at different times for different babies. It’s not recommended to introduce solids before four months.

Why 6 months?

Because at around 6 months of age:

  • Your baby’s appetite will not be satisfied by breast milk or formula alone.
  • Your baby will be running low on iron and zinc – solids are needed to replenish these and other nutrient levels so your baby can continue to grow.
  • Your baby’s digestive system will be ready to cope with solid food.
  • Your baby will be physically mature enough to take food from a spoon with their mouth.
  • This is also the time you should start to introduce allergy foods to your baby’s diet.

Signs that it’s time for introducing solids

Your baby’s individual development and behaviour will guide you when you’re trying to work out when to start introducing solids. Some signs your baby is ready for solids include when your baby:

  • Has good head and neck control and can sit upright when supported
  • Shows an interest in food – for example, by looking at what’s on your plate
  • Reaches out for your food
  • Opens their mouth when you offer them food on a spoon.

Solid food feeding tips

  • Some parents may tell you to start with vegetables instead of fruits so your infant won't develop a taste for sweets. But, babies are born with a preference for sweets, so you don't have to worry about introducing sweet or savoury foods in any particular order.
  • Feed your baby cereal with a spoon only. Unless your baby's doctor asks you to, don't add cereal to their bottle – they could choke or end up gaining too much weight.
  • Encourage adventurous eating. Don't leave any food off their menu simply because you don't like it.
  • Give new foods time. If your baby turns away from a particular food, don't push. Try again in a week or so. They may never like sweet potatoes, or they may change their mind and end up loving them.
  • Know the choking hazards. Don't give your baby foods that might make them choke.
  • Watch for constipation. A baby's stool sometimes changes when their diet does. Although it's usually temporary, your baby may have constipation after introducing solids. If you notice that your baby is having less frequent bowel movements, or that their stools have become hard or dry and seem difficult to pass, let the doctor know. Some doctors recommend adding high-fiber fruits such as pears, prunes, and peaches to a baby's diet, or giving them a few ounces of prune, apple, or pear juice each day until their bowel movements are back to normal.

Also, don't be surprised if your baby's stools change color and odor when you add solids to their diet. If your baby has been exclusively breastfed up to this point, you'll probably notice a strong odor to their formerly mild-smelling stools as soon as they start eating even tiny amounts of solids. This is normal.

For more information visit the Australian Government health department website.

Note: The views and advice expressed on this blog post are those of the author and are not representative of the Pregnancy Babies & Children's Expo.

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