Starting your baby on solids can be tough for parents and many have no idea when is even the right time. Solids also present a whole new challenge in the form of fussy eating, choking hazards, and allergies. If you follow these guidelines, however, the weaning process will be much easier.
6 Months Old
This is the age recommended for starting a baby on solid foods. You might find that some babies are ready before this. Generally though, a baby should not be given solids before 3 months of age. They should be drinking breast milk only, or formula if you cannot breast feed.
You will notice that your baby is ready for solids if they show certain physical signs. These include being able to lift their heads on their own, sit supported, and that the gag reflex has disappeared. They will also become interested in the foods that you are eating and will also still be hungry after their normal milk feed. Once you notice that their weight gain is slowing down, you will then need to introduce solids.
To start with, you will give them just a spoon or two of an iron rich cereal like rice cereal or porridge. This should be the plain flavour only. Just mix a tiny bit of baby’s milk with a teaspoon of the baby porridge until you get the right consistency. Give them a tiny bit on the spoon and expect them to spit it out. This is a foreign concept for them and they are not sure what to do. Slowly encourage your baby to swallow it and praise them when they do. Day by day increase the amount of porridge given until you get to the correct portion as indicated on the box.
For the first week keep them on one serving of porridge a day. Offer it in the morning at first, so that you can monitor any adverse reactions throughout the day, but subsequently it is best to give them their porridge at night because it will fill them up and help them to sleep better. Once they are comfortable eating one bowl of porridge introduce another one in the morning about an hour or so after their first bottle of milk for the day so that they are happy and relaxed.
After a few weeks you can try some other pureed foods. Start with vegetables, as the fruit ones can be too sweet. Stick with one or two flavours for the week, and serve them separately so that your baby can get used to the different tastes individually. This way you can also watch for any adverse reactions they might have. Do not add salt or sugar. These are not healthy and your baby will actually be used to the bland flavours anyway. Don’t teach them to love salt and sugar!
5 to 7 Months
Now is the time for introducing your baby to various pureed vegetables including butternut, carrot, potato, sweet potato, baby marrow, gem squash, mashed avocado pear, and pumpkin. The best pureed fruits to feed them are apples, pears, paw paws, and mashed bananas. You can serve these on their own, or mix them into the cereal.
Once they are comfortable eating these foods from a spoon you can increase the range of foods to include pureed broccoli, peas, cabbage and spinach, as well as lentils such as split peas. You can also start to mix some foods together, and gradually thicken the consistency of the puree.
At this age, to avoid allergies, it is not advisable to give your baby:
- Nuts and seeds
- Exotic fruits, berries, and citrus fruits
- Eggs and egg products like custard
- Cow’s milk
- Tinned fish in brine such as tuna
- Foods that contain wheat
- Salty, sugary or spicy foods
These foods are not recommended until they are a year old, and especially if you have a history of asthma or other allergies in your family. Wheat products and those containing gluten such as bread, some breakfast cereals, rusks, and pasta, and oats should not be given until the age of 9 months, as they can cause celiac disease. Additionally, in a family with a history of allergies, peanuts and sesame seeds should not be given to your child until they are 3 years old.
When feeding your baby, take your time, and take note of when they are full. If they close their mouth or turn their head away, do not force them to have anymore, just try again tomorrow.