It is recommended to begin solids at 6 months, however some children may be ready for solid foods as early as 4 months old. One tell-tale sign for this is that your baby is waking up earlier than the “normal” routine and is no longer satisfied after just having a breastfeed or a bottle.
It is important to speak to your doctor before introducing solids or alternatively your health visitor for advice.
Over the years, I have noticed that some parents introduce solids far too quickly and this in turn can be detrimental as your baby’s digestive system requires time to adjust to new textures and food groups.
My advice is a more “slowly, slowly’ approach by giving small amounts of food twice a day always before the bottle feed. I also encourage feeding the same food to your baby for two to three days in a row. This allows parents the opportunity to watch out for any allergies to certain food types and also to determine which food types your baby favors. This initial introduction to solids is very much a trial and error period, whereby your baby may not particularly like a certain meal on the first try, but a couple of weeks later try this meal again as there could be a different reaction, second or even third time around. This can all be recorded in a simple food chart. It is important that patients are required throughout the introductory period, at first a meal may take 20 or even 30 minutes.
Try to make meal times as stress free as possible. Try not make an issue with food especially if you are concerned that progress is not being made. Every child will take to solids at their own pace. It is important that meal times do not become a battle ground, because more often than not it is the parents who will “give in”. Do not worry if your baby does not eat very much at a mealtime, they will make up for this during the next meal.
The introduction of solid foods can also be helpful if your baby suffers with silent reflux. It is recommended to introduce more vegetable based foods than fruit as they are obviously more acidic. By the age of 10-12 months the symptoms of silent reflux usually disappear.
While working abroad, particularly in Italy I liked many of the Italian methods for introducing solid foods. One very helpful tip with savory foods was to add a drop of olive oil to any savory puree. This is good, not only for the baby’s skin, hair and nails but also digestion, more specifically easing the passing of stools.
Your food chart, as detailed later, is a vital tool in understanding and keeping track of the introduction of solids. It is of high importance to monitor stools throughout this phase, to ensure that should your baby become constipated due to a certain food type you can take note and eliminate from your baby’s diet.
Once your baby is established on solids and is eating 3 meals per day, do not be afraid to try to experiment with various different foods and also to include garlic and all sorts of herbs. Variety in your baby’s diet is the key here. Your baby may get bored if you constantly make the same meal every day, so ensure that the food is as varied as possible. By the age of 12 months, your baby should be eating exactly what you are eating. Remember salt and pepper are not essential to a baby’s diet.
Is my baby ready for solids?
She/he was sleeping through the night but has started to wake feeling hungry.
She/he is still hungry after their bottle of milk.
She/he demands to be fed more often.
Your baby takes an interest in food on your plate.
Make feeding time a special time to share with your baby – it’s another milestone in their life.
Make it a fun time of the day – it’s going to be messy and frustrating at times.
Remember by the time your child is 12 months he/she will be eating the same food as you.
Baby spoon, baby bowl and large plastic bibs to be purchased – list of equipment mentioned later.
Baby rice is introduced initially for 5 – 10 days – it’s easy for them to digest and still has the milk taste.
Baby rice can be mixed with water or formula milk.
Babies prefer vegetables and fruit that are mild tasting at the beginning.
Introduce new foods one at a time – early in the day to make sure that the baby does not have any allergic reactions.
After 5 – 6 weeks you will be at the stage where you could mix more than two flavors together. This is the first step towards sharing family meal times
At this stage the baby will be introduced to solids meals twice a day – fruit and vegetables
The amounts are very small and they learn the new skill of moving food with their tongues from the front to the back of their mouth and swallowing.
After 8 – 10 weeks of weaning the baby should be on three solid meals per day – breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Keep a food chart – note any allergic reactions or not – (see food chart below)
Using the chart, you can trace back to the foods given to the child. If there is a problem they may get spots, a rash, constipation and diarrhea.
First foods to start with
Baby rice – introduced twice per day for 5 – 10 days. Various brands can be purchased in any of the supermarkets. Best to choose baby rice that is sugar free. Mix in a baby bowl with water or formula milk. For the first day or two, a few spoons will be sufficient for the baby.
Vegetables are introduced next e.g. Carrots, potato, sweet potato, parsnip, butternut squash, courgette, Swede or pumpkin. Naturally sweet tasting – very popular with young babies.
Stronger tasting vegetables e.g. broccoli, leeks or spinach introduced after a few weeks mixed with one of the root vegetables i.e. carrots, potatoes or sweet potatoes.
Fruits provide a good source of Vitamin C and babies will be able to eat most of them.
Fruits to start with are pureed apple, pear, mango, papaya or banana. Make sure the fruit is ripe, have a taste of it before giving to the child to make sure it has a good flavor.
Fruits can also be mixed with baby rice, porridge or baby yoghurt.
Avoid high-risk food such as wheat, eggs, nuts, fish, citrus fruits, strawberries, honey, sugar or salt until the baby is 12 months to 2 years old.
Homemade food is best for the baby. There is nothing better for your baby than freshly prepared food.
Introducing a wide range of food is important in establishing a healthy diet. By preparing the meals yourself you are reassured that the best quality food is being used. Organic fruit, vegetables and meat are widely available now in most supermarkets.
Homemade purees taste so much better than food from jars.
There is huge variety of baby food jars and packets on the market which may be handy in an emergency or when traveling.
Water and Juice
Apart from milk the only other drink your baby needs is water.
Always use boiled water and leave to cool.
Bottled water can contain mineral salts that are not suitable for babies.
If you want to give your baby fruit juice squeeze your own or choose one that only contains natural fruit sugars.
Orange juice is a good source of vitamin C. This will help your child absorb iron
Baby food should be given Luke warm
If heating in a microwave, make sure it is hot right through, allow to cool and stir well.
Always check the temperature by tasting food before giving it to your baby.
Another heating method is the new ADVENT© bottle warmer.
Do not re heat the baby’s food?
Do not save your baby’s half eaten food as bacteria will have been introduced through the saliva.
Freezing and Preparation
It is better to prepare large amounts of puree and freezer portions in ice cube trays or small pots.
When you plan this way you will only need to cook for your baby every two weeks.
Freeze food as soon as it is cooled down.
Food can be kept in the freezer for 6 weeks.
Label and date puree.
Baby food/jars (where half has been given to the baby in his bowl) the remainder may be kept in the fridge but must be used within 24 hours.
Thaw food by taking it out of the freezer the night before or early in the morning.
Multi-layered Steamer (TEFAL)
Electric Blender (Braun)
Freezer bags and labels
Ice cube trays or food jars
Feeding bowls and spoons – plastic
Bibs – plastic
High Chair with a strong safety harness