Starting solids with your baby, whether its the first time or the fifth time you have done it, is an exciting time! Watching your baby develop a whole new range of skills is fun, but many parents can also find this time to be can be a bit daunting and overwhelming.
There are a number of questions that parents have at this time but we have compiled our Top 10 most frequently asked questions to get you started!
1. When should I start solids?
Solids should be started when your baby is showing signs that they are ready to eat. This will usually occur somewhere between 4-6 months of age. Due to the immaturity of an infant’s gut, solids should not be started prior to 4 months or 17 weeks of age.
Signs of readiness include:
- The ability to sit supported
- Reduced tongue thrust
- Showing an interest when you are eating
- Putting lots of things in their mouth (or at least trying to!)
- A possible increase in appetite
2. What should I give my baby?
When you first start solids, I recommend that you introduce foods one at a time. If you are starting solids via the conventional method, start with some iron fortified rice cereal and progressively move on to a variety of different vegetables, fruits, meats/meat alternatives and grains.
If you are doing baby-led weaning, start out with some easy to hold foods such as meat cutlets, pieces of steamed/baked vegetables, soft pieces of fruit, toast crusts with various toppings etc.
3. Should I do baby-led weaning or start with purees?
This is a personal choice with different mums feeling passionate about one technique over the other. The most important thing is that if you choose to go down the baby-led weaning path then please let your baby lead the process. If they are not interested or are struggling with the whole foods, consider using a combination of conventional and baby-led weaning options.
If you are choosing to use the conventional method of introducing solids (ie. starting with purees and progressing through textures from there), be sure to progress with the textures of the foods provided to your baby. Ideally avoid using the purees bought in food pouches as the texture in these pouches is very unnatural and some babies struggle to move on from that texture when given too much of it.
4. How much should my baby be having?
That is completely up to your baby. While it’s hard not to compare how much other babies in your mother’s groups might be eating, this is an area of development that varies from child to child.
Remember that introducing solids is about teaching your baby a new skill, exposing them to new experiences, flavours, smells, textures and tastes so the amount that they consume really doesn’t matter.
If your baby has been happily eating and they start to turn their head away or push the food away, it is their way of telling you that they have had enough.
If you have a baby who has never turned their head away from food, when you think that you have given a good portion of a meal (and they don’t get cross with you when the meal ends), then they’ve had enough too.
5. When should I increase to two meals per day?
It is recommended to increase to two meals per day once your baby is managing approximately 2 tablespoons of food (if conventionally fed with increasing textures).
If you are introducing solids with baby led weaning, you can probably start with two meals when you feel that there is time in the day to do it. It can take a long time for baby-led-weaning babies to really start swallowing any food, but more practice will perfect the skill.
6. How do I know if they have an allergy/intolerance to foods I am giving them?
We usually recommend for new foods to be introduced every 2-3 days so that you can pick up on any adverse reactions (whether that be an allergic reaction, or a slightly upset tummy or other discomfort).
If you are worried that your child might have an intolerance, and you have introduced a number of different foods all at once, it is best to remove all new foods introduced over the past 3-5 days and then try them all individually to see which one was the culprit.
If you are concerned that your child has had/is having an allergic reaction, either present to your GP (if less severe like a rash) or call an ambulance if they appear to be having a severe reaction (like swelling of their lips or face and any difficulty breathing). If the reaction is severe, you will be referred to a specialist allergist for a formal assessment and possible allergy testing (note that allergy testing is not very accurate in children under 12 months of age, so if your paediatrician/allergist doesn’t suggest formal testing, this could be why!)
7. I have introduced solids and my baby has become constipated, what do I do now?
It is quite common for babies to become a bit constipated when they start solids as their digestive system has never had to break down/digest food before as it has previously received only breast milk or infant formula which are easy to absorb.
If your child has become constipated, try to increase their fluid intake with water. Sometimes temporarily reducing the volume of food that your child eats each day can help too and other times, babies need some mild laxatives/stool softeners to help them while their digestive system gets used to food.
If the constipation becomes extremely distressing for you and your baby, visit your GP or Paediatrician for a check up to see that the constipation doesn’t have any other cause.
8. When should I decrease the number of breast/formula feeds?
When solids are well established, most babies will naturally reduce the amount of breastfeeds/formula feeds that they take. They might start to fuss at one feed time of the day or they may always leave majority of a bottle behind. If this is the case, stop offering that bottle/breastfeed and consider offering a small snack in it’s place.
9. Can I add salt or sugar to my baby’s foods?
Babies (or children for that matter… or adults come to think of it) do not need salt or sugar added to their food. As mentioned earlier, introducing solids is about introducing your baby to lots of different tastes, smells, textures and flavours of food and they don’t need any added salt or sugar to change the real (and delicious!) flavours of the natural foods.
If you are offering your baby some family foods (which I strongly encourage you to do), be sure to a portion aside before salt is added to the recipe (or try as a family to omit salt – it takes two weeks for your taste buds to adjust!).
10. Do you have website/recipes/cookbook you recommend to give me some ideas of what to feed my baby?
I don’t tend to recommend particular cookbooks for baby foods as what I want more than anything is for your baby to be introduced to your family’s food. Starting out with individual foods (vegetables, fruits, meats, grains etc) and gradually creating meals out of them is the way to go. I’m not too interested in whether your baby can tolerate celeriac if you as a family would never eat celeriac!
I have seen many grumpy parents who have reported to me that they have spent hours preparing meals from cookbooks called “Food your baby will love” (or something to that effect) only to have the foods rejected by their children (and the food is often too bland for adults to enjoy so it is wasted).
There are many websites with some great finger food recipes that the whole family are likely to enjoy but it comes back to personal preferences and tastes. If your baby is watching you and any siblings enjoying certain foods, they are the things they are more likely to want to try.