Starting solids is an exciting time. Your baby is growing up, maybe too quickly for your liking.

How to start solids

The first weeks of starting solids are about new tastes, feeling new textures and learning how to deal with eating from a spoon – quite different from the breast or the bottle. That’s quite a lot for a 5 to 6 month-old to deal with.
Introduce one food at a time for the first few weeks.  After 2 or 3 days of each new food, add another.There’s no need to rush. Start with a teaspoon of any soft food in the middle of a feed and increase the amount each day. Introduce one food at a time for the first few weeks.  After 2 or 3 days of each new food, add another.

What foods to start with

It’s recommended to include iron-rich foods right from the beginning. Iron-fortified cereals are easy to start with. After a couple of days, it’s on to more new tastes such as soft fruits, cooked vegetables, cooked legumes and soft lamb or beef. Then it’s on to yogurt, cheese, bread or toast, pasta, rice. If you start solids around six months, your baby can start with some finger food as well as pureed or mashed food. They can probably pick up pieces of soft fruits such as peach, cooked apple or pear, pieces of cooked vegetables.

The idea of initially introducing one food at a time is so that if your baby reacts to a new food, you can more easily identify the offending food. Usually an allergic reaction would appear as hives, swelling around the mouth or eyes, vomiting, diarrhoea or difficulty breathing (anaphalaxis). Allergic reactions occur soon after ingesting the food. If your baby has had an allergic reaction to a particular food, avoid giving that food and see a health professional.

Some infants react to naturally occurring chemicals in foods, for example salicylates, amines or glutamates. This is a food intolerance rather than and allergy. However, food intolerances are less common in young babies than in older children and adults. They don’t usually occur immediately after eating the offending food and the reaction may only occur only after a certain amount of the food is eaten. If you think your child has a food intolerance to a particular food, avoid that food for a week or so and then try it again.

Learning to take solids is not just about nutrition. Your infant is also learning to distinguish taste, texture and colour as well as develop chewing, swallowing and coordination skills. So when you present foods, keep them separate, don’t mix everything into a big mush. This way your infant will experience the difference tastes and textures. By about 8 months of age, your baby can start eating family foods such as bolognese sauce, lasagne, casseroles.

Most importantly, trust your baby’s appetite and let her/him determine how much to eat at each meal. Once your baby is showing signs of not wanting more to eat, finish the meal without trying to ‘get’ her/him to eat anymore. Healthy babies will not eat less than they need if they have food available to them.

Happy feeding!