Starting solids is an exciting milestone and huge transition in your baby’s first year. When your baby seems ready (for most babies, at around six months), it’s important to let them lead the way with food. Allow them to decide how much and even whether they want to eat. Keep in mind that erratic eating patterns are perfectly normal. Just like you, your baby may be very hungry one day and less hungry the next. By being mindful of your baby’s hunger and fullness cues, you’ll both learn together.
Any new skill can be frustrating to learn, and eating solid foods is no different. To minimize the challenges, offer your child food when they are hungry, but not ravenous. Your baby’s signs for hunger may include:
- Smiling, gazing, and cooing at you during feeding
- Leaning her body or actively moving her head towards food
- Grabbing at the spoon or a hand holding food
- Attempting to swipe food toward her mouth
- Fussing and crying (provided, of course, you have ruled out other reasons like a full nappy or other discomfort)
Ideas for First Foods
Research shows that the first months of solid food eating is the best window of opportunity to get a child to eat new, healthy foods. Here are some ideas to try (no need to add salt or sugar!):
- Pureed, grated or soft cooked apple, pear or carrots
- Small pieces of ripe, soft banana, avocado, pear, peaches or kiwi
- Soft cooked pureed peas, broccoli, green beans, sweet potatoes or white potatoes
- Pureed soft cooked meats like chicken, turkey or beef
- Pureed cereals such as rice, barley, oats or quinoa
Your baby will gradually start eating food more frequently and in greater quantities, eventually eating approximately three meals and two snacks per day. To help you get there, make sure to introduce varied textures of foods. Research shows that waiting beyond nine months to progress to lumpier foods may lead to selective eating and even rejection of alternative food consistencies. So, if you begin feeding your baby purees, be sure to advance to a lumpier consistency once your baby becomes comfortable. When your baby has mastered thick and lumpy purees, move on to finger foods of various consistencies and sizes. By the end of your child’s first year they will most likely be able to sit at the family table and feed themselves soft finger foods. Examples of advancing textures include:
- Slivers or finely chopped pieces of soft cooked meat, like soup chicken or ground meat in a broth or mild sauce
- Cubes, strings, or small pieces of cheese
- Cooked whole grain pasta with some butter, olive oil, parmesan or ricotta cheese
- Cooked whole grains, like barley, oats, or quinoa
- Whole-grain bread or waffle strips
Knowing When To Take a Break
Just as you learned your baby’s signs for hunger, be mindful of her cues for fullness. Look for these signals to learn when your baby is all done:
- Pursing their lips or closing their mouth
- Turning or moving their head away from the approaching spoon or a hand holding food
- Leaning their body away from the advancing spoon or hand with food
- Acting uninterested or wanting to avoid the food entirely
- Becoming easily distracted from the food in front of them
- Spitting out the food or stopping eating altogether
Foods to Avoid
Avoid feeding your baby these specific foods in the first year:
- Honey due to the risk of botulism spores
- Whole milk due to the risk of iron deficiency and intestinal bleeding when given before 9 months
- Excess sodium and added sugars
- Foods that are dietary choking hazards such as nuts, seeds, popcorn, raisins and dried cranberries, popcorn, whole grapes and cherry tomatoes, whole kernel corn, olives, hot dogs, hard, raw fruits or vegetables such as apples, celery and carrots, chunks of meat or poultry, hard candy, gum drops and jelly beans.
- Coffee, tea and cola drinks containing caffeine which can make babies and children irritable
- Babies under 1 year should not have fruit juice. Children aged 1-3 years should have no more than 4 oz of 100% fruit juice (may be diluted with water)
What to do
- Start by offering a small amount of food one to two times per day. Offering approximately 1-2 tablespoons of food at each feeding should be sufficient. Introduce one “single-ingredient” at a time from any food group and wait 2-3 days before introducing a new one. This would allow you to observe for any allergies or intolerances.
- Offer foods when your baby is hungry but not starving. Aim to offer solid foods about an hour after your baby nurses or takes a bottle.
- Allow your child to learn to eat by experimentation. Even if this means playing with the food, throwing most or all of the food on the floor, tasting the food only to then spit it out, and even smearing the food in their hair, let your baby have fun with food!
- Never force feed your baby. Pay attention to your baby’s hunger and fullness cues, and they will eat when they are ready.
- Offer a variety of healthy foods across all food groups. Provide your baby with many opportunities to try different foods and continue to re-introduce foods they may have previously disliked.
- Introduce and advance to different textures of food. When your baby becomes comfortable with a specific texture, make sure to advance to the next stage. If you begin with pureed foods, move next to lumpy purees, then to soft finger foods, and finally to firmer finger foods. Offer your baby water in a sippy cup or regular cup when offering solids. At first it may be just something to play with, but eventually they will get the hang of it!
- Include your baby in family meals. From the beginning, expose your baby to a variety of healthy food choices and appropriate mealtime behaviour. It’s never too early to start fostering a healthy relationship with food.
When you first want to introduce baby to cereal or porridge, it is important to select a product that is filled with healthy ingredients and free from artificial flavours, colourants, sugar and preservatives. Happy Family Organics Baby Clearly Crafted Oats & Quinoa Baby Cereal (R77.04) is a fantastic place to start. Made with organic oats, vitamin C, and iron that helps support brain development, it also contains organic quinoa, a complete protein, helps keep your little one satisfied.
Available at all Baby City stores, Babies R Us, Wellness Warehouse, Selected Clicks, Selected Spars, Selected Pick N Pay stores, Selected Baby Boom, selected Dis-Chem and selected Medicare pharmacies, and online from Takealot.com, Babiesafrica.com and Faithful to Nature