Is your baby ready to try new foods? How do you introduce your child to a diversified diet? What are the foods to start with, how often should you feed your baby solids, and at what age should you start?
In this article from Kinderling, we look at some tips for starting solids, as well as several yummy recipes for babies that you’ll definitely want to have a bite of too!
What are the indicators that your baby is ready to start on solids?
Watch your baby’s behaviour
Around the six months old mark, you may notice your baby displays an active interest in your food. They may try to grab your spoon or fork, reach out for the food in your plate, or give you the “puppy eye” look when they see you eating.
Analyse the baby’s tongue thrust reflex
Babies are born with a tongue thrust reflex which protects them from choking. As they grow older, this reflex will diminish. You can easily test your baby’s reflex by touching a spoon to the tip of their tongue - do they push the spoon away? If not, it means that your baby is ready to try solids.
Review your baby’s posture control
To avoid choking, your baby should have strong neck and head muscles that prevent them from doing head wobble movements. They don’t need to be able to sit up fully unsupported, but they should have trunk, head and neck control.
Chewing becomes more common
Babies tend to “have a taste” of everything they put their hands on. However, it is only after a few months of life that you will notice your baby starts to chew and gnaw on objects. When these behaviours become more common it is a good indicator that your baby is ready to chew on some real food.
Your baby grows an appetite
In their first months of life babies gain weight just by eating breast milk or formula. However, around the time when their bodies are ready to make the switch to solid foods, you may notice that your baby’s weight plateaus. This is when breast milk/formula is no longer sufficient to keep your baby full and help them grow.
Babies don’t need to have teeth to be introduced to solids. Their gums are strong, and you will be surprised to see how much work a baby’s gums can do.
Turning the dinner table from a battleground into a positive experience
Take it slow
Food is entirely new to your baby, so they might need time to get used to all the new textures and flavours. You can avoid getting overwhelmed by slowly introducing your baby to solids and allowing them to set the pace early on.
Eat with your baby
Sharing food with your baby shows them how to pick it up and put it in their mouth and it teaches them that food is good for them (if mum or dad eats it, it must be good).
Remember that while your child is starting to enjoy the delicious taste of solid food, you also need to maintain a balanced diet that ensures your energy levels are optimum.
Accept the mess
Feeding a baby can be a messy situation, but that is all part of the learning process. As the baby gets used to solids, it is good to encourage them to touch the food and even have a play with it.
Your baby might chew then spit, then chew then spit again. While this means you will have some cleanup to do, it is a process that helps your baby feel safe from choking, a thing we discussed earlier in this article.
Give your baby some control
Food is new to your baby; while they might enjoy some dishes at first, they might not like others that much or you may conclude that your baby is going to be a fussy eater. An easy way to figure out what your baby likes to eat is to give them several options they can choose from and see which dishes they prefer.
At the same time, you can encourage your baby to pick up their food themselves. You can do this by filling up a spoon with puree, putting it on the highchair tray, and encouraging the baby to pick it up themselves.
Make food time part of your baby’s schedule
Just like sleeping, bath time or potty training time, feeding time should be part of your baby’s regular schedule. Ideally, the baby should be rested, not too tired and just starting to feel hungry.
Prepare your baby for feeding time
You can easily do this by introducing your baby to meal rituals:
There are plenty of ideas that can help you create a ritual and you can test several ones before deciding upon a few. The main point is to keep things relaxed and fun and keep in mind it’s ok if your baby plays with food.
Yummy recipes to try out
The recommended way to introduce your baby to solids is through purees. They are easy to chew (no teeth required!) and can be really delicious.
Coming up with new recipes that are tasty and nutritious can be a challenge, though. Here are three delicious recipes you can use when you run out of ideas for meals:
Pumpkin and lentil puree
Put the pumpkin in a streamer tray and place the tray over a saucepan of boiling water. Cover and steam for 5-8 minutes.
If you have time, try roasting the pumpkin pieces for an extra flavour hit.
Pop the pumpkin and lentils in a blender and puree until smooth.
Poached chicken puree
1/2 chicken breast (approx 150g)
1/2 cup pick 'n' mix green vegetables (such as zucchini, broccoli, baby spinach)
1/2 cup pick 'n' mix orange/red vegetables (such as carrot, pumpkin, capsicum)
1/2 cup pick 'n' mix fruit (such as apple, pear, apricot, peach)
1/3 cup water
Bring 2 cups of water to the boil in a small saucepan.
Add the chicken, simmer and cook for 3-5 minutes.
Put the fruit and vegetables in a steamer basket over a saucepan of boiling water.
Steam for 5-10 minutes or until soft.
Puree the fruit and vegetables with the chicken and water. Add more water if needed to reach the consistency you want.
Papaya Mango Pear puree
½ papaya, seeded, skin removed, diced
1 mango, diced
3 pears, peeled, cored, diced
3 apricots, cored, diced
1 cup of water
Peel, core and dice all the fruit.
Heat water in a medium saucepan, then add the fruit and simmer for around 8 minutes.
Blend together, adding the cooking water until your puree reaches the consistency you want.
This article was provided by Kinderling as part of their Kinderling Conversations podcast series. Tune in on weekdays from 12pm to listen to more parenting tips.