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  • Shaken Baby Syndrome

    Tuesday, 21 July 2015 16:28
  • Amniotic fluid problems

    Thursday, 14 May 2015 12:54
  • Choosing a pre-school

    Friday, 10 April 2015 17:50
  • Newborn reflexes

    Tuesday, 03 March 2015 15:49
  • Mastitis

    Tuesday, 03 March 2015 15:41
  • Pelvic floor exercises

    Wednesday, 11 February 2015 17:20
  • Colic

    Wednesday, 11 February 2015 17:11
  • Antenatal Classes

    Monday, 03 June 2013 09:34
  • Strap-in-the-Future

    Thursday, 30 June 2011 13:52

Introducing Solids

Introducing solids can be a very exciting stage of development in your baby’s life; as a parent, it can also be very intimidating. By understanding your baby’s needs and abilities at this time, it will hopefully become a pleasurable experience for the whole family and the beginning of a lifetime of healthy eating habits.


When should I introduce solid foods?

Most infant health bodies like WHO, the American Academy of Paediatrics as well as paediatricians and nutritionists used to recommend that babies were started on solid foods between the ages of 4-6 months. This thinking has changed in recent years and it is now recommended that mothers exclusively breastfeed for the first 6 months of the baby’s life as it provides all the nutrients a baby needs.


There are plenty of good reasons to wait until your baby reaches 6 months of age. Breast milk or formula is easy to digest and provides all the nutritional needs for healthy growth and development. Also, it is thought that the chances of developing allergies are greatest during infancy, so feeding your baby breast milk or formula during this time helps to reduce the risk of introducing allergens. As your baby’s digestive system matures, he will be better able to handle different foods without an allergic reaction. Another reason for not giving solid foods earlier than 4-6 months is unintentional overfeeding, since younger babies cannot offer you signals when they are full, such as turning away or showing disinterest.


Remember that breast milk or formula will continue to be a very important source of nutrition while your baby adjusts to a mixed diet for the first year or so of life.


Is my baby ready to start solids?

How can you tell if your baby is ready to start on a more varied diet? Look for the following cues:

  • Does your baby make chewing motions? She should be able to move food to the back of her mouth and swallow. Is your baby’s tongue-thrust reflex gone or diminished? This reflex, which prevents infants from choking on foreign objects, also causes them to push food out of their mouths.
  • Can your baby support his own head? To eat solid food, an infant needs good head and neck control and should be able to sit up, maybe with support, and maintain a steady upright position.
  • Has your baby had a healthy weight gain? Most babies are ready for semi-solids when they have doubled their birth weight.
  • Is your baby interested in food? A 6-month-old baby who stares and grabs at your food at dinnertime is clearly ready for some variety in the food department.

Your clinic sister or paediatrician will be able to advise you on your baby’s readiness for solids.


How should I begin to introduce solids?

When your baby is ready and you have been advised by your clinic sister or doctor to try solid foods, pick a time of day when your baby is not tired or cranky and that is convenient to you. You want your baby to be a little hungry, but not all-out starving; you might want to let your baby breastfeed a while, or provide part of the usual bottle. Have your baby sit supported in your lap or in an upright infant seat. Infants who sit well, usually around 6 months, can be placed in a high-chair with a safety strap.


Typically, a baby’s first food is a little iron-fortified infant rice cereal mixed with breast milk or formula. It can also be a vegetable or fruit purée. The first feeding may be nothing more than a little cereal mixed in a whole lot of liquid. Place the spoon (a soft rubber tipped one) near your baby’s lips, and let the baby smell and taste. Don’t be surprised if this first spoonful is rejected. Wait a minute and try again. Most food offered to your baby at this age will end up on the baby’s chin, bib, or high-chair tray. Again, this is just an introduction. Complete the breastfeed or bottle after this tasting session.


At first, your baby may seem to eat very little, and it may take a while to get him to swallow even a small amount. Be patient, it takes time to learn new skills. Do not add cereal to your baby’s bottle unless you have been medically advised to do so, as this can cause babies to become overweight and doesn’t help the baby learn how to eat solid foods. Your baby’s appetite will vary from one feed to the next, so watch for clues that he is full. A baby who refuses to open up for the next bite, turns away, or starts playing with his food has probably had enough to eat.


How should I introduce more solid foods?

When introducing new foods, go slow. Your baby needs time to get used to each new taste and texture. Introduce one food at a time and wait several days before trying something else new. This will allow you to identify foods that your baby may be allergic to.


When your baby is eating 2 or 3 spoonfuls of food a day, try adding a second meal of a different food. As he begins to eat and develops more of a side-to-side grinding motion, add a little less liquid so the texture becomes thicker. This allows your baby to work on chewing (gumming) and swallowing.


There are different schools of thought as to which foods should come first, be they cereals, vegetables or fruit. Generally by 6 months a baby is able to digest most of the milder grains like rice, barley and maize as well as most mild fruits and vegetables. Avoid those that could cause excessive gas or are very acidic. If you get a negative reaction to a certain food, offer it again a few days later; it may have become more appealing, but then again he may never develop a taste for certain foods.


Foods to avoid for now

Some foods are generally withheld until later. Do not give eggs, cow’s milk, citrus fruits and juices, or honey until after a baby’s first birthday. Eggs (especially the whites) may cause an allergic reaction, especially if given too early. Citrus is highly acidic and can cause painful nappy rashes. Honey may contain certain spores that, while harmless to adults, can cause botulism in babies. Regular cow’s milk does not contain the nutrition that infants need. Certain seafoods, peanuts and peanut butter, and tree nuts are also considered allergenic for infants, and shouldn’t be given until after the child is 2 or 3 years old, depending on whether the child is at higher risk for developing food allergies. A child is at higher risk for food allergies if one or more close family members have allergies or allergy-related conditions, like food allergies, eczema, or asthma.


Some possible signs of food allergy or allergic reactions include:

  • rash
  • bloating or an increase in intestinal gas
  • diarrhoea
  • fussiness after eating


For more severe allergic reactions, like hives or breathing difficulty, get medical attention right away. If your child has any type of reaction to a particular food, don’t offer it again until you have discussed it with your child’s doctor.


Note: You will find when you add solid foods to your baby’s diet that his stools may change colour and odour. This is normal. If you suspect your baby’s stools are so firm that they seem to be giving him pain, talk to your doctor or health visitor for advice, and switch from those types of foods to other fruits and vegetables. You can also offer a little more fluid, such as a few sips of boiled, cooled water or well-diluted unsweetened fruit juice.


How many times a day should my baby be eating solid foods?

By the time your baby is about 7 to 8 months old, he should be eating semi-solids 3 times a day. A typical day’s intake may be:

  • Breast milk or iron-fortified formula.
  • Small amounts water from a feeding cup.
  • Iron-fortified cereal.
  •  Plenty of vegetables, such as sweet potatoes, butternut, pumpkins, courgettes, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, avocado and suchlike.
  • Small amounts of soft white cheese, yoghurt, chicken, lamb, beef, well-cooked lentils and other pulses.
  •  Fruit.


What about finger foods?
As baby grows more experienced, you can increase the thickness of the foods offered to include chunkier soft lumps and mashed foods. At about 7 to 9 months your baby is ready for finger foods cut into bite-sized bits. Some ideal first finger foods that can be easily gummed and digested are:
·         bread
·         ripe bananas
·         cantaloupe melon
·         tender cooked carrots and sweet potatoes
·         cooked pasta shapes.
Never leave your baby alone when eating because of the risk of choking.


Do I need any special equipment?
There’s a dazzling array of feeding-related items you can buy, but none are essential. Even so, there are a few that can make mealtimes easier.
  • A steamer is great for cooking vegetables as steaming is the best way to preserve nutrients.
  • A mouli or baby food grinder is good for foods with skins, as it produces a smooth purée, while holding back the skin or rougher particles of the food.
  • Food processors are ideal for puréeing larger quantities when making batches of purées for freezing.
  • Ice cube trays with lids are perfect for freezing the right proportion of food required.
  • A bouncy chair is ideal for first meals for babies who cannot sit unaided. Once your baby can sit up she can progress to a highchair.
  •  A rubber-tipped spoon is important to protect your baby’s sensitive gums.
  • A plastic dish with suction cups can help keep your baby’s meal on the high-chair instead of the floor! And, to protect your floor, try a splat mat or lay down some pieces of newspaper to catch spills to make cleaning up simpler and easier.


Where should I feed my baby?

Once your baby is old enough to sit up on his own, feed him in a high-chair or feeding chair. Handing finger foods to a crawling baby can result in choking and lead to a trail of smeared foods across your carpet. And if a child learns to associate eating with mealtime and the dinner table, she’s more likely to develop the good eating habits that can make mealtimes a family joy.


Do I still need to breastfeed?

Yes. Breast milk is designed to be the perfect food for your baby’s first 6 months. Both breast milk and formula provide important vitamins, iron, and protein in an easy-to-digest form. Even though solid foods will gradually replace some of your baby’s milk feeds, breast milk or formula will remain his most important source of nutrition until he is one year old.


How can I help my baby develop healthy eating habits?

You can help your baby learn to eat well by following these simple guidelines:

  • Offer a varied selection of foods, incorporating good quality proteins, carbohydrates, fruits and vegetables.
  • Try to make home-prepared foods – they do taste so much better. As this is not always possible, avoid prepared foods with added thickeners, salts, sugars. Start reading the labels on bought foods!
  • Don’t try feeding your baby too much food, he may be put off trying other types of food.
  • Don’t bribe or reward your child with food. Instead offer him plenty of hugs, kisses and positive attention.
  • Involve your baby in family mealtimes, stay relaxed when feeding him and let him explore all the new tastes and textures coming his way. He can always have a bath afterwards!

Enjoy this very special time in your baby’s development.


Refer to the Downloadable Schedule and Charts for a weaning schedule.