Starting solid food is an essential milestone in your child’s development. It’s a window of opportunity where good eating habits can be established, providing a strong foundation for your child’s future health.
When to start solids?
Whether your baby is being breastfed, bottle fed or a combination of both, first foods are introduced in the same way and simultaneously. Experts agree this is around six months old, but not before four months.
Why should solid food be introduced to babies?
From 6 months old, iron and zinc, critical nutrients needed for growth and development, are no longer being fulfilled by breast milk or infant formula alone.
Is my baby ready for solids?
Babies are all so different. Some babies will be ready to start solid foods earlier than others, so individual signs of readiness are a better guide. Some of these signs include:
Interest in watching others eat and showing excitement when others are eating
Lost tongue-thrust reflux that pushes food back out of the mouth
Holds head up
Able to sit upright, supported
Opening their mouth when something comes towards them
Chewing fingers and toys
Reaching out for food and cutlery
Even though you may see some of these signs earlier, breastmilk or infant formula will be enough until around six months.
What do you need to start solid foods?
Before you get started, you may need a few items of feeding equipment. These include:
Small soft and shallow spoon
Ice cube trays
Food blender/processor (handy, but not essential)
Highchair with fitted harness
A calm baby and lots of patience.
Best time for introducing solids
Pick a time to offer solids when you and your baby are both relaxed. Morning is a good time when they are hungry and happy.
Your baby is more likely to try solids after a feed of breast milk or formula.
Make sure your baby is sitting upright (either in a highchair or on your lap)
Try to eat at the same time as your baby.
To start with, offer 1-2 teaspoons of food or a small piece with your fingers and increase according to your baby’s appetite. Another option is to provide food from your plate; she may feel that eating it from your plate is safer and more willing to try it.
Let your baby eat their way. Allow enough time for babies to explore and eat at their own pace and look for signs if they’re not interested anymore.
If she doesn’t seem to like some foods, leave them for a few days and then offer them again.
Types of food to introduce when starting solids
Start with iron and zinc-containing foods (remember, the iron stored in your baby’s body starts to deplete around six months). These include iron-fortified infant cereal, minced meat, poultry and fish, cooked tofu and legumes and mashed and well-cooked egg
So long as iron-rich foods are the focus, introduce a variety of suitable textured vegetables, beans and legumes, fruit, grains and cereals and full-fat dairy products like cheese and yoghurt
The slow introduction of solid food is not necessary
Breast or infant formula feeding is recommended alongside solids until a baby is 12 months old and for breastfeeding for as long as the mother and baby want to keep going. For more information, view this Infant Feeding Guideline book!
Every baby is different, and there is no need to rush to start before six months. If your baby is nearing seven months of age and hasn’t started solids, you might like to get some advice from your Maternal and Child Health Nurse or GP. Remember, breast milk or formula remains the main source of nutrition for the first 12 months.
To learn more about how to help your baby start solids, join our Starting Solids and Infant Sleep Masterclass.
Shae Rickards presents starting solids at our Infant Essentials Masterclass.