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Introduction to Solids

When and why do we start solids?

Babies will be ready for solid food at different times. This can depend on their size, their appetite, their genetics and how much milk they are getting.

Breastmilk is initially the main source of nutrition. Whether your baby is receiving breastmilk, or formula or both, milk remains the primary source of nutrition until 8 months. At 8 months, we swap the feed routine around to solids before milk. This aims to increase or promote increasing volumes of solid food without a baby filling up on milk first.

Babies are often ready for solids around 5-6 months of age, but not before 4 months. At the age of around 6 months, your baby is not receiving enough iron from breastmilk or formula to meet their requirements and therefore iron-containing foods and other solid foods should be introduced. Solids are also introduced when milk only is no longer sustaining your baby’s satiety and they have increasing hunger.

Signs your baby could be ready for solids..

  • Your baby can hold their head up.

  •  Your baby is hungry, and adequate volumes of milk is no longer keeping them full and satisfied between milk feeds

  • Your baby is interested in food and may watch or reach for your food.

  • Your baby is showing signs of biting and chewing.

  • Your baby is able to keep food in their mouth without pushing it out with their tongue.

What to offer baby

Pureed root vegetables especially kumara and pumpkin are ideal first foods, mixed with a little bit of breast milk or formula to thin it down. Its better to start with vegetables, rather than sweet fruit, as baby may develop a preference for these sweet flavours.

Mix and matching different pureed vegetable, made into ice cube trays, is the easiest and most economical way of making baby food. If you have a food processor or blender, or even a handheld one. If you don’t have one, but a family member or friend does, you can do a few batches at once, once a week.

You can add meat and other proteins quite quickly with babies, and we will discuss how to do this easily, using the ingredients you would use for your family meal. Legumes, lentils and beans are a great way to get in extra protein and nutrients, including Iron, and are easily blended with the vegetable puree.

Once the baby is having ¼ to ½ cup of vegetable/protein puree twice a day, usually for lunch and dinner, and some kind of baby cereal and fruit (weetbix not until 8 months due to the high levels of fibre), for breakfast, and is heading towards the 7month mark, you can change to consistency to a more mash consistency. You would be thinking about adding some soft finger foods now as well, can increase the variety of foods and flavours.

Again, by 8 moths, baby should be having 3 meals a day, around ½ cup of mashed consistency, with vegetables, legumes, pulses, lentils, meat, dairy, egg, nut butters, fish, cereals, fruit and a good variety of finger food. Their milk consumption will drop, to around 600mls, so they are hungry enough to eat the nutrient rich foods, and their milk feeds will be around 3 a times a day, usually before going for a sleep, or to bed at night. By 1 years, they should not be having more than 300mls milk a day. It is around this age that they can have normal cows milk in their bottle or cup instead of a bottle of formula or breast feed. But they can have dairy in their solids from around 6-month, cheese, yoghurt, custard etc.

A 1 year old eats far more than a 2 years old, and toddlers have a very natural and normal resistance to some new foods. Around this age, parents often worry that their child isn’t getting enough, and it can become a battle. This is something to avoid.

Keep Mealtimes fun and relaxed

Its important that babies are happy and relaxed at mealtimes. Don’t be worried about wiping face and hands until after the meal has ended. Put the highchair on lino or put a mat down so you are not worried about the carpet or flooring. Keep clam and positive, chatty and use positive reinforcement, praising the baby when they eat.

Offering solid foods to baby for allergy prevention

According to ASCIA (The Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy) common allergy causing foods should be introduced by 12 months, and ideally around 5-6 months of age. This is offered in an age - appropriate form e.g. well-cooked egg or smooth peanut butter. Allergen foods also include cow’s milk (dairy), tree nuts (such as cashew or almond butter), soy, sesame, wheat, fish, and other seafood. “Studies show that this may reduce the chance of developing food allergy in babies with severe eczema or egg allergy” ( ASCIA website)

How to offer allergen foods?

  • Offer a quarter of a teaspoon of each allergen food added to a bowl of vegetable puree and trial once a day, for three days in a row, slowly increasing the amount each time

  • Only introduce one common allergy causing food at each meal, so that the problem food can be easily identified if there is an allergic reaction.

  • If your baby has an allergic reaction, stop giving that food and seek medical advice.

  • Unless your baby has an allergic reaction to the food, continue to give the food to your baby regularly (twice weekly), as part of a varied diet. Trying a food and then not giving it regularly may result in a food allergy developing.

  • Babies need to learn to eat a variety of solid foods, from each food group, to receive adequate amounts of important nutrients including fat, protein, vitamins, and minerals, such as calcium, iron and zinc.

  • Learning to eat solid foods takes time and babies learn by watching their family eat, so giving your baby the same foods as the rest of the family will encourage them to eat many different foods.

  • Offer your baby foods that are the right texture for their stage of development. To prevent choking, use smooth nut spreads or nut flours – do not feed your baby whole nuts or nut pieces.

  • You can rub a small amount of the food inside your baby’s lip as a starting point. If there is no allergic reaction after a few minutes, you can start giving small amounts of the food as described above.

  • Never smear or rub food on your baby’s skin, as this will not help to identify possible food allergies and may increase the risk of the baby developing an allergy to that food

It is important to note that some babies may still develop a food allergy even if this advice is followed.

(ASCIA Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy)


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