Tips for starting your baby on first foods

Timea West ND. BHom. BNat. DNut. Nutrition Strategist, Facilitator

Categories: Feeding

At about six months, infants are often ready for their first food experience. When starting on first foods, always ensure that the texture is a smooth puree. Make purees out of foods that are iron rich and contain a variety of nutrients.

Signs of readiness to start solids when the infant shows the following:

  • Can sit up with little or no support
  • Have a good control and support of their head and neck
  • Showing interest in food, e.g. watching people eat and opening their mouths or reaching for food
  • Losing their extrusion reflex/tongue thrust (the reflex where the tongue pushes food out of the mouth)

Tips for feeding

  • The texture of first foods can gradually progress from a smooth pureed consistency, to chunky mash, to finger food (such as strips of roast pumpkin or sweet potatoes) then chopped up family food
  • Feed slowly and patiently
  • Encourage them to eat but do not force them, offer them the same food multiple times, giving them time to like it. It may take up to 20 separate times for a baby to try something before they can really evaluate if they like a flavor and the texture!
  • Start with small amounts of food and increase the amount gradually
  • If you are breastfeeding, breastfeed the baby before feeding them solids which can line their intestinal tracts to help prepare for solids
  • When the infant has control over their hand eye coordination a bit better and can put things in their mouth, let them take food from their plate and put it in their mouth themselves. Be prepared for a big mess but understand that mess is an important part of a child’s development!

Milestones and textures (6-8 months):

When starting on first foods around 6 months of age always make sure that the texture is a smooth puree. Ensure that foods are iron rich and contain a variety of nutrients. You can do this by offering a wide variety of whole foods (and preferably not processed foods). Preparing these can be fairly simple, steam, boil or roast before mashing or blending. Here is an example of what foods you can start your baby’s food journey!

Your baby's first food journey (6+ months)

All of these veggies pack a serious punch when it comes to health benefits and they make great first foods:

  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Parsnip
  • Swede
  • Sweet potato
  • Spinach

These veggies all have a huge amount of fiber, which adds bulk to stool and helps it pass smoothly through the digestive tract, stimulates peristaltic motion and secretion of gastric juices. It also helps prevent constipation, and has protective effect in the stomach and colon against various illnesses.

Broccoli

Benefits for your baby

B for bliss…Broccoli contains a good amount of B vitamins and it plays a major role in having healthy nervous system function so "Blend Broccoli for a Blissful life!"

It also plays an important role in growth and development, and healthy energy levels. A strong antioxidant that helps with eyes and skin health. It clears toxins from the body relating to symptoms of itches, rashes and eczema. Broccoli also prevents constipation and gentle on the bowels. It boosts the immune system, promotes strong bones and teeth and is also fantastic food in pregnancy and when breastfeeding. Broccoli is also an excellent food source to help fight against iron deficiency anemia!

Nutrients

  • Vitamin A
  • B complex including Folate
  • Vitamin C, E, K
  • Iron
  • Potassium
  • Selenium
  • Manganese
  • Magnesium
  • Phosphorus
  • Beta carotene
  • Zinc
  • Omega 3 fatty acids

Carrots

Benefits for your baby

Carrots are a great source of antioxidants and are essential for eye and skin health. They have antiseptic and antibacterial qualities and help boost the immune system. Carrots stimulate the gums and saliva production which combats bacteria causing cavities and other oral health issues.

Nutrition

  • Beta-carotene
  • Vitamin A, C, K, B5, B8, folate
  • Biotin
  • Iron
  • Potassium

Parsnip

Benefits for your baby

Parsnip improves digestive processes. It promotes proper growth and development, strengthens the immune system and protects the cardiovascular system. Due to its potassium content it plays an integral part in healthy neural system activity and brain health which increases cognition and concentration.

Nutrients

  • Iron
  • Zinc
  • Magnesium
  • manganese
  • Folate
  • Potassium
  • Vitamin B, C, E and K

Swede

Benefits for your baby

Due to its antioxidant qualities, swede is excellent for boosting the immune system. It also improves digestive health, metabolic functions and helps to build strong bones.

Nutrients

  • Manganese
  • Potassium
  • Phosphorus
  • Magnesium
  • Calcium
  • Iron
  • Zinc
  • Vitamins B, C, E, K
  • Carotenoids
  • Glucosinolates

Sweet potato

Benefits for your baby

Sweet potato is another good immune system booster and antioxidant with anti-inflammatory properties. It also helps reduce nasal congestion which makes it a great food to have in the autumn and winter months when it is actually in season! Due to its vitamin C and Beta carotene content sweet potato plays a role in eye and skin health. It also contains Iron for healthy growth and development.

Nutrients

  • Beta carotene
  • Vitamins C and B complex
  • Iron
  • Phosphorus
  • Magnesium

Pumpkin

Benefits for your baby

Pumpkin is another vegetable that plays an important role in eye and skin health, strengthens the immune system and helps to build strong bones. It also prevents inflammatory conditions, helps eliminate parasites and boosts respiratory health (great for winter time!).

Pumpkin has all-around antiseptic, antimicrobial and antifungal properties internally, which makes it a great food to eat during both the cold & flu season and summer gut bug season too! You can also blend the cousins of pumpkin such as squash and marrow, as they have the same amazing health benefits.

Nutrients

  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamins C, E, B complex including folate
  • Magensium
  • Potassium
  • Manganese
  • Copper
  • Phosphorus
  • Calcium
  • Iron
  • Carotenoids
  • Omega 3 fatty acids

Spinach

Benefits for your baby

Spinach is great source of antioxidants. Due to its Iron content, it plays a vital role in growth, development and healthy energy levels. It helps promote strong muscles and improves eye health (Co-Q10). 

Due to its vitamin K content, it stimulates bone mineralization and together with manganese, copper, magnesium, zinc and phosphorus it helps build healthy teeth and nails. Spinach also has a protective effect on the skin.

In addition, the proteins in spinach are easily broken down by enzymes into amino acids that are essential for your baby. These play an important role in growth and muscle development, strengthening the metabolism and provides sustainable energy levels without spikes. This enables organs to function at an optimal level.  

Spinach is also a great food source in pregnancy to help fetal development. The Vitamin A in spinach helps fetal lung development and it can also pass through via breastmilk to pass the healthy benefits onto your baby.

Nutrients

  • Vitamin A, C, K
  • B complex
  • Beta carotene
  • Chlorophyllin
  • Iron
  • Magnesium
  • Manganese
  • Copper
  • Zinc
  • Calcium
  • Potassium
  • Coenzyme-Q10
  • High amount of protein

How do I prepare food for my baby?

  1. Steam or boil (or roast) a small amount/1 cup of just one of these vegetables
  2. Blend it into a smooth puree and offer small amounts to start with. You may need to add a little water that you cooked the veg in (or water or formula) to achieve a smooth texture
  3. Stay with the same vegetable for a few days (say 3 days) before moving onto the next one
  4. Roughly 21 days later, cook 2 of the veg and mix them together such as:
  • Broccoli and sweet potato
  • Carrots and parsnips
  • Spinach and swede
  • Pumpkin and carrots

     5. Again, stay with each mix for a few days to give the infant a chance to experience new textures and flavors. You can mix and match the veg any way you like.

What are the benefits of preparing my own baby food?

  • Be in control of what your baby eats
  • No hidden ingredients and allergens
  • No hidden sugars and salt

What should I avoid?

Don't...

  • Give your child honey before 12 months of age as it may result in infant botulism cause by bacteria found in honey
  • Be sure to watch out for hidden ingredients in infant cereals, such as maltodextrin or corn syrup solids.  Its Glycemic Index (GI) is metabolically equivalent to glucose (dextrose). In other words, it is equivalent to having sugar but not as sweet
  • Give your child any whole nuts or hard foods due to the risk of choking
  • Offer your child any fruit juices and sugar sweetened drinks
  • Add salt or sugar to infant foods
  • Provide nutrient-poor discretionary foods such as cakes, biscuits, chips, lollies etc.  

Written by Timea West ND. BHom. BNat. DNut. Nutrition Strategist, Facilitator

Timea graduated in 2006 with a Bachelor degree in Naturopathic medicine, a Bachelor degree in Homeopathic medicine and an Advanced Diploma of Nutrition. She has been in clinical practice in Sydney, Brisbane and in the UK for the past decade and in 2008 developed her own trademark in the industry ‘Multi-Modality Health Management system (MMHM)’ while establishing her inner and outer health and wellbeing centre in Sydney with a team of 14 employees.Currently engaged in numerous aspects of the health industry, lecturing at various companies, facilitates corporate health workshops, an educator and writer for Playgroup QLD children’s health. Timea specialises in several areas of integrative medicine including longevity, diabetes, weight management, natural fertility, healthy pregnancy and healthy baby and child development.


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