Making the transition to solids
Just when we think our baby has settled into a routine, they suddenly grow more and it's time to look at introducing solids.
The most important thing to remember is there is no right or wrong way of doing this. I'd encourage you to take all the information and think about what sits right with you and your family, then go for it.
When to start
I am often asked about the best time to start a baby on solids. It really depends on the baby but is usually between four and six months. Although age is an important consideration you should also consider the growth of your baby. Your instincts as to your baby's needs, gained from watching and listening to your baby, are a good gauge too. If they have been happy and contented, are between 4 to 6 months and change to being unsettled or needy - this may be a sign of being hungry.
A few of the many cues to look for are listed below:
Baby is watching everything you eat and making mouth movements. Of course, you'll only see this if your baby can see you eating.
Their head control and ability to sit well if supported
The loss of their tongue-thrust reflex
Remember your desire for your baby to sleep through the night is not a reason to introduce your baby to solids before he/she is showing signs of readiness. After all, the cause of your baby's waking may have nothing to do with hunger, but the ability to self settle and re settle.
What to introduce first
Like anything to do with babies, there are many different ways of doing things and it is important for you as a parent to feel good about how and when you introduce foods, and which ones you choose.
Lets look at the different ways of introducing solids - these are not listed in any order.
Egg yolk, liver and beef broth. This I must confess I have never done, but it's not about what I do, but about giving you the different ways of introducing solids.
No cereals or grains before 12 months, and introducing meats at an early age. Again I have not done this, as I am about sleeping and food and getting the mix right. A lot of people today eat less meat and it is important to look at your way of eating and incorporate in your baby's diet.
In past generations there have been many ways of introducing solids. One way which is still around and again is ‘popular' now is baby led weaning. Originally baby-led weaning was when the parent chewed their food and gave it to their baby - this food would have been taken from the parent's mouth. Today it is giving our babies finger food and choices and allowing them to take what they want from this selection.
Spoon or finger feeding. This is the choice I use when introducing solids and alongside their purees I offer finger food. When offering finger food next to their purees it is about showing a baby different textures, smell and taste. I find that this also helps with the transition from purees to solids when you and your baby are ready to do this. If you are offering purees and your baby doesn't like the spoon, then use your fingers.
Which mealtime to introduce first
What time of day you start to introduce solids is entirely up to you and your baby. Some people recommend starting with lunch, however this does not seem logical to me - as when you introduce the second meal it's not evenly balanced through the day.
I take the following approach to introducing a mealtime schedule:
Start with either the morning feed at 7.00am or mid-morning feed at 10.00am (breakfast) or the evening 5.00pm (dinner time).
Babies tend to be hungrier either at the morning or early evening feed, so by observing your baby you will work out which mealtime will work best for him/her.
Two meals a day
To graduate to two meals, a day I introduce the opposite time from the first meal already introduced. For example, if I have started the baby off with breakfast then I choose dinner.
Third meal of the day
By this stage, your baby is enjoying breakfast and dinner. So now you could introduce lunch around midday to 2.00pm, making the meals evenly balanced throughout the day. For me, the introduction of lunch coincides with the inclusion of vegetables in your baby's diet.
Milk or solids first
This is a much-debated subject. Either way, milk remains an important part of a baby's diet. Once again I listen to the baby and go from there. The following are possible ways of introducing solids:
· Solids first, milk second
· Milk first, solids second
· Part milk, first, solids second and finish off with more milk
The reason it is recommended that you give milk before solids is that your baby will drink less milk and therefore will miss out on much needed nutrients and fat from their milk intake.
However, I firmly believe that a hungry baby wants food and if you mix the milk (that they normally would drink) with baby cereal or grains then they are gaining additional calories, their hunger is being satisfied and the result is a happier baby. Plus you still have the option of offering him/her milk to finish off with at the end of the meal. If you decide to mix their baby cereal with water then it is important that they have their milk first then solids second.
It is important to note that the amount of milk that a baby drinks varies from baby to baby and as long as they are happy and contented as well as weeing and pooing regularly then you should feel confident they are getting the right mix.
Introducing new foods
Cereals and grains
Amaranth, millet, quinoa, buckwheat, rice cereal (wholemeal), oatmeal (check that the oats you use are gluten free). It is important to understand that rice does not make obese babies - what makes obese babies is feeding 24/7 - the old saying ‘everything in moderation' is relevant here.
Most babies can tolerate baby rice, however if you do have a silent reflux baby this may not be the right food to start with. Use another cereal or grain from the list above.
I suggest each new food is offered every day over a three-day period, before progressing to the next food. Using this method, you can cook and puree enough to eat one day, keep enough in the fridge for the next day and freeze for thawing out for the third day.
You can freeze either in ice cube trays or on droplets on cooking paper using a flat tray, then once frozen put in zip lock bags or other freezer storage. If food is cooked, frozen and thawed, do not then re-freeze any unused food.
Always measure large tablespoons and remember good hygiene around preparation and cooking. Use the water that food has been boiled in/steamed with to puree your vegetables (except potato water).
Babies will get bored very quickly with the same flavours so work through a range of flavours. If your baby does not like something remember to reintroduce it again a little later, perhaps making sure it is not as strong in flavour as the last time.
I do not mix vegetables with fruit, however if you are having great difficulty with getting your baby to eat vegetables, then adding a little fruit to sweeten can be useful. Remember though to reduce the fruit from the vegetable gradually so your baby does not become reliant on eating vegetables only mixed with fruit.
When I introduce fruit it is always blended down with baby cereal This is for two reasons: one, fruit on its own doesn't fill their tummies and two, it can lead to the baby only liking sweet foods and therefore, offering vegetables can become a challenge.
I always offer cooked fruit versus raw fruit including bananas, which I bake before mashing. If offering prunes, I boil and then puree these, freezing in ice cubes or small amounts for future use.
Take extra care with certain foods
Bananas, apples, avocados, carrots, potatoes, kiwifruit can or may have an effect on reflux babies, so when introducing these foods do so in the middle of the day, that way you can better monitor the effect. Also, start with a small amount of the new food blended into established foods that you know your baby is okay with.
In light of increasing concerns over food allergies, there is an array of advice about when to introduce certain foods into a baby's diet. Opinions differ from one medical practitioner to another so it's best to do your research.
If your baby does have an adverse reaction (hives, swelling around the mouth or vomiting) then seek immediate medical help.
Food allergy is an immune system response. It occurs when the body mistakes an ingredient in food (usually a protein) as harmful and creates a defence system (antibodies) to fight it. The food allergy symptoms develop when the antibodies are battling the food invading their body.
Food intolerance is a digestive system response rather than a food allergy response. It occurs when something in a food irritates a baby/child's digestive system or when a baby/child is unable to properly digest or break down the food. The most common intolerance is the lactose found in milk and dairy products.
This article isn't intended to substitute for medical advice. For any concerns, consult a health professional.