Starting solids can be a time of great excitement and high emotion. If it’s your first baby, you might be excited to begin your baby’s adventures into a fascinating and delicious world of food. However, if this is your last baby starting solids could be quite an emotional experience.
Beginning to introduce your baby to food is the first step in weaning from the breast. This initial weaning step can be full of emotions for moms who share beautiful bonding time while feeding. Over the months as your baby grows they will need more food and less milk as their nutritional needs expand and develop.
It’s exciting and daunting after months of milk to introduce new foods, and textures to your baby and watch their reactions: mmmm good, delicious, give me more now, not on your life mum, interesting, and I don’t think so! It’s a fun adventure for you and your baby to embark upon, a messy one, but a great one as you help your baby develop their pallet and enjoy a whole new world of food.
There are a lot of different recommendations about starting solids and the foods you should give your baby. Knowing where and when to start can be a little challenging. It’s a delicate balance between your baby’s showing you signs of readiness, and guiding them through the different foods.
Food Before One is Just For Fun – Kind Of
‘Food Before One is Just For Fun’ is a cute saying, and it’s true. Milk (breastmilk/formula or a combination) should be the main part of your baby’s diet until they are six months old. However, as they grow from 6 to 12 months, their nutritional requirements change, and they cannot get all of their needs met from breast milk or formula alone. It’s a real balancing act between milk needs and food needs.
Milk begins to decrease, and food starts to increase between the period of 6-12 months. The meaning behind this saying is to have fun, make a mess and not stress too much about the amount of food your baby is consuming.
It’s a time of introduction, a time for new tastes, and new textures that will help your baby as they are walking towards their toddler years. Most children under the age of 2 years are not so picky, and it’s a great time to get your baby used to as many different flavors, textures and possibilities. The idea behind this saying is not too stress too much about intake at this point, but making some pointed decision during this time can help in numerous ways.
When to Start
According to the WHO (World Health Organisation) and AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics), the best time to start introducing solids is when your baby is around six months of age.
Although there are some institutes, which recommend starting solids between 4 to 6 months. However, nearly all the different organization recommend not starting solids before 17 weeks and not waiting longer than 26 weeks.
Food before 17 weeks has been demonstrated to be harmful to your baby’s still immature digestive system. To properly digest food your babies digestion system needs to be able to develop the enzymes necessary for digestion and antibodies to protect from infection. Introducing solids too early has shown to increase the risks of eczema, wheezing, type 1 diabetes, celiac disease, and obesity.
At 16 weeks babies often experience a big growth spurt and are hungry and looking for more calories. It isn’t an indication that they are ready to start solids. It means they need to up their milk intake. If they were previously happy with one breast, now may be a good time to offer two at one feeding.
Your baby might need to feed a bit more frequently to up your milk supply and get more calories for themselves. This growth spurt can often coincide and be a factor regarding the four-month regression.
Starting solids later than six months can lead to a lack of essential nutrients in your baby’s diet.
By six months of age, there is a depletion in your baby’s iron stores for birth, and breastmilk is low in iron and doesn’t contain enough to support all your baby’s growing needs.
It is why six months of age is a great time to start introducing solids to assist your baby with their nutritional needs. Starting too late can also lead to a reluctant baby who refuses new tastes and textures.
The best way to know if your baby is ready to start solids is too look for signs of readiness and be aware of their age in weeks. If your baby is showing the symptoms listed below and is between the ages of 17 and 26 weeks, it just might be time to begin.
Signs your baby is ready for solids:
- They can hold up their head unassisted
- They are interested when you are eating
- The are making chewing motions with their mouth when you are eating
- They can move food to the back of their mouth and swallow. (If they are pushing ALL the food out of their mouth they are not ready.)
If your baby there are still no signs of readiness for food at six months of age, it’s a good thing to go and see your GP. Moreover, if you are worried about starting too early or feeling that you are interpreting your baby signs correctly, you can contact your GP or a child nutritionist.
What Do You Need to Get Started
Getting started doesn’t require you of anything. There are a lot of baby food making machines on the market and if in case you want to get one, go ahead, but it’s not that necessary. You’ll be fine with a stovetop, oven, and blender (if spoon feeding) to begin. Your baby can start joining you all for family dinners in no time.
