The dos and don’ts of introducing solids
Here’s a quick guide on what to do and what not to do when you start feeding your baby solid food.
A happy, gurgling baby with food smeared all over their face eagerly lapping up whatever you feed them. That’s what most of us think of when we imagine starting our babies on solid food. Here are our tips for making sure your real life experience of introducing solids is just as positive and fun-filled.
DO Introduce solid foods when you baby is around 6 months old
Up until your baby is 6 months old, breast milk or formula provides all the nutrients they need. But from 6 months onwards, your baby needs more nutrients, especially iron, than milk can provide. You can start introducing solids anytime between 4 to 6 months, if your baby can hold their head up, can sit upright, makes chewing motions and shows interest in your food.
DO Start slow
At the start, your baby will probably only eat 1 or 2 spoonfuls. The initial stage is all about getting your baby used to the taste, texture and act of eating. So feed them after they’ve had their milk.
As they start to eat more, move on to starting the meal with a small amount of milk, then move the milk to the end of the meal and eventually replace milk completely with solid food.
Start with 1 meal a day and work up to 3 meals by the time your baby is about 9 months old.
DO Feed your baby when they’re happy and slightly hungry
If your baby is overly hungry or tired, it’s unlikely they’ll have the patience to try something new. If your baby is full, food will probably have little appeal to them. So time meals for when they’ll be most receptive.
DO Let your baby play with their food
Your baby’s just getting used to solids. So give them the chance to experience it before trying to put it in their mouths. Put a little bit on their tray and let them smell, taste and touch it first. Like everything else your baby plays with, it will eventually find its way into their mouth.
DO Introduce one new food at a time
Wait 2–3 days after introducing one new food before you introduce another one. That way, if your baby has an allergic reaction, you’ll know what caused it. Allergy symptoms to look out for include vomiting, rash and diarrhoea. The foods most likely to cause an allergic reaction are egg, milk, seafood, nuts, soy and wheat.
DO Keep introducing rejected foods
If your baby turns away or refuses to eat a particular food, don’t push but don’t give up. Just try it again a week later. Babies need to try something new a few times before they accept it and initial rejection doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t like it. Don’t be surprised if your baby changes their mind about a particular food several times.
DO Keep going with breast milk or formula
Up until they’re 9 months old, your baby should drink 600–800ml of milk a day, every 3–4 hours. From 9–12 months, they should drink 450–700ml of milk a day, every 4–5 hours. Breast milk or formula provides necessary nutrition for your baby and because your baby is used to milk, they’ll be comforted by the familiar feel and taste.
DON’T Stick to rice cereal
Most parents start their babies off on plain rice cereal. Iron-fortified cereals help ensure your baby gets the nutrients they need at this stage. They can also be mixed with breast milk or formula and made into a watery consistency that’s easy for your baby’s first few mouthfuls.
But there’s no reason you can’t start with home-cooked rice porridge, mashed vegetables, pureed meat or soft fruits.
DON’T Offer veggies before fruit
There’s no evidence to show that offering fruit first will make your baby reject veggies later. In fact, it might be better to start with something your baby likes to encourage them to keep eating.
DON’T Shy away from meat
Babies who eat meat earlier get more iron and zinc in their diet. Since these nutrients are essential for growth, you might want to get the blender out and puree some chicken.
DON’T Serve bland food
Don’t add any salt or sugar to your baby’s food but go ahead and experiment with spices, such as pepper, cinnamon and even a hint of chilli. If you give your baby food that’s tasty, they’ll be more likely to want more.
DON’T Force your baby to eat more than they want
Your baby is not just learning about food, they’re also learning how to self-regulate their feeding. If you force them to eat when they don’t want to, you’re teaching them to ignore their body’s signals, which can lead to issues with weight and health.
So let your baby set the pace. Wait for your baby to lean forward and open their mouth to show they want more before feeding them another spoonful. It’s okay if they only eat a few bites or if they eat less today than they did yesterday.
DON’T Feed your baby these unsafe foods
Don’t give your baby cow’s milk, soy milk or honey until their first birthday. Their digestive system isn’t ready to handle these foods.
Check with your doctor before introducing your baby to citrus fruits. The high acidic content can sometimes cause allergic reactions like eczema and diaper rash.
Avoid nuts, popcorn, raisins, dried cranberries and peanut butter because they’re choking hazards.