Introducing solid foods to baby is a very confusing and daunting task for most first-time parents. Most of us are wondering ‘how, what and when do I feed my baby?’ According to the Department of Health, Australian Government, all babies need to be exclusively breastfed until they are six months of age. Once the baby is around six months (and not before 4 months), it is time to introduce solid food.
Why does my baby need solids?
As baby grows, the nutritional needs of baby also change. Breastmilk is not sufficient to meet the dietary requirement of a growing baby. Thus, there is a need to introduce complementary food to support healthy growth and speech and jaw development. 6 – 24 months of age is the time when infants are weaned from breastmilk to family food. And this is the time when malnutrition is highest among children.
For all parents who are confused as to how to start solids for your baby, this article should help ease your nerves and give you a game plan!
What foods should be offered and when?
Birth – 6 months – breastmilk & formula
As mentioned earlier, all babies should be exclusively breastfed until they are about 6 months of age. But most of the babies start shows signs that they are ready for solids once they are 4-6 months of age. These signs include:
- They can sit upright with support (e.g. in a highchair).
- They have good head and neck control.
- They show an interest in others’ food, such as watching parents eat, and reaching for food.
- They open their mouth when presented with a spoon.
Read more about how to know if your baby is ready here. If your baby starts showing these signs, you can start feeding solids. But remember that solids should never be introduced before four months of age.
Baby’s first foods 6- 7 months – finely pureed or mashed foods
Once baby is six months of age you can start introducing solids. But remember to keep the texture of the food as smooth as possible so that the baby can swallow it easily. The food items that can be fed during this age include:
- Infant cereals (iron-enriched) (mix with breast milk or formula for a perfect first food)
- Well cooked pureed meat, chicken or fish
- Smooth pureed cooked vegetables such as squash, sweet potato, carrot and zuccini
- Smooth pureed cooked fruits like apple and pear
- Finely mashed fruit like banana or avocado
- Unsweetened, full fat yogurt
While introducing food, start with one teaspoon a time and slowly increase the quantity and frequency. Also leaving 3-4 days between introducing new foods can be a good way to identify allergies or intolerances. Learn more about baby food allergies here. Even once solids are introduced, remember to continue breastfeeding as it helps in building immunity.
Once babies are eating smooth foods happily, you can begin to offer these same foods but increase the texture.
8-9 months+ – mashed or chopped foods and finger foods
At this stage, you can continue giving the same food as before. Most of the babies start teething around this time. Thus, you can introduce food items that prompt the baby to chew. Few of the new food items that can be introduced at this stage are:
- Cottage cheese
- Mashed vegetables like potatoes, squash , carrot and broccoli
- Mashed beans or lentils
- Mashed fruits like pear and apple
- Iron-fortified infant
- Other cereals including bread, pasta, oats
- Finger foods like pasta, teething crackers.
The quantity of food can be increased to ¼ – ½ cup. At this stage also it is a good idea to introduce only one new food at a time 3-4 days apart. Still continue feeding breastmilk or infant formula.
At this stage, most of the babies will have at least one tooth. They can chew and swallow more easily. You can also teach them to use spoons. In addition to the food that was introduced earlier, you can also provide new food items like:
- Soft fruits like pear that are cut into small cubes
- Soft cooked vegetables like carrot and peas
- Cheese, custards and yogurt
- Bite size pieces of poultry and meat
The quantity of food can be increased from ¾ – 1 cup. At this stage it is still a good idea to introduce only one new food at a time 3-4 days apart.
12 months +
Once the baby is 12 months plus, you should feed him/her all food items you usually consume as a family. Food items that cause allergy like egg and cow’s milk can be slowly introduced at this stage. Also remember that choking is a risk so avoid giving a child under 3 hard foods such as whole nuts or raw carrot.
While feeding children, keep in mind that each of them is different. The first year is the time when their taste buds are developing. So, it is quite natural that they show aversion to some food. Patience is of utmost importance while feeding food to your infant.
Remember these key tips:
- Continue breastfeeding or fulmar feeding when you introduce solids
- Begin baby on solids by offering 1-2 teaspoons after milk feeding
- Start off with finely mashed or pureed food and gradually introduce chunkier textures and eventually chopped food
- Don’t get frustrated – allow baby to decide how much they want to eat
- Offer new foods regularly (colours, tastes and textures)
- Do not add salt, sugar, butter or margarine
For more information visit the Australian Government health department website.
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