Starting Solids – The Best Way to Start

Starting solids for your baby is a milestone in both their lives and yours. It is a time of fun, learning and discovery for your child as they play with new tastes and textures. It is also a time of learning for you the parents – 

  • What do you feed your baby?
  • How do you feed them? 
  • and when do you feed them? 

There are so many questions to ask and answer. Let me help you navigate this sometimes confusing time of your baby’s life.

Baby’s First Foods

For a child’s adequate growth, there are certain nutrients that he or she requires to continue in good health. The type of first foods your baby consumes has a significant impact on how your child grows. For example, as we discovered from iron in pregnancy, when in the womb babies accumulate iron and they use these iron stores after birth for the first six months of life. Breastfeeding or infant formula provides your baby with some iron, however as babies age, their iron reserves decrease and therefore babies should begin eating solid food at the six-month mark to provide them with extra iron.

Initially, as you are aware, your baby requires liquid intake, for which the mother’s milk or formula milk is sufficient. As your baby grows, they need solid food apart from breastmilk or formula. The introduction of solids is crucial for assisting infants in learning to eat by exposing them to various flavours and sensations of foods. Introducing solids into their diet will help them to grow and develop their teeth and jaws. Moreover, it will strengthen other abilities that they’ll need later on for many skills like language development, for example.

When to Introduce Solids?

first foods

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, your baby can start eating solid (pureed) food at around six months of age. It is definitely advised to wait till four months before introducing solid foods to your baby.  As you begin always offer breastmilk or formula first. After consuming breastmilk or formula, babies’ stomachs at this age will still have room for other meals. They’ll feel hungry frequently by the 6th-month mark – ready for foods other than milk.

The first time you offer solids to your baby it is important that you are all relaxed and content, and that there is not too much activity or stimulation around your baby.

When to Stop Breastfeeding or Formula Feeding?

Your baby should continue to get the majority of his or her nourishment from breastmilk or infant formula even after you start introducing solid meals. Your youngster will begin consuming more solid meals afterwards in the coming months while consuming less breast milk or formula feed.

By the time they are nine months old, most babies have developed chewing and swallowing skills and will have more solids and less milk. This will continue as your baby grows. Finishing breastfeeding is a very personal decision and everyone’s timing is different. However, by the time your baby is a toddler at 12 months you can generally switch from infant formula or breastmilk to plain cow’s milk or fortified unsweetened soy beverage or other appropriate alternatives.

Your Baby should still have breastmilk or formula as well as solids, up to at least one year of age

How Do I Know if my Baby is Ready for Starting Solids?

The indications that show your infant is ready for first foods are:

  • They are 6 months of age
  • Have good head and neck control (ie can sit up on your lap and hold their head up)
  • Can sit up straight when supported
  • Able to roll over
  • Their weight is twice their birth weight
  • They start showing signs of curiosity about food, such as looking at what’s on your plate and reaching out to take it
  • They will feel joy when they see you preparing their meals
  • Opening their mouth when you have a spoon near their mouth
Introducing solids

How Much Food does a Baby Need?

When introducing solids to your babies, you will only start with 1-2 tiny teaspoons of food.  Initially, your baby might only take a small taste and is unlikely to swallow much. Afterwards, you can raise the quantity according to your child’s appetite and physical indications. Definitely, by 12 months, your baby should be consuming three small meals each day in addition to breastmilk or infant formula. Eventually, your baby will need some fruit and vegetables, meat (including fish), cereals and dairy foods every day – but it takes time to get there – one spoon at a time.

First Foods to Give to Your Baby

It is so important for your baby’s first solid foods that you only give your baby one food “type” at a time. For example, any fruit like mashed banana or apple pureed can be a good food to begin with – but don’t mix foods at this stage. 

When your baby begins solids, the first foods need to be very smooth and pureed. Between trialling each new food it is also a great idea to wait three to five days before trying another food. Soon your baby will be eating and savouring a variety of different foods, one by one.

When your baby is tolerating smooth puree consistency he or she can progress to foods that are roughly mashed or minced, soft and easy to chew and swallow – this process takes months – do not rush it.

Keep in mind that over the next 6 months your child must have a variety of foods with different textures. This will help your baby learn to chew, which is necessary for developing speech and self-feeding. It also helps prevent feeding problems once your child gets older. 

By the time they are a year old, your baby should be eating the same meals as the rest of the family. (But certain meals that are a bit hard and larger will still need to be prepared soft and chopped).

Here are some of the foods which your baby can eat as his/her first foods:

  • Cooked vegetables – for example, pumpkin, carrot, sweet potato, broccoli or spinach, cooked potato
  • Fruit – either cooked or mashed, for example, banana, melon or avocado, apple, pear, 
  • Grains – for example, bread, oats, rice, pasta, iron-fortified cereals
  • Dairy foods – for example, yoghurt and cheese
  • Pureed or minced meat
  • Cooked or mashed eggs

Preparing Baby’s First Food

Your child will first find it simpler to eat meals that are mashed, pureed, strained, or have a very smooth texture. Your baby may need some time to get used to different food textures. Your baby might sneeze, cough, or gag, but it’s natural as he or she is not used to solids. You can introduce thicker and lumpier foods as your baby’s oral abilities advance over the coming months.

