Introducing solids is the beginning of experiencing new tastes and textures for your baby. It is a time of change and maturing of the digestive system and change to your baby’s gut flora. Introducing solids helps to build fine motor skills, jaw muscles, and creates a social connection. It is the beginning of a lifelong relationship with food.
This is a new and exciting stage of development for you and your baby. We need it to be fun for both of you.
SIGNS OF READINESS FOR SOLIDS.
Signs that your child is developmentally ready to start solid food may include:
- Being able to hold their head up independently.
- Able to sit upright independently.
- Looking with interest at what you are eating.
- Reaching out for foods and putting things into their mouth.
- We want them to have lost the “extrusion reflex”; this is where the tongue pushes forward in the mouth and pushed food out.
? Sometimes it can be difficult to know when your baby is ready to start solid food. You might like to talk to your Child Health Nurse or your GP. You might like to try and realize it’s too early. It is okay to stop and then retry again in a couple of weeks?.
INTRODUCING TEXTURES & TASTES.
There is currently two basic principals on how to start solid food.
1) Start with puree and increase textures to smooth mash, then to lumpy food. Babies then progress to chewing and finger foods by 7-9 months. Finger foods should be introduced by 8 months of age in general. The range of textures and the consistency of foods shoul犀利士 d be based on the developmental stage of each child.
2) Baby-led weaning. The idea is that you closely follow the child’s lead and signs of readiness. There is a growing body of research to support this method. However as your child will not be co-ordinated enough to get much food into their mouth, at first, you may need to be mindful of the intake of iron. But as their skills improve so will their intake. Baby-led weaning allows babies to self regulates their own appetite, experience family foods, tastes, and textures.
3) A combination of both these methods is most often used. By offering important foods like iron-rich puree food, alongside a wide range of finger foods, the child can explore taste and texture. Learn to chew while being exposed to the family diet.
Which ever method you choose make sure your baby is sitting in a chair, you are present and relaxed and the foods you choose are appropriate for your babies developmental ability.
Obesity in later life can be closely related to food choices in early life. The latest research shows that early nutrition significantly impacts obesity in later life. Introducing solids is a great time for families to start eating healthy foods, learn to cook at home and model good eating habits.
It is important not to have any sweetened drinks, including juices or cordial. Water is all kids need.
Breastfeeding seems to be protective against obesity but this is not fully understood as yet. Breastfeeding is encouraged to 2 years of age by the World Health Organisation.
We know that kids need to offered food repeatedly before they accept it. So offering a variety of foods, including bitter green vegetables, improve the acceptance of diverse food. Children have a natural tendency for sweet foods, so the early introduction of these will only increase that tendency. For more information about this read our article on picky eating.
There is no need to add sugar or salt to foods. Babies have far more taste buds than adults do so they can “taste” foods more than we can.
Your child will learn to express their independence and self-determination of requesting food. So if we only have healthy options for them to choose from they will learn to enjoy a wide variety of healthy foods rather than preferring sweet/salty foods.
Follow cues of the child, if they are hungry offer food but if they are not hungry, they do not need to eat. If this is a concern to you, speak to your GP or child health nurse to make sure they are gaining weight and growing.
To prevent obesity in children we also want to: Not use food as a reward. Encourage mindful eating – no screen time while eating.
FOOD ALLERGY IN CHILDREN
High allergen foods need to be introduced one at a time. There are 8 top allergen foods these are cows milk, hens eggs, soy, peanuts, wheat, fish, and seafood. The latest evidence states that we should expose early (on or before 6 months) and at least twice per week. This has been shown to decrease the risk of allergy. Website “Nip allergies in the bud” for more information.
Do NOT give raw egg under 12 months, due to the risk of salmonella.
Giving an egg for the first time. It is advisable to cook the egg for at least 30 minutes at 180 degrees. This could be a quiche type egg dish. It is encouraged to give the egg early in the day so that you can monitor your child for any reaction.
Do NOT give Honey under 12 months, due to the risk of botulism.
AT THE DINNER TABLE.
All meals should be eaten together and at the dinner table. This will model good eating, promote the acceptance of new foods as you show they are safe to eat and that you enjoy them.
Early expose to bitter and sour tastes is vital to prevent fussy eaters.
Make the feeding environment happy, calm and safe for your baby. Have your baby sit in a chair to eat.
Food exploration can be really messy. But it is needed for children to become comfortable with textures, temperatures, and tastes. A drop sheet under the high chair can help with the mess.
KEY POINTS TO REMEMBER ABOUT INTRODUCTION OF SOLIDS.
Enjoy feeding your baby, make it a happy occasion. If you are feeling anxious or frightened about allowing your child to eat foods, or making a mess, please talk with your child health nurse, GP or psychologist and let us help you work around these concerns.
Make the first foods that your baby tastes be from your family diet – get them use to what you eat early.
Include the bitter and bland tasting foods regularly so the child learns to enjoy them.
Learn and listen to your Childs hunger cues.
Offer water in a wide mouthed cup by 6 months of age. ?Start in the bath … less mess?!
Start your allergenic foods early and talk to your doctor if you have concerns about any food.
Offer increase texture as your Childs development allows, this will vary between children.
Delay introduction of foods high in salt or artificial sugars as children have a built-in preference for these anyway.