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Baby’s First Foods: How to Introduce Solids

Baby’s First Foods: How to Introduce Solids

When to introduce solid foods to your baby

Written by Christine Z, Breaking Free Lifestyle Blog

Introducing solid foods to your baby is a fun and exciting time. Think of all the new tastes, textures and flavours they’re about to explore. To help you learn when to start your baby on solids and how to do so, we’ve compiled a list of tips, tricks and frequently asked questions.

This article will cover:

  • The best age for your baby to start solids
  • How to introduce solid foods to your baby
  • Foods you may like to offer first

What age is best to start introducing solids?

The general recommendation is to wait until your baby is four to six months old. This is because your baby’s digestive system needs time to mature and develop a healthy gut flora. Starting earlier could lead to constipation and stomach pains. Though, a couple of weeks won’t matter if your baby shows signs of being ready. Look out for things like attentively watching you eat, opening their mouth or making chewing motions. 

Most importantly, make sure they can hold their head steady and sit with little to no support. Starting before this can be a choking hazard.

How to introduce baby to solids

Introducing solids is more about getting them used to chewing and swallowing food than providing any significant nutritional benefit. Still give your baby the breast or bottle first thing in the morning, before or after meals, and before bedtime.

As soon as your little one understands the concept of eating and shows interest in mealtime (this usually happens between 6 and 9 months), start them on a routine for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Even if they aren’t hungry at times, they’ll get used to the idea of eating on a schedule. That said, don’t force your baby to continue eating if they shake their head no, turn away, or refuse to open up after only one mouthful.

How many times per day and what time is recommended?

At 4 to 6 months, feed your baby two meals, each two to four tablespoons.

At 7 to 12 months, feed them three meals, each the size of your baby’s fist.

Start with one meal per day at lunch time, when your baby is fully alert, happy and not very hungry. Feeding baby during the day has the advantage that you will be able to monitor them closely, in case of a food intolerance. General advice is to feed the baby some milk before giving solids. If your little one is not interested at all after their milk feed, wait about 30 minutes and try again.

You can add a second meal in the day when they are happy and eat at least a teaspoon at each meal.

After 2-3 weeks, you can add a third meal. It takes time, not only for them, but also for you to get used to a new daily routine of preparing food, feeding time and clean up. Don’t rush and don’t stress yourself if you forget and skip a meal. 

What foods should I offer first?

  • 4 to 6 months: Single-grain cereals, mixed with breast milk or formula
  • 4 to 8 months: Pureed veggies, fruits and meats
  • 6 to 8 months: Single-ingredient finger foods

Don’t offer any hard, raw foods (such as apple slices or carrot sticks) yet. Make sure fruits and veggies are soft enough that you could mash them between your fingers. Some good examples include sweet potato, avocado, banana, pears, green beans, butternut squash.

The shape of food matters too. Younger babies will be picking foods up with their whole palms, so a mound of mashed potatoes or a wedge of avocado will be easier to handle than smaller foods.

  • 9 to 12 months: Chopped, ground or mashed foods

As soon as your child is able, transition them away from smooth purees. Incorporate more finger foods with texture like yogurt, cottage cheese, mashed bananas, and mashed sweet potatoes. They can also use more iron, so try pureed meats like beef, chicken, and turkey.

How much do they eat?

This depends on how keen your little one is to eat solids. Most babies have about half a teaspoon to a teaspoon of food for the first week or two. Once they get used to the taste and the routine, they will quickly increase their food intake to a couple of tablespoons at each meal. 

Even if they have been consistent for a few weeks, the amount of food they eat can vary. Some days they might have a tablespoon of food and half a teaspoon the next. Be patient and never force feed a baby. Let them explore in their own time and make mealtimes relaxed and fun.

What foods do I need to be mindful of?

Limit foods that can cause bloating and stomach problems like cauliflower, beans or broccoli. Introduce them one by one and in small amounts, perhaps together with other foods they have already got used to.

Ease the baby into eating fruits, as the acidity can cause nappy rash. Bananas can lead to constipation, so give plenty of fluids.

How to prepare food without cooking and mashing every day?

A steamer is a great investment! You can fill it up with a variety of veggies, mash them separately and freeze in large ice cube trays. That way, you can easily make a month worth of food in one afternoon! Start with vegetables only. After their first month of solids you can mix them with cooked quinoa, brown rice or lentils to add some protein. Poached chicken is great, too.

Let them experiment

If your baby is not  interested in the spoon, give them a little piece of steamed broccoli, or a piece of banana (about the size of your little finger). You might be worried about the choking risk, but as long as you cut slim long pieces that your baby can hold easily and you stay with them, they usually have a little taste and a play. Watch them closely and have some water or milk ready to give them a drink if they need to. A slice of orange works really well, too. 

Support them to explore with all their senses. Taste is only one way to experience something new that you’ve never experienced in your life before. If I gave you an exotic fruit you’ve never seen before, and asked you just to taste it without smelling it, looking at it and feeling the texture, that would be a very one-dimensional experience. Everything you give them is entirely new to them, so support them to explore and  learn in their own way.

It takes time to adjust

General tip, since many babies start getting out and about and socialising at this age, the likeliness of them getting their first cold or cough is high during that time. If your baby is unwell and does not show interest in eating, take a break for a few days until they feel better. This will save you a lot of worry.

From personal experience I can say, there is no issue for your baby to have a break for a week and even start later than six or seven months of age. The main focus on their first experience of solids should be the freedom to explore in a safe environment. There are no targets to be hit.

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