It’s vital to serve your child foods with the correct texture for his or her development because some foods can be choking hazards. To prevent them from choking, prepare foods that can be quickly dissolved with saliva and don’t need to be chewed. Encourage your infant to eat slowly by giving him or her small meals. Always keep a close eye on your baby when you are feeding them solid foods and be aware of choking hazards. 

Using a household blender is the easiest option to perfect the smooth consistency that is needed for the first foods for your baby. Eventually, you can change to a fork or a mashing implement but to start with a blender works wonderfully. Cook the food and then blend it and place it to cool into ice cube trays and then freeze. This is a time-saving option, as we are talking about very small quantities of food. Of course, there are many many pre-prepared options on the marketplace, these are particularly convenient when out and about. The nutrition that you provide your child is paramount so always read the food labels and buy from reputable sources. 

Tips to Keep Baby’s Food Safe

You must prepare your baby’s food in a hygienic and safe manner and appropriately store the food. It is also important to reheat food to the appropriate temperature and cool it before giving the food to your baby. Preprepared foods or commercial foods can be a great option if you are going out and about.

Here are some of the important tips by which you can keep baby’s food safe and hygienic:

  • Your workstation where you prepare food should be clean
  • Wash your hands before making and handling food
  • Cool hot food before giving it to your child.
  • Avoid hard foods like whole nuts, uncooked carrots, or apples, for example
  • Wash and peel fresh fruits
  • Remove the bones from meat or fish
  • Slice small, spherical objects like grapes and cherry tomatoes into tiny pieces
  • Be careful if you are transporting baby food out of the home – pack it in appropriate storage and heat-sensitive and thermal containers

Don’t forget to clean your little one’s teeth as they start to pop through!

when to introduce solids

What can Baby’s Drink?

Once your child is six months old, you may begin giving them cooled, boiled water in a sippy cup during mealtimes and other times of the day. Start with small sips and then increase the amount according to the need. This is done so that your baby may practice drinking from a cup. This is really just for practice as babies at this age only need fluids from breast milk or formula. Along with the water they receive from breast milk or formula, a baby between the ages of 6 and 12 months requires two to eight ounces of water daily. A baby that is 12 months old can generally drink cold tap water without it being boiled.

Foods to Avoid when Starting Solids

There are some foods to avoid until your baby is a certain age:

  • Honey until 12 months, due to a risk of botulism spores
  • Raw or runny eggs should be avoided
  • Avoid foods containing raw eggs like homemade mayonnaise until 12 months because bacteria in raw eggs can be harmful to babies
  • Reduced-fat dairy until two years of age. Babies need full-fat dairy for growth
  • Whole nuts and similar hard foods until 3 years
  • Pasteurised full-fat cow’s milk as a main drink before12 months of age. Most importantly, avoid unpasteurised and reduced fat milk and dairy foods
  • Tea, coffee, cordials, soft drinks, fruit juice, sweet drinks or energy drinks as they have added sugars, which are not recommended 
  • Foods containing high sodium are not suitable for a baby’s health
  • Sugar, salt and soy sauce
  • Hard vegetables, fruit, lollies, sausages with skin on, whole nuts, whole grapes, raw carrots etc – anything that could be a choking hazard 

Allergies and First Foods

Some infants have allergic reactions to certain foods. We are unable to completely prevent allergies, but we can do a few things which may help lower your baby’s risk of food allergies. Please talk to your physician if allergies are prevalent in your family.

  • Introduce solids from 6 months of age
  • Introduce food that can possibly cause allergies to your baby before they are a year old
  • Breastfeeding your baby until 6 months, if possible
  • If your baby has an allergic reaction to food cease that food and seek help from your national emergency centre or ambulance

A baby’s diet is a very critical factor for his/her growth. In fact, it contributes to 90% of your baby’s growth. There will be more information coming to in the future to help you navigate this journey.

Tips for Starting Solids

  1. Ensure a relaxed environment
  2. Wash your hands and use clean spoons and bowl
  3. Nurse your baby on your knee or place them in a high chair
  4. Let your baby play with a spoon (have two on hand)
  5. Put a very small amount of pureed food on the end of the spoon 
  6. Put the spoon near your baby’s mouth and wait for them to open their mouth
  7. Place the spoon in their mouth gently and let them play, suck and eventually swallow the foods
  8. Repeat 
  9. Your baby will not generally eat much initially, this is totally normal
  10. Start with a tiny amount of iron-rich foods like baby cereals, then move on to mashed vegetables and fruits, pureed meats and other cereals
  11. You can make the food smooth and mushy with formula or some breastmilk
  12. Your baby will only be interested in a few teaspoons, to begin with – you will know when they wish for more
  13. Once they have established single ingredient foods you can then begin to add vegetables and meat and rice cereals etc together
  14. Just start initially with 1-2 little meals twice per day and build up slowly to a few times per day
  15. Always stay with your baby to monitor them for choking hazards – remember there is no rush 
  16. Move to mashed to small lumpy foods as your baby progress over time
  17. Enjoy the play (and mess)