How to Start (and Continue) Your Baby on Solid Foods

Your baby has been feeding on breastmilk or formula but now needs to incorporate solid food. How can this be done? In this post, you will learn how to start your baby on solid foods. You will learn why you should start solids, signs your baby is ready, types of foods to offer, how to go through the process, and things to be careful of.

As a general guide:

Be ready for a mess! Don’t stress about this too much. They will learn.

Why you should start at 6 months and not too early or too late

The World Health Organization recommends starting your baby on solid food at around six months. However, it is still important to continue breastfeeding them until they are about two years old, as long as both of are willing to feed.

There is no reason to start you baby on solids before he turns six months old. There can actually be some risks, such as:

Decrease in Iron Level

Your baby’s level of iron could decrease, causing him to be anemic

Most babies have enough iron in their bodies to sustain them when they are born. However, the amount is only enough to sustain them until they are around six months old. After this, they will need to eat food rich in iron in order to continue fulfilling this. Iron helps your baby grow and their brains to develop in a healthy manner.

Decrease in Milk Supply

Introduction to solids too early can decrease your milk supply since your child feeds less. This could lead to:

  • Your baby will not be as well fed as he would be if he were only breastfeeding
  • You may have to wean too early, leading to less immunity and protection from infections and allergies for your baby
  • Decrease in iron and other nutrients
  • You may be at a higher risk for breast and ovarian cancer if you stop too early
  • Decrease in breastfeeding can affect mother emotionally as the mother-child bonding through this act decreases, so be prepared.

Not Ready to Digest

You baby is still not prepared to swallow or digest solid foods

If your baby seems hungrier, offer more breastmilk or formula.

As well as the risks of starting too early, giving solid food too late can affect your child’s ability to chew and willingness to try foods. It can also affect their vitamin and mineral levels.

 

Signs your baby is ready to start solid food

There are several ques your baby can show which, taken together, can indicate your baby’s readiness to try solids.

  • Your baby is around 6 months old
  • Sits up straight on his/her own, supporting their head and neck
  • Looks on as others eat
  • Opens mouth when offered food, and looks away if they don’t want to eat.
  • Encloses mouth around spoon.
  • Doesn’t spit food out.
  • Holds onto food and swallows.

Your baby may reject some foods in the beginning until they get used to them. In such cases, don’t force them, just try again on another day.

Types of food to offer first

When giving your baby his/her first food, make sure to change the texture of the food. This will help your baby learn to chew and try different textured foods.

Your baby’s very first solid food should be pureed. However, don’t stay on pureed foods for too long, otherwise they may not want to try other textured foods. You can then slowly move on to mashed or lumpy foods. Then, by the time they are one years old, as your baby becomes more experienced with eating, give him/her foods that are well chopped and soft.

As mentioned previously, by six months your baby will have lost significant amounts of iron that he/she was born with. Therefore, you should give him foods rich in iron such as:

  • Infant cereals (rich in iron)
  • Beef
  • Lamb
  • Chicken
  • Fish
  • Turkey
  • Eggs
  • Tofu
  • Legumes (beans, lentils, and chickpeas)

Fruits can also be a great place to start.

It is important to give your baby only one or two types of foods until he/she gets used to the different flavours and textures.

Creating an Environment

Creating a good environment will help your baby stay safe and be willing to eat.

Safety Precautions

Make sure there are no hot drinks, soups, or other hot foods or items in close proximity to your child. You may not be able to save something from spilling or burning him/her in due time.

Placing your baby in a high chair with fastened seat belts will ensure that your baby is safe. Do not leave your baby alone while he is eating. Your baby is more prone to choking, spilling, falling, etc. if you are not around.

A Social Setting

When it is time for your family to eat, bring your baby along to watch and join along. The social aspect of eating is important, so make sure to keep things light and unforced. Make sure not to pressure your baby to eat if he/she thinks they have had enough. You can always try new foods on another day (mornings and lunchtimes) when they are in a good mood and hungry. Let them decide how much they need.

Try to keep external distractions to a minimum. Having toys around, the television or radio on could take your child’s attention away from the eating process. In addition, it is better if you don’t play games or use food as a punishment or reward. Instead, talk in a soft voice, giving praises and encouragements.

Feeding Habits

Try offering your baby his/her food after a breastfeed. Keep breastfeeding him/her for the rest of the day on your demand.