Things to make sure you have:
- baby bowls
- baby utensils
- high chair
- sippy cup
- list of foods and ages to incorporate
- Baby food book
It might seem a bit crazy to have a baby recipe book, but it can help enormously with some imagination in the kitchen.
How to Start
Once you’ve noticed that your baby is showing signs they are ready to eat; it’s time to begin. Now you need to decide what approach you want to take to introduce food to your baby, spoon feeding, and baby led weaning or a mixed approach. Always remember to stay with your baby during meals times as choking can occur with
It is a more traditional approach to introducing solids into your baby’s diet. This approach is where mom or dad begins to feed the baby with a spoon with smooth purees. From purees you progress to chunky texture purees, then soft finger food and then family dinners. There is no standard – right and wrong way, it’s a personal preference, and there are pro and cons to each approach
|Much cleaner feeding with a spoon||It’s time-consuming making and storing the food|
|You choose what your baby is eating||Can be frustrating to make small portions of food|
|Lots of attention from parents during meal times||Can be expensive if you are buying baby food|
|Less chance of choking and gagging||Difficult to have joint meal times if you are feeding the baby|
|Baby learns to swallow food first and the learn to chew||It’s easy to overfeed your baby|
|Quicker meals times||Doesn’t allow for tactile exploration for your baby|
|Convenient when out and about|
|You can feel confident with how much food your baby has eaten|
Baby Led Weaning
If you decide on a Baby Led Weaning approach, you forego spoon feeding and start straight onto soft finger foods. Your baby is developmentally ready at the age of six months for soft finger foods and not before. This approach is not suitable for babies under six months of age.
|You don’t need to make separate meals – They can generally eat a modified version of the family meal||It’s messy|
|More comfortable to have meal times together||It can take a while of your baby to get the idea|
|Your baby learns to eat independently||It’s very time consuming|
|Baby learns to self-regulate food intake, which they are very good at||You not always sure how much your baby has eaten|
|You can do other things in the room while your baby is eating||It can waste a lot of food|
|Great tactile development||Best to use from 6 months as babies do not have hand-eye coordination before this time|
|Baby eats at their own pace|
|Great for motor skills|
When Starting Baby Led Weaning
Parents can often be concerned about gagging and choking. Choking is when a person’s airways become blocked, and they are no longer able to breathe. If your child is choking they become silent, may change color and their eye may widen.
Support your baby on your forearm with their head lower than the rest of their body and in the middle of the shoulder blades give five back blows with the heel of your hand. If you cannot dislodge the food call your emergency service, don’t stick your fingers in your baby’s mouth as you may inadvertently push the food lower.
Gagging can often be confused with choking, and parents can easily panic. However, gagging is very usual and expected when your baby begins to eat solid food. Gagging is the body stopping your baby from choking.
If too much food is pushed too far back or hasn’t been chewed enough, your baby gag reflex will start and move the food away and back towards the front of the mouth. The gag reflex in babies is much further forward in their mouth than adults allowing them extra protection from choking.
Gagging is an entirely normal part of learning to eat, and it looks very different from choking. When your baby is gagging, they will make noises and look annoyed and uncomfortable. If your baby is gagging, try not to panic and let them move the food back to the front of their mouth, then offer them a sip of water.
Mixture of Spoon Fed and BLW
It is a great way to include all the benefits of each method. You can be sure that your baby is getting enough fantastic iron-rich food while still supporting their ability to self-regulate and develop their physical and excellent motor skills. Children under three years old can regulate their hunger well and rarely starve themselves.
Foods to Start
If you do start before six months, it’s a good idea to start with cooked pear and apple. These foods are really soft and easily digestible. When beginning before six months, it’s a good idea to stick to one type of fruit or vegetable. You will only start with about one teaspoon of food at a time and probably move much slower through the different kinds of foods.
Five months of age is a safe time to start if your baby is showing all the signs of readiness. Start introducing some fruits and vegetables at lunchtime. The middle of the day is the best time to add new food because giving food your baby is not familiar with might result to an upset stomach on nap times.
Introduction of brand-new food to your baby’s tummy will make them produce new enzymes to digest the food and they experience new bacteria in the gut. These changes in the gastrointestinal activity can lead to discomfort for your baby such as more wind, changes in regularity pooping and they may get slight constipation. It is all entirely normal and will pass once your baby has become established on solids.
If you have given your baby banana and avocado as first foods, (which are popular ones, to begin with) and you find your baby in discomfort or waking more frequently at night, try to leave these foods out until seven months of age. They can cause constipation, a sore tummy and consequently night waking.
At this age, you should be giving milk first, followed by solids feed. Milk is still the most vital food source for your baby. Also, try not to give solids too much later after their milk feed. Delaying too long can disrupt your baby’s next milk feed.
1st Foods – 6 Months
|Iron-fortified cereal||Sweet Potato|
|Apple||Any root vegetable|
By six months, your baby should be showing your signs of readiness to start eating solids. If your baby is not showing signs they are ready for food, see your GP and have a chat about your baby’s development.
Lunchtime is still the best time to introduce food, and it’s a great idea to include protein at this meal working up to 25gms. It is an excellent help to nighttime sleep. The next meal that you want to introduce is dinner. It’s excellent at this age to have your baby eat lots of vegetables; this helps to stop any potential tummy upsets at night.
Introduce dinner slowly, so you don’t interrupt your baby’s last milk feed before bed. By six months you are going to progress through the first food pretty quickly adding a new food every 2 to 3 days.
By this age, we want to start encouraging your baby to sleep through the night.
Being the case, we want your baby to have the right amount of milk feed when they first wake in the morning. Giving breakfast too early can inhibit your baby’s ability to drop night feeds. Feeding during the night, won’t make them so hungry for milk-feed and may not feed so well.
Then they have breakfast a little time later so are not feeling as hungry in the morning. It’s okay if they are nice and hungry when they wake for that first milk feed in the morning. You will know that your baby is ready for breakfast when they are sleeping through the night and can no longer last 4 hours between breastfeeds.
If you are formula feeding your baby, they should be having no more than 1000 ml of formula a day. More than this can stress your baby’s kidneys, and if they want more, it is a definite sign that they are ready for solids or more food.
When your baby starts on solids, this is an excellent time to introduce a sippy cup or a cup with a straw at meals times with a little bit cooled boiled water. Before six months, your baby gets all their hydration from breastmilk/formula.
2nd Foods – 7 to 8 Months
By seven months it’s great for babies to have carbohydrates at every meal. It helps the tryptophan make its way to the brain and helps with producing sleep homomers. Low GI carbs are great for babies as well as low blood sugar can cause adrenaline to be released at night triggering night wake ups.
By seven months you should still offer milk first before solids, but you may want to give half a milk feed, then solids and then the 2nd of half of the milk food. A good idea if you’re finding that your baby is too full when you get to solids or is not showing much interest.
8 -12 Months
By now your baby can eat a variety of foods. However, it is recommended to leave salt and sugar out of your baby’s meal when preparing. They do not need these additive flavors. At eight months you can start to offer solids and then milk.
By ten months of age, it is a perfect idea to add protein at every meal, there are some big growth spurts here, and the extra protein can help your baby to continue to sleep well during the night.
You can now introduce cow’s milk to your babies diet. It is a good recommendation that by 12 months of age your baby has been exposed to all high allergen food. Current research is suggesting that earlier exposure is reducing the effect of allergies and delaying may increase the likelihood of food allergies.
Keeping a Food Diary
When introducing solids, you may find that your previously perfect sleeper has some disruptions. The good idea is to keep a food diary to see which foods your baby is tolerating well and which ones may be causing night wake ups. Reintroducing food that causes discomfort for babies is also a must.
Difference Between Allergies and Food Intolerances
Allergy to food is when the body responds with an immune response, and an allergic reaction can be severe and life-threatening. Allergies need to be checked and diagnosed by a doctor. Food intolerance present with digestions issues and potentially eczema.
The Top Allergy Foods
- Tree nuts
- Cows milk
If you have a history of allergies in your family, you should contact your doctor when introducing allergen foods. If you have any concerns about discussing allergen food speak to your doctor or seek a child nutritionist. ASCIA (Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy) have some excellent resources about allergen food.
If Your Child has an Allergic Reaction
If your child displays any indication of an allergic response, seek medical care immediately.
Signs of an allergy can be:
- Hives/ redness and itching
- Difficult breathing and wheezing
- Pale/ blue skin
- Vomiting and Diarrhoea
- Swelling of facial feature
- Loss of consciousness
- Itchy and runny nose
Current research explains that allergen foods should be introduced before 12 months of age and delaying the introduction of these foods can lead to a risk of developing an allergy. An excellent way to present an allergen food is to rub a little amount on the inside of your baby’s lip and wait to see if any reaction occurs. If no response occurs, you can mix a small amount of the allergen food with other food your baby is already enjoying.
Solids for Sleep
‘Start your baby on solids to help them sleep through the night.’ Another saying we hear as mothers that can be quite inaccurate. Starting solids can be a wonderful way to help your baby on their sleep journey, but it can also impact their sleep in a very negative way and can be the cause of night waking and sleep disruptions during the day.
We keep getting told that babies with nice full bellies will sleep longer and be happier. While there is a reality to this, an overfull tummy and a tummy experiencing too many new foods can lead to sleep disruption.
Previous to starting food your baby’s digestive system only had to deal with milk. Then when introduced with new food, your baby’s digestive system has to start producing different enzymes to digest this new food.
Your baby’s gut flora begins to change to deal with all the new bacteria introduced as well. Although this is all normal and perfectly ok, it can lead to some uncomfortable tummy sensations waking your little one from sleep. With the new introductions of foods, your baby may also become slightly constipated.
When to Introduce New Food:
The best time to start adding food to your baby’s diet is lunchtime for a few different reasons.
- It’s good to have day time first feed to monitor any allergic reactions.
- If the baby does get an upset tummy, it’s better to have the midday nap disrupted that night times sleep
- With fewer people around it might be helpful to create a calm and fun eating environment for your baby to spend time enjoying new foods, rather than getting stressed or overstimulated.
Foods that are Great for Sleep
When feeding your baby keep in mind foods that are great for rest. These are food that contains tryptophan. What is tryptophan? Tryptophan is an amino acid found in different kinds of foods such as chicken, beef, turkey, cheese, yogurt, eggs, fish, spinach, nuts, seeds, and soy products.
The body, then, converts this amino acid into a B vitamin, and this vitamin helps to create serotonin (the happy hormones) which helps to produce melatonin (sleep hormone). But to see the benefits of foods rich in tryptophan they need mixing with carbohydrates. The carbohydrates raise insulin levels, and this removes all other amino acids from the blood and allows tryptophan to enter the brain and increase serotonin levels easily.
Foods that can Interrupt Sleep
Banana and avocado are the first baby foods often listed. They are lovely to give as they are soft, squishy and comfortable for your baby to eat. They are a low risk choking food and have mild sweet flavors for your baby to enjoy.
But they can often cause constipation and a sore tummy for your baby leading tonight wake ups. If you find that these food are causing your baby some discomfort, try to re-introduce them again after a few weeks.
Before ten months of age don’t give your baby protein at dinner as this is harder for your baby to digest and can leave them lying in bed with a sore tummy as they digestion has slower and their body is working to digest the protein. Their digestion system is still immature and needs to work up to different foods.
It’s also a good idea to watch your baby’s milk and dairy intake. It can be a delicate balance to maintain in these months, and you and your baby get a lot of comfort from the breast or bottle as well. However, too much milk and dairy can be an appetite inhibitor. Then not eating enough and lacking essential nutrients can cause waking at night.
Although there is so much to think about and worry about as a parent, try to relax and enjoy the ride. There will be a mess, gagging on food, scrunched up faces, food refusal, a few sore tummies, maybe a bit of constipation, and so much chaos!
But have fun! Let your baby explore and enjoy all this newness. If they refuse food, keep re-introducing it. It can take your baby up to ten times to accept a new menu. Right from when we first started solids, I copied my mum and said “It’s ok you’ll probably like it next time.