There is nothing cuter than seeing a picture of a happy baby in a high chair with food smeared on their face and everywhere else. Starting your baby on solids can be fun and messy.
For some parents, it can also be confusing. When should you start? How much should you offer? What comes first?
Signs your baby might be ready
- Your baby can sit upright when supported with good control of the head and neck.
- Your baby’s birth weight has doubled.
- Your baby shows an interest in food eaten by others.
- More frequent feeding (breast or bottle).
- Your baby still seems hungry after the usual milk feed.
- Your baby was sleeping through the night but has started to wake again for a feed.
These signs are all typically between the ages of 4 to 6 months when most babies are developmentally ready to get their first taste of solid foods.
Recommended first foods
There are no fixed rules about what solid foods you should give your baby first. A single-grain, iron-fortified infant cereal such as rice cereal is good. It may also be easier to notice any food allergies than with a cereal made from several grains.
Apple, pear, banana, paw- paw, avocado, pumpkin, carrot, potato, butternut and sweet potato are the most popular first foods for babies due to their naturally sweet flavour and smooth texture once pureed. There is no need to add salt or sugar or any other flavourings to your baby’s food however bland it may seem. Salt may harm your baby’s kidneys and sugar may encourage a sweet tooth. A baby is not used to these tastes so will not miss them.
Preparing your own baby food
It is cheaper to make your own baby food and at least you know what is inside the food. Always wash your hands before handling food or feeding your baby. All feeding equipment should be sterilised for a baby less than 6 months of age. Fruits and vegetables can be peeled, steamed and then pureed. Large quantities can be prepared at a time and then frozen in small portions for later.
Eating solids takes practice
Being fed by a spoon is new to your baby. Up until now, they’ve only had a liquid diet, and they’ll need practice to get used to the spoon and to the feel of having solid food in their mouth. They will probably only start by eating a teaspoon or two at a time so don’t expect them to eat a whole bowl. Try one new food at a time and introduce a new food every 2 -4 days adding onto their existing diet. Instead of trying to get them to eat a certain amount, focus on letting them get used to the experience.
Try finger foods when baby’s ready
Around 9 months or so, your baby will be able to pick up small pieces of soft food to eat. You’ll still need to spoon-feed for a while, and continue formula or breast milk. Some great “finger foods” include ripe banana pieces, cooked chunks of carrots, cottage cheese, well-cooked pasta, dry cereal, and scrambled eggs.
Foods to avoid
The following foods are best avoided until your child is older – some because they are physically difficult for a baby to eat and could cause a choking hazard and others because early exposure has been found to potentially cause allergies and intolerances:
- Small hard foods which could pose a choking hazard – nuts, uncooked hard vegetables & fruits (e.g., carrots, apples)
- Cow’s milk as the main milk drink until 1 year old
- Honey until 1 year old
- Egg white until 1 year old
- Nuts, or even crunchy peanut butter, until 5 years old
- Popcorn & corn chips – choking hazard
- Sausages with skins on – choking hazard
Stop When Baby’s Ready to Stop
Pay attention and your baby will let you know when they have had enough food. They might try and play with the spoon, turn their head away, close their mouth tightly, spit out whatever you put in their mouth, or cry. Don’t make them eat more than they want. Kids will eat when they’re hungry and stop when they’re full. Honouring those instincts may help them avoid overeating now and when they get older.
Good luck in feeding your child and remember to keep your sense of humour, be calm and relax. If you do, they will.