Our gorgeous bubs come into the world with their own ready-made store of iron and essential nutrients, stockpiled from their time in the womb, and this will sustain them for around six months.
At the six month mark, this natural store of nutrients starts to diminish and in order to replenish it, we need to provide the child with solid foods, boosting their intake of vital nutrients to thrive. Iron, in particular, is a mineral that your baby needs replenishing.
When should I begin offering solid foods?
The World Health Organisation recommends babies should be breastfed exclusively up to 6 months of age – meaning no other foods or liquids, including water, should be provided during this time. Infants should breastfeed on demand, which is as often as the child wants, day and night.
At around six months of age, the baby can begin eating safe complementary foods while continuing to be breastfed up to 2 years of age and beyond. Your breastmilk will provide all the fluid, protein, fat, sugar, iron and other minerals and vitamins baby needs for about the first six months of life.
Between 5-6 months, your baby will begin to show signs of wanting to try solid foods – he will be very interested when you are eating or prepping food, he may reach out and grab food for himself or open his mouth waiting expectantly. Your baby will love sharing food with you at this time and will watch you intently as you eat. This is the perfect way to introduce solid food of all types to him.
Developmental signs that your baby is ready to start solid food:
- He has good head and neck control and can sit upright while supported on your lap or in a high chair.
- He shows an interest in food that you are preparing or eating.
- He reaches out for your food.
- Opens his mouth when you offer him food.
How do I get started with solid foods?
A fabulously simple way to begin solid foods is to have your baby sit at the meal table with other family members and allow him to play with pieces of food from your plate. Baby will learn about tastes and textures while learning new skills of picking up and holding food and putting it in his mouth. Sitting with family members is also an excellent way to learn that eating is a social part of family life.
What type of foods can I introduce to baby?
All foods are exciting to your baby, so it’s a good idea to be as varied with textures and tastes as possible, and there is no need to make anything special for your child to eat. Keep it simple, right?! And the more diverse the foods you offer your baby, the more varied the nutrients that are provided to your baby.
Examples of foods to try first:
- Vegetables – cooked potatoes, carrots and green vegetables like broccoli
- Fruit – banana, apple, melon or avocado
- Grains – oats, pasta, rice or bread
- Dairy – yoghurt or cheese
- Meat – mince, poultry or fish
- Legumes – cooked tofu or legumes
An excellent way of introducing different tastes and textures is to simply mash or puree a small portion of your meal to be used the following day or frozen and stored for future use. I would blitz some of my mild curry one evening and perhaps baked salmon and veggies the next night and the kids were great with trying different the different tastes - it certainly helped them develop their palette and appreciate a variety of flavours.
I found freezing cubes of mashed food so practicle - they are quickly and easily defrosted because they are a small size and can be heated and eaten any time of the day. Packing a few cubes in a jar popped into your handbag or nappy bag has made venturing out during meal times a breeze. Check out our Green Sprouts Fresh Baby Food Freezer Tray on the website for a super easy solution to making your own baby food at home.
Food and drink to avoid while introducing solids:
- Honey until 12 months – to avoid infant botulism
- Raw or runny eggs and foods containing fresh eggs such as homemade mayonnaise or raw cake mix on the beaters – bacteria in raw eggs can be harmful to babies.
- Reduced-fat dairy until two years
- Whole nuts and similar hard foods as they are a choking hazard
- Fruit juice – this should be limited at all ages, whole fruit is best
- No added sugar or salt in foods
- Processed or packaged foods high in fat, sugar or salt should be avoided.
Food allergies and introducing solids
Introducing allergenic foods early on can reduce the risk of your child developing an allergy. All babies should try solid foods that cause allergies from around six months of age. These foods include well-cooked egg, peanut butter, wheat (bread, cereals, pasta) and dairy (cow’s milk should not be given as a main drink).
Always check with your GP, Child Health Care Nurse, Paediatrician or another medical professional in the following circumstances:
- if there is a history of food allergies in your family,
- your child already has an allergy,
- you are concerned about introducing particular types of food to your baby.
Babies with severe eczema or who have parents with allergies are more likely to develop a food allergy.
Introducing yummy, wholesome food to your baby is a WHOLE lot of fun and is an exciting developmental milestone for you and your family. There are loads of tips for new mums out there, and it can be so overwhelming at times. The one thing to remember always is to do what feels right for you and your baby. Make it work for you and make it fun! Enjoy this special, yet v messy time with your wee one!
World Health Organisation: Breastfeeding, https://www.who.int/health-topics/breastfeeding, 24 August 2020
Breastfeeding...Naturally: The Australian Breastfeeding Association's guide to breastfeeding - from birth to weaning, Australian Breastfeeding Association, 3rd edition, 2014.