Starting solids can be a confusing stage. Here are some tips to help you on your baby's journey.
It’s an exciting day
when baby has their first solid meal. I
remember putting banana on my son’s high chair tray which he dipped his fingers
into and licked off with glee, repeating it until all the banana was gone. My daughter’s experience was a little
different; I was holding her while I ate a chicken and bacon wrap, when she
leaned over, took a bite, chewed, swallowed and took another bite.
When should the momentous day take place?
Our department of
health, in line with the World Health Organisation and most health authorities
around the world, such as the National Health Service (NHS) in England, Health Canada, The American Academy of
Paediatrics (AAP) and others recommend baby being exclusively breastfed until 6 months and then solids added to their diet.
In practice, you don’t
have to give on the day your baby turns 6 month, but rather watch for signs
that baby is ready for something other than milk, which is generally around the
middle of the first year (the age range probably about ages 5 – 8 months with
most babies being around the 6 month mark and a tiny number at the early and
What signs will my baby give that they are
A young baby only has
the digestive enzymes for digesting milk. Around the middle of the first year they start producing other enzymes
for digesting other food, and when they’re ready on the inside, they start
showing signson the outside.
Baby can sit up
unsupported on your lap or in a high chair (this means they’re less likely to
choke). Baby can grab food, bring it to
their mouth and suck on it and gum it and swallow it (they may have been
gumming food without swallowing for a while already and will have been getting
toys into their mouths and even cutlery at meal times too, cutlery is shiny and
interesting). Most importantly, the
tongue thrust reflex has faded. This is
a protective mechanism to prevent anything going down other than liquids. This fades when the sucking pads (fat pads)
in baby’s mouth also begin to reduce in size. This gives more space for baby’s tongue to move food to the back of the
mouth and swallow it. These signs are
usually present around the middle of the first year.
Purées and Baby Led Weaning
Some mothers like to
blitz the family meals for baby in the blender and others prefer to let baby
sit with everyone and help themselves to what the family is eating. Before blenders babies were fed with the
family. Purées were originally made to
enable babies to be given solid food before they were ready, by liquefying it
and bypassing the tongue thrust reflex. If
you prefer purées or like to do some finger food and some purées then, wait
till baby is truly ready and stop offering spoonfuls when baby turns their head
Babies who breastfeed
are used to a variety of tastes because mom’s milk is flavoured by what she
eats, so there is no need to offer bland cereal as a starter food. Babies like adults should eat a variety of
foods and not just a single food, so although there is nothing wrong with
including cereal in baby’s diet (despite some of the scare stories you hear),
be sure to include fruit, vegetables, protein and all the various food groups
to ensure baby gets all the nutrients they need. Breastmilkcontinues to be the main source of
food for the first year and after that it's nutritional insurance for picky
Some mothers who
formula feed find that as baby is used to each meal tasting the same, that
cereal is a good stepping stone and they can start mixing vegetable and fruit
in to gently get baby onto a variety of foods.
Baby can be introduced
to new foods in fairly quick succession.
Also, if your baby has sucked on a strip of chicken breast before they
were chewing and swallowing, we now know that this early exposure won’t necessarily
trigger allergies. This doesn't mean
that babies should be given solids before they’re ready in order to avoid
allergies. Solids given before baby is
ready can lead to stomach cramps and can mean baby takes in too little of the
calorie dense milk they need for the intense growth in the first year of life.
If you are concerned
about allergies or your family or your husband’s family are allergy sufferers
or baby reacted to something you ate while breastfeeding (they got eczema or a
rash and allergy testing showed it was related to your diet and not
coincidental), you may find it helpful to see a dietician before starting your
baby on solids.
How did your baby enjoy their first solids?