It is ok if your baby eats more on one day and less on another. What matters is that they are trying different foods, not that they’re eating little. If they do not feel like eating a meal or two, that is also normal.

Babies can easily choke, so make sure not to leave your baby while he/she is eating. If your baby is laughing or crying, or in a moving vehicle, stop giving them food.

Let your baby learn about food with his hands. As he/she grows to, allow him to feed himself whether it is with a spoon or with his fingers.

Children learn best by example, so eat healthy and your baby will most likely try your foods as well.

Step-by-step guide to feeding solid food

  • Put a little bit of food on the tip of a small spoon.
  • Hold the spoon in front of your baby so that they are able to see it.
  • Bring the spoon to their lips, and only if they open their mouths, give them the food.

If your baby doesn’t swallow the food, try a few days later as he may not be prepared yet. If he/she doesn’t like a newly introduced food, then you can try again later. Sometimes it takes several tries in order for him/her to take a liking.

You can then, slowly increase the amount of food you give. However, be sure to watch and listen to your baby, as they will let you know when they have had enough. They can show this is by keeping their mouths shut, and turning their heads away.

In the end, how much your baby is eating is not as important.  They are still getting most of their nutrition from breastmilk or formula. What matters more is that they are learning what it is like to eat.

Babies and Allergies

When starting new foods, there is a chance you could discover your baby has allergies to something. Allergies could be genetic. If either you or your partner, or your other children have allergies, eczema or asthma, there is a chance your baby may have allergies as well.

Some symptoms of allergies are rashes, vomiting, diarrhea, or problems breathing. If you think your baby is having an allergy, talk to your health care provider. If your baby is having trouble breathing, it is best to call an emergency medical line.

Inform your doctor if your baby has been diagnosed with an allergy.

In order to identify what foods your baby may be allergic to, watch for allergic reactions as you feed him/her new foods.

  1. Give one food at a time, don’t mix different foods together. This will help you know which ingredient is causing allergies.
  2. Offer the same food for 3-5 days before trying a new food. It take about five days for allergies to show on our bodies.

Homemade Baby Food

It is not at all difficult to prepare baby food from scratch.

Some benefits of homemade baby foods are that they:

  • Are good for your baby’s health.
  • Are Inexpensive.
  • Allow your baby to try different types of foods.
  • Let your baby get used to a variety of tastes and textures.
  • Allow your baby to join in eating the same types of food as the rest of the family.

Store-bought baby foods can be used as well. However, since they are usually in puree form, they won’t allow your baby to try different textures. This is turn won’t help them move forward in their eating experience. I would recommend using commercial baby food when you are out and about, if at all.

Here are some recipes to help you make different baby foods at home at different stages:

As a guide:

Foods not to give your baby

Here are some safety precautions while feeding your baby solid food.

Do not give cow’s milk to your baby before they are 1 years old. Iron is not digested as well by then. And cow’s milk does not have the proper nutrient balance for your baby.

Honey and foods containing honey should be avoided until you baby turns one years old. This can cause a type of food poisoning, botulism.

Avoid giving your baby soft and/or sweet drinks, such as juices, milkshakes, squashes etc. These can ruin your baby’s teeth.

Also, steer clear from food or sweets with sugar in them.

As well, restrain from giving your baby drinks other than water. Examples are tea, coffee, low-calorie drinks, diet drinks, and no-sugar-added drinks. These can fill your baby up and prevent them from eating healthier foods or drinking breastmilk.

Salty food, such as cheese, sausages, chips, takeaways, and gravy, should also be avoided. Stock cubes and artificial flavours are also not good for your baby.

Do not offer foods that are hard, small, or round such as popcorn, grapes, nuts, uncooked, hard vegetables, bones, sausages. Make sure they or peeled, deseeded, etc. Nuts in whole pieces should not be given until they are 5 years old.

Do not give your baby fish high in mercury (such as swordfish, shark, tuna, steak, marlin, roughy, escolar). If you must then it should not be more than once a month, if at all.

Avoid giving peanut butter to your baby on its own or spread thickly on bread, crackers, etc. It will be difficult for your baby to consume sticky and crunchy foods. It is better if you spread it thinly.

 

 

Conclusion

Starting your baby on solid foods is an important and exciting step at six months of age. In this article, we have covered: the importance of starting on solids, when your baby is ready, food varieties, how to go through the process, and foods to avoid.

I hope you are now confident in serving your baby their first solid food!

Let us know in the comments below, how the process is going for your baby.

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