Starting your baby on solids is fun, interesting, sometimes frustrating, sometimes challenging but pretty much always messy!
When to start solids?
Current recommendations are to start solids some time after your baby turns 6 months old. Prior to this, the baby’s digestive system is just unable to cope with other foods and their kidneys cannot process salt well. Research suggests that babies who start solids after 6 months are less likely to be intolerant or develop allergies to foods and are less likely to develop obesity and its related health concerns later in life.
Sometimes it is tempting to begin solids in the belief that this may assist your baby in sleeping through the night. It has been researched and found that babies will not automatically sleep for longer periods after being given solids (or formula for that matter).
Babies have a natural tongue-thrust reflex that means their tongue will push out against anything going in. This does disappear by about 6 months of age, enabling babies to accept and swallow solid foods.
Signs your baby is ready for solids
Trying to take food from you, chewing on everything she gets her hands on, staring while you eat or appearing unsatisfied after feeds aren’t necessarily signs that your baby is ready for solids. These are all natural, developmentally appropriate behaviours that aren’t particularly related to food.
If your baby is over 6 months and does appear to be unsatisfied, even after days and nights of more frequent feedings, you may like to start considering adding solids to her diet.
Always offer the breast before solids, thus ensuring that she is getting her most important food. This will also help to avoid decreasing your supply. If you do find this is the case, you can just offer more breast, less solids for a few days to boost your supply again. Start with one “meal” per day and you can gradually build from there.
This can get pretty messy so you may like to choose where you feed wisely – if you’re not keen on scrubbing floors, its a good idea to lay down some newspaper or a plastic tablecloth to catch the inevitable spills and dribbles that will occur.
Introduce one food at a time, and space the introduction of new foods to be able to isolate reactions if they occur.
Some first foods you may like to try:
- Mashed avocado
- Pumpkin, potato or carrot
- Rice cereal mixed with expressed breastmilk
- Well done rice or pasta
- Pureed cooked apple or pear
- Mashed lentils or beans
- Any cooked vegetable, mashed or blended
- Mashed or well-ground meat
- Any cooked fish without bones
- Yoghurt or cottage cheese, ricotta
Some babies prefer to feed themselves and can be given their own spoon or if they prefer offer them finger foods they can hang onto and eat themselves.
You may at this time like to start offering a small drink of water to your baby with these meals. If your baby is still able to have as many breastfeeds as she wants, she will get sufficient fluid from your breastmilk so don’t worry if she’s not interested in water at this point.
For some babies it can be a quick transition, others are slower to taking any real interest in solids. Take your time, be guided by your baby and her appetite and try and avoid letting food become a battle.