There comes an exciting time in your baby’s (and your) life when she’s ready to try the ‘real’ food. You’ve been probably looking forward to this moment for some time now and waited until the recommended 6th month mark. But then not every child is the same- one develop faster, other slower. So you wonder : is my little one actually ready for solids?
In this post I’ll advise you on when and how to start giving baby food.
1. Signs indicating your baby is ready
There are few things to look out for that will determine if the time is right. Your baby might be ready for solids if she:
a) can hold her head up and sits well. Your baby should be able to be confident in upright and sitting position even if she has to be supported. Many babies start to eat on their parents lap and only progress to the highchair when they can sit up by themselves.
b) has good hand coordination. If she’s looking at the object (not necessarily a piece of food) and able to grab it and then put in her mouth by herself, it’s a green light for you mum.
c) developed curiosity about what other family members are eating. If she’s staring at your dinner and trying to reach for the food (or is pointing at it), it probably means she wants to grab a bite too!
d) is able to swallow. Your baby should be making chewing motions, moving food smoothly to the back of her mouth and swallow. Although choking on the food is not uncommon during first trials (or even later), make sure you know what to do if she doesn’t cope on her own. As your little one learns how to swallow properly, you may notice less dribbling.
e) has gained on enough weight. Most babies are ready to try first foods when they’ve doubled their birth weight. This usually happen around the 6th month. By then many babies will also grow one tooth or more.
2. What foods are good to start with?
Think of healthy food packed with nutritional value such as:
- cooked or steamed (until soft ) vegetables, for example carrot, potato, sweet potato, butternut squash, broccoli or cauliflower
- soft fruits: banana, avocado, strawberries, melon/ watermelon, pear (if it’s ripe enough), small pieces of orange or blueberries
When it comes to harder fruits, such as apples it’s always best to grate them and offer it to your baby on the spoon (it reduces the risk of choking).
It’s also a great idea to blend different fruits and vegetables together so your baby could taste different combinations. Or give your little one a couple of different pieