Simple steps to starting solids
Starting your baby on solids forms the beginning of her lifelong eating habits. So it’s a daunting time for you. We’ve made it easy with our step-by-step guide.
Starting solids
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Nursing sister, Burgie Ireland says that the ideal time to start solids is 6 months. She explains, “When babies start teething and crawling is a good time to start your baby on solid food. This is because she is ready to chew and would be comfortable sitting in a high chair and holding her trunk and head steadily. Her gut and immune system are also more mature at this age, which means that she can tolerate solids better.”  Complementary foods (which are any solid foods and liquids other than breast milk or infant formula) are added to a baby’s diet when her nutritional needs are no longer met by breastmilk, or formula. Before the age of 6 months, your baby gets all the nutrients she needs from your breastmilk or iron-fortified formula, so there is really no need to supplement her diet with solid food.   Burgie recommends staring your baby on something bland like rice cereal.

Foods to avoid

Do not feed your baby cow’s milk before she is a year old. This is because cow’s milk is a poor source of iron and doesn't offer sufficient nutritional benefits. Avoid peanuts, fish and eggs in the first year  Honey is also a food best to be avoided until your baby is a year old. Infant botulism has been repeatedly linked to the consumption of honey in infants. Spores of Clostridium botulinum in honey can grow inside your baby’s intestines and release a toxin. Babies under 12 months of age are susceptible to this.

About allergies

A food allergy occurs when your baby’s immune system mistakes a harmless substance that has been imbibed for a harmful one, so her body produces antibodies to protect her from any future exposures. Your baby will not show a reaction to the food the first time she eats it, but subsequent exposure will lead to a reaction. Symptoms of a food allergy in your baby may include diarrhoea, eczema, nausea, vomiting, presence of blood in the stools, a stuffy or runny nose, wheezing and red, watery eyes. Breastfeeding until at least 4 months of age may reduce the risk of atopic disease such as asthma, atopic dermatitis and food allergies.

The best way to introduce solids

According to Alison Lang, a clinical dietician with a special interest in paediatrics, weaning can be broken down into 3 stages:  

STAGE ONE  6 months (or weaning age) to 7 months 

What should I be feeding my baby?
  • Smooth purées.
  • First foods should be easy to digest, very soft and a texture that’s close to the milk or formula your baby is used to. Start with baby rice cereal, maize-based cereals mixed with a bit of breast or bottle milk, or vegetables or fruit. Once your baby is eating these, gradually introduce a greater variety, including meat, poultry, pulses and potato.
How often and how much should I be feeding my baby?
  • Start by feeding your baby 1 to 2 teaspoons up to twice a day 
  • After a couple of weeks of this add a third feed.
  • Over the next few weeks, gradually increase the thickness of the purée and the amount of food you feed your baby to half a cup.
  • Let the amount of food you feed your baby be led by her. Don’t force her into eating a certain amount. She will eat until she’s full.
Note that food containing gluten (wheat, barley, oats and rye) should only be introduced between 4 and 7 months. Very early introduction of gluten into the diet is linked to increased risk of coeliac disease. Burgie says, “Lunch time is the best time to introduce new foods to your baby as you can spend a bit of time with her. New textures and tastes should not be rushed – an older baby is more prepared to experiment than a young baby is.” 

STAGE TWO 7 to 9 months 

What should I be feeding my baby?
  • Increase the variety of solids by introducing savoury and sweet food in one sitting. This can be done by following a savoury meal with something a little sweeter like mashed banana.
  • Encourage your baby to start chewing by introducing more lumpy food. Your baby will also start to enjoy finger food at this stage, such as buttered toast, slices of peeled fruit, soft cooked vegetables and rusks. Never leave your baby alone to eat these types of food in case of choking.
How often and how much should I be feeding my baby?
  • Feed your baby solids 3 times a day at this stage, and breastfeed 3 to 4 times or give your baby about 600ml of formula.
Note that it’s important to feed your baby food that is rich in iron. This is because 90% of your baby’s iron needs should be coming from solids at this stage. Food rich in iron includes chicken, fish, meat, pulses and leafy green vegetables.

STAGE THREE 9 to 12 months 

What should I be feeding my baby?
  • Baby should be moving on to normal family food that is chopped or minced.
  • Encourage your baby to drink from a sippy cup at this stage.
Your baby can also feed herself now, so be prepared for messy mealtimes!  How often and how much should I be feeding my baby?
  • Feed your baby solids 3 times a day, and complement this with up to 600ml of formula or breastfeed 2 to 3 times per day.
  • 90% of your baby’s iron needs should be coming from solids at this stage. Food rich in iron includes chicken, fish, meat, pulses and leafy green vegetables.

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