When and what to start with...
When to start solids?
The World Health Organisation recommends introducing solids from 6 months though despite this recommendation here in Australia you’ll find people starting as early as 4 months.
Each baby is different so the key indicators for readiness are:
1. Your baby being able to sit up unassisted so they are less likely to choke and more able to swallow… imagine trying to eat in a reclined position.
2. Your baby showing an interest in food when you eat…so following food with their eyes and trying to reach for food as you put it in your mouth.
So use the above as a guide on when to start remembering your baby will show you when they are ready. If you start too early and you can see it’s not really happening for your baby then ease off, take a break for a few weeks and try again at a later time.
What to start with?
Baby-led-weaning (BLW) or purees or both?
Lots of people will tell you to start with rice cereals as these will ‘fill them up’ and therefore ‘help them sleep better’ but it’s not accurate. It is very hard to digest and can make for tummy upsets and worsening sleep. I’ve provided a link to an article below which discusses this in more detail.
We also tend to have more intolerances to grains and gluten than we do to fruits and vegetables so it’s logical to start with fruit and vegetables (single fruits or single vegetables) e.g. pear, apple, pumpkin, sweet potato as first foods then progress to protein, grains then gluten/dairy. Avoid honey until after 12 months but otherwise it’s generally considered safe for babies to eat all of the foods below from 6 months of age.
You can choose to start with purees or go straight to finger foods (also known as baby led weaning) or do both. Here are some great suggestions on first ‘finger foods’ from the Australian Breastfeeding Association (link below for full article):
Fruit: Grated apple or other fruit; piece of banana or ripe avocado; pieces of melon or pawpaw (without seeds); an orange quarter, minus peel and seeds; stone fruit with stone removed; peeled and cored apple or pear.
Meat or alternative: A small amount of meat on a safe bone, for example, chicken leg bone, lamb chop; fingers of grilled or baked liver or kidney; rissoles or slices of homemade meat loaf; firm tofu cooked in long thin slices.
Fish: Homemade fish fingers or fish cakes; flakes of cooked fish with every bone removed.
Vegetables: Cooked green stringless beans; cooked broccoli or cauliflower floret; fingers of cooked potato, carrot or other vegetable; grated raw carrot. If baby has teeth, try a piece of raw celery or other salad vegetables.
Bread: White ‘high-fibre’ or wholemeal; homemade rusks (bake thick slices or crusts in a very slow oven until they are quite crisp and dry); toast, plain, buttered, or sometimes use a spread thinly; sandwiches.
Pasta: Boiled, cooled, pasta shapes, with meat/vegetables from a casserole.
Eggs: Pieces of hard-boiled egg yolk or whole egg; strips of omelette.
Milk products: Fingers of cheese; grated cheese. Yoghurt, very soft cheeses and custard can be eaten by using other finger foods as dippers.
Start slowly so you can monitor for any reactions (redness around the mouth is a sign of a slight intolerance or allergy but any sign of welts, swelling to the face, hands or neck, or any difficulty breathing are signs of a more severe reaction/allergy so seek medical help immediately if you see this. Feed new foods around mid-morning or lunchtime so you can watch for any reactions and notice whether you see any changes in sleep.
It’s a fun time and very messy but that’s part of the experimentation for babies. Some babies need to touch, taste, smell and experience some foods many times before they will ‘like’ them so it’s important to offer a wide range even if you feel most of it ends up on the walls initially
Compiled by Carla Morgan, Maternity & Child Sleep Consultant, Childbirth Educator.