A Solid Start: Find Out When, How, And What To Feed Your Baby
The World Health Organisation recommends that parents introduce solids to baby’s diet when baby is six months old. Prior to this all their nutritional requirements will be met by either breast milk or formula as their digestive system is not mature enough to deal with solid food. Even at this point, milk is still vitally important in your baby’s diet and should continue to be until the age of one.
There are two options for weaning your baby – the classic puréeing route and baby-led weaning, which is becoming increasingly popular.
How do I know if my baby’s ready?
There are a few things to look out for – if your baby was previously sleeping through the night but is now waking earlier and earlier for their morning feed, then perhaps it’s time to introduce more sustenance. Similarly, babies often display physical signs that they are hungry. If your baby chews on her fingers or puts her fist in her mouth, she may be feeling hungry. A good way to tell if your child is ready for solid food is to place a small amount of baby rice or ‘starter food’ on their tongue. After one or two tries, if they can swallow it with ease, you can begin with small amounts of food.
What do I need to get started?
Most of the equipment you need you will already have, but you will need to purchase some baby spoons to protect little gums (especially when she starts biting down with every spoonful!). There is no requirement to buy baby bowls and the like unless you particularly want to – your own bowls, ramekin dishes or even a teacup are fine as you will only be feeding small amounts at the beginning.
If you are puréeing, a hand blender will allow you to easily purée at mealtimes with minimal clean up, and will be a lifesaver if you plan on making food in batches.
Late morning or lunchtime is a good time to start weaning.
How do I start?
Pick a time of day when both you and baby are calm and relaxed. Late morning or lunchtime is a good choice as she should be ready for a feed, but not starving. Give her a normal milk feed and then offer a little food. Make up a small amount – two to three teaspoons once a day is plenty to start with, progressing once your baby is happily accepting the introduction of meals and looking for more. Ensure that the food is cool enough and then offer it on a plastic spoon. The first spoon or two may end up on her face, down her front or even in her hand – prepare yourself, this is merely a taste of the mess to come!
Which foods should I offer first?
Many moms start with baby rice cereals. They have a mild, fruity taste that babies enjoy. After that you could introduce puréed fruit and vegetables, such as banana, carrot or squash.
It is recommended that you add new foods at lunchtime, rather than in the evening, and also follow the ‘three day rule’, in other words, introduce one new food every three days. One top tip is to keep a little food diary so that you can track exactly what your baby has been having – it may come in handy if you notice any reactions to certain foods, and also serves as a reminder of which food combinations your baby enjoys.
If you are offering finger foods, try some steamed or roasted vegetables (such as a carrot stick, broccoli floret or sweet potato wedge), soft fruits (like bananas, pears, melon or mango), avocado slices, peeled cucumber, or any other soft foods that are easy for baby to hold.
How do I prepare baby’s food?
The best way to prepare vegetables is by steaming them to ensure they retain all of their vitamins and minerals. If you are puréeing them, add a little of the cooking water or some milk (breast or formula) and blitz with your hand blender until smooth, then pour into ice cube trays. When the cubes are frozen, pop them into freezer bags so they are ready for baby’s next meal. Fruit can be stewed with a little water, puréed and frozen in the same way, or you could try combining fruit and vegetables – carrot and apple or parsnip and apple are surprisingly tasty choices that work well and babies love their natural sweetness.
What happens now?
Once your baby is taking about six teaspoons at one mealtime, it is probably time to introduce a second meal. This means that by the time your baby is about seven months old, she will probably be having two to three ‘meals’ a day, as well as a good amount of milk.
After the first month or two of weaning, try to introduce more textures and flavours. Adding chicken, meat, lentils and fish to baby’s diet is also important as your baby will need the additional iron that this protein provides. If you have been puréeing, consider mashing instead so that the added texture becomes more familiar to your baby.
Now that your baby is getting used to food, it is important to maintain variety at mealtimes. Different tastes and textures from an early age and, where possible, eating what the family is eating, will all help to reduce the chances of your baby becoming a fussy eater as they get older.
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