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Introducing your baby to solid foods

Sometime around 6 months, your baby will be ready to embark on the journey to eating solid food. Start with small quantities of soft, easily digestible and mushy foods such as baby rice and homemade purees of varied flavors. Up to this point, your baby has received all the nourishment they require via milk. Milk will remain a key source of sustenance until your baby is 2 years old, but now that their digestive system is a little more robust, it’s time to experiment with tastes and textures and expand their palette.

Signs your baby is ready for weaning

 
  • Being able to sit up and hold their head steady
  • Good hand, eye and mouth coordination (they can look at food, pick it up and put it in their mouth)
  • The ability to swallow the food on offer, rather than push it all out.

Baby’s first (solid) meal


Many infants’ first foray into solid food is baby rice mixed to a smooth runny consistency. While there’s no hard and fast rule as to which foods a baby should try first, it’s best not to put pressure on a tiny digestive system too soon. Opt for mild homemade purees such as pear to start with. Prepare in bulk and freeze into cubes to save time once your baby’s palate gets accustomed to the new regime.

When To Introduce Solid Foods 

 

It is recommended that children be introduced to foods other than breast milk around the six-month mark. During this time, babies will learn to push solid foods from the front of the mouth to the back of the mouth using their tongue. However, every child is different, so how can you tell when your child is ready? Here are some signs that your little one is ready to graduate to solid foods:

  1. Your baby can hold his or her head upright, in a steady manner.
  2. They are able to sit upright as well, without any support.
  3. Your baby is putting things in their mouth, like toys or their own hands.
  4. Leaning forward and opening the mouth. This shows a desire to eat food.

If your baby is showing some, or all of these signs, it is time to talk to a doctor about starting your baby on solid foods.

How to introduce solid food to a baby’s diet


Breast or bottle-feed your baby as normal, then offer them a little puree using a soft-tipped feeding spoon. Start with just a teaspoon once a day. Pick a time of day when your baby is not tired or fussy. Gradually build up the amount of puree letting your baby set the pace. Wait at least three days before introducing a new food type to allow time to detect any signs of allergy , and seek medical advice immediately if you suspect they are having an adverse reaction. Once your baby is used to the smooth stuff, move on to thicker consistency foods such as mashed or strained sweet potatoes. Increase the frequency of feeds to twice a day while continuing with milk feeds as normal.

Be patient as they adjust


Each stage of weaning requires your baby to master new skills so be patient. Thicker consistency foods will help your baby get used to using his tongue to push the food against the top of his mouth and swallow. The final stage of weaning is the introduction of lumpier finger-foods that your baby can pick up and hold such as salt-free crackers, pieces of soft fruit, or even fingers of toast or cooked pasta shapes. If your baby spits out or rejects certain foods, don’t force things. Take it off the menu for a few days and re-introduce later.

Keep the variety going


By the age of 8 months your baby’s diet should include a mixture of food types including cereal, fruit, vegetables, and small amounts of protein such as chicken or lentils. It’s important to encourage babies to feed themselves to help them to develop their fine motor skills and coordination. 

Families should eat together (even when it’s messy)


It’s also beneficial for baby to take part in family meal times. Seeing others eating a variety of foods may prevent fussy eating traits as they get older too. Offer them a selection of baby-friendly finger foods such as banana or mini rice cakes, and let them investigate with you at the table. 

Expect a lot of mess as your baby plays and experiments, but make sure you supervise mealtimes.

4 to 6 months: Single-grain cereals & Pureed Veggies

 

Single-grain cereals make excellent baby first foods; especially when they’re fortified with iron. Ideally, you should combine one teaspoon of single-grain cereal with four to five teaspoons of breast milk. Don’t be worried if your baby doesn’t immediately take to the new taste and texture of solid foods. Your baby may turn their head away, or refuse to open up after the first bite. If it gets sloppy and frustrating, just wait one week or so and try again. The point is to get you child used to a different type of eating.

 

Solid foods for baby are not complete without a tried and tested puree. Pureed veggies are a quick and easy way to get babies the nutrients they need in a mixture of different flavors. Start off with single fruit or vegetable purees like potato, carrot, or green pea. Once your baby gets used to these new flavors, you can try a variety of different fruit-veggie combos like carrot-potato-beetroot, broccoli-potato, or green-pea-potato puree. You can also try deliciously sweet fruit purees with apple, pear, banana, or mango. Chickpea puree is a great source of protein for your baby. Before mashing fruits and vegetables, make sure you steam them as boiling robs them of the essential nutrients that they come packed with.

6 to 8 months: Single-ingredient finger foods

 

For us, finger food refers to any food that can be easily picked up and eaten with the fingers. For babies, it’s the same thing (except they might use their entire hand). 6 to 8 months is the time period where babies like to experiment with their self-feeding abilities. They will be adept at grasping things with their fingers, and finger foods are a good starting point for their newfound independence.

 

In addition to the motor skills that come with using hands and fingers, a baby will also learn how to move lumps around the mouth, and chew on the lumps until they can swallow. This is an essential eating skill that will be used for the rest of their lives. Here are some finger foods that babies can try:

 

  1. Soft pieces of fruit (banana, papaya, mango)
  2. Cooked vegetable pieces (carrot, green beans, potato wedges)
  3. Cheese cubes
  4. Cooked pasta pieces

 

However, foods like meat may still need to be pureed, as these are generally more difficult to chew on. Make sure everything you feed your baby is soft enough for them to consume. To test the food, see if you can mash with gentle pressure between the thumb and forefinger. 

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

 

As your child learns to chew, push food back, and swallow baby solid food, it is time to move on from smooth purees and finger foods to more advanced textures and varied flavors. This is where chopped, ground, or mashed foods come into the picture.

 

Chopped vegetables (steamed, not boiled) are a great way to inculcate healthy eating habits, so try feeding your baby as many different flavors as you can. Just make sure they are bite-sized!

 

Mashed foods like sweet potatoes, peas, or carrots are a great way to keep veggies in the loop. Alternatively, do try feeding variations such as mashed egg yolk, mashed beans, or mashed infant cereal, for the other important nutrients a baby will need.

 

If you choose to feed your baby meat, it is best to puree it, as the harder texture is often times more difficult to chew and swallow.

 

At this stage, your baby can learn to self-feed with a spoon, and     chew on minced, mashed, and chopped foods. Your baby can also eat any family foods that are prepared, as long as they do not have salt or sugar. Do keep in mind that processed foods of any kind are still not an option for your baby.

 

Please be aware that the information given in these articles is only intended as general advice and should in no way be taken as a substitute for professional medical advice. If you or your family or your child is suffering from symptoms or conditions which are severe or persistent or you need specific medical advice, please seek professional medical assistance. Philips AVENT cannot be held responsible for any damages that result from the use of the information provided on this website.