Babies grow and change so quickly and at around six months old your baby will start wanting to change their diet from just milk, to mostly milk and a little bit of solid food.
There is a huge amount of information available on how best to introduce your baby to solids and it can all get a bit confusing and overwhelming so we have broken it down into the top 5 things you need to keep in mind.
1. It’s all in the timing
The best time to start your baby on solids depends very much on your baby. If you start too soon, they may not be interested or even able to eat solid food. If you start too late, you run the risk of your baby’s iron stores running low. The good news is that your baby should give you some clear hints that they are ready to start solids, usually around 6 months of age, including:
- Watching you as you eat, reaching for food that is nearby, and even mimicking you biting and chewing
- Your baby can hold their head up well – they likely won’t be sitting independently but they will have a lovely strong upper back and neck
- Their tongue-thrust reflex has gone. When they are born, babies have a reflex that means they push their tongue forward and out when something it put in their mouth. This is perfect for breastfeeding, and also for avoiding choking, but not useful for eating solids
- They open their mouth when something touches their lips, or if you offer food
- They seem hungry after a milk feed or are asking for more milk feeds
2. Start slowly and repeat
When you first start offering solids, make it relaxed and fun. Plan to start when you have plenty of time and your baby is happy and relaxed. Get them secure in a slightly reclined position such as on your lap, in a bouncer or a highchair with an adjustable back. Pop a tiny amount on their tongue – the first few solid feeds will literally be not much more than a teaspoon full in total!
If your baby is not interested, stop and try again in another few days.
Start by offering one smooth solid meal a day for a few days, then slowly increase the frequency and texture.
3. Rejection isn’t final
Up until now your baby has had a diet of just milk or infant formula, so the introduction of new flavours to their taste buds can be a journey. Offer the same food for three days or so and then introduce another one. If the new one is rejected, wait a few days and try again with a tiny amount. You may need to try this strategy several times before they take it.
4. Planning ahead
Once your baby is established on solids you need to ensure you have plenty on hand. Their first foods need to be smooth, runny and easy for them to swallow. You can then slowly introduce more texture and variety.
Ideal first foods include baby rice cereal, pureed fruit, and pureed vegetables. Ensure skin, pips and seeds are removed from the fruit before you puree them.
Life with a baby is very busy, especially during the morning rush, so having a nutritious, delicious go-to for those moments when time is short is useful.
5. Solids and sleep
If your baby is waking a lot in the night it is tempting to try them on solids early to see if they will sleep longer, especially if you have a baby who is awake regularly during the night. However, a number of studies conducted over the years have failed to conclusively point to the introduction of solids being a magic sleep inducer. It is important to realise that a small amount of solids will not give your baby as much energy, fat and protein as milk does.
Furthermore, if you try to introduce solids too early your baby may not be physically ready to swallow or digest them and it can quickly become an exercise in upset and frustration for all involved.
It is best to look at the timely introduction of solids as a part of their overall development and not just how it might improve their sleep. If you are struggling with sleep, seek advice from your Plunket nurse, WellChild provider or doctor.
Written by Robyn
Robyn creates content on Kidspot NZ. Her hobbies include buying cleaning products and wondering why things don’t then clean themselves, eating cheese scones with her friends, and taking her kids to appointments.