Introducing Solids – When, What and How?
Written by Vanessa McNamara, The Travelling Dietitian.
Introducing solids to your baby is a significant stage in their feeding and growth journey. It can be exciting to think about the adventure of new flavours and textures that lies ahead. It can be overwhelming, however, to contemplate where and how to start.
When should my baby start solids?
WHO recommends that infants start receiving complementary foods at around 6 months of age, in addition to breast milk.
When to start solids depends on your baby’s development and individual readiness. It is best to speak to your doctor or paediatrician first to work out when your baby might be ready.
In general, it is suggested the earliest age to introduce solids is 17 weeks as a baby’s digestive tract is not usually developed enough before this. Due to an increase in energy and nutrient requirements, solids should be introduced no later than 26 weeks. Look out for the following signs that might indicate your baby is ready:
- Good head and neck control and can sit upright when supported
- Opens their mouth when offered food on a spoon
- Can swallow, rather than push food back out (has lost tongue thrust reflex)
- Gets hungry more readily
- Shows interest in your food
Once they start showing the above signs of readiness, it might help to have a few basics ready to go:
- A highchair with foot support so that your baby is posturally stable enough to focus all their attention on learning how to eat
- Long, shallow weaning spoons
- Bowls with suction
- Small containers that can be put into the freezer containing individual portions of food
- A plastic bib that can be wiped clean
- A washcloth for cleaning hands and face once the meal has finished
What foods should we start with?
There are two approaches to starting solids – the traditional feeding approach, where baby is fed pureed foods with a spoon, or the baby-led weaning style of feeding, where parents go straight to finger foods.
Each weaning method has its pros and cons, and there is no right or wrong way of doing it, so parents need to choose a style that suits them and their family the best.
If you decide to start with purees, keep it simple and choose plain, single foods with no added salt, sugar or fat. Some good foods to start with include sweet potato, pumpkin, carrot, apple, pear, papaya, broccoli and cauliflower. You can gradually start to combine these foods once you feel comfortable that your baby is tolerating them (it is usually recommended to move onto a new food after trying a food 2-3 times).
If you’d prefer to skip the purees, suitable weaning foods might include steamed fingers of fruit and vegetables, steamed broccoli or cauliflower florets or fingers of toast.
As your baby’s iron stores start to run low at six months, it is important to offer iron-containing foods on a daily basis at this point. These foods should be provided in a form that your baby is developmentally able to eat.
Iron-containing foods include:
Beef, lamb, pork
Lentils and beans
Dark green leafy vegetables
Ground nuts and seeds
Fortified grains and cereals
Read more about iron and your baby here: https://taleii.com/blogs/baby/iron-is-your-baby-getting-enough
Foods can be introduced in any order as long as they are texture-appropriate and there is no suspicion of food allergy (read more about food allergies here – link to allergies article).
The quantities will be small to begin with but will increase as their appetite for solid food increases and their eating skills improve. It is a good idea to also offer your baby sips of cooled, boiled water with a meal once they start eating solid food.
How do we start?
Offer breast milk or formula first, so that your baby is content and not overly hungry. Try to make the environment relaxed and happy, without the distraction of any screens. If possible, always try to eat with your child so that they can watch how and what you eat. You will be their positive role model.
If you are spoon-feeding your baby, please make sure to do this in a responsive and respectful way. This means that you need to read their signals and stop when they’ve had enough. Avoid any kind of force-feeding and follow these tips on how to spoon feed appropriately:
- Sit in front of baby and face them
- Use a weaning spoon – shallow and soft
- Only put food at the tip of the spoon initially
- Hold spoon in front of baby, get their attention and let them lean forward into the spoon rather than you moving the spoon in to them.
- Try a taster on their top lip if they are not showing any interest
- Read baby’s signals to know when they’re ready for the next mouthful
- Let baby play with their food
- Sit and eat together
- Stop when baby shows signs of having enough
Taleii’s Top Tip:If you choose to spoon feed your baby, Taleii’s pouches are an easy way to provide them with a variety of nutritious foods. If you choose to go straight to finger foods, Taleii’s pouches can be used as a sauce for finger foods such as vegetable sticks or pasta pieces to be dipped into or as a spread to go onto toast.