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

When to start solids

There are many opinions and guidelines as to when to start solids, however the simple answer is when your baby is ready. Your baby is ready when:

  • She can hold her head up when sitting supported in a high chair
  • She is interested in the spoon and learns to open her mouth when she sees it
  • She closes her lips around the spoon and takes the food into her mouth and swallows

Every baby is different. Some babies are ready around 4 months and others aren’t ready until around 8 months. Some babies don’t want to be spoon fed and go straight to feeding themselves

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  to deal with.

  • Sit her in a high chair looking straight ahead. Sit in front of her so that she can see you and the spoon.
  • Hold the spoon a few inches in front of her mouth and wait to see what she does.
  • Do it her way: let her eat or not eat, eat little or much, fast or slow.
  • Stop feeding when she has finished opening, swallowing, smearing, dropping, banging.
  • Give her plenty of chances to learn,
  • Have fun, and keep it casual.

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 (anaphylaxis). 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.

It’s not about nutrition

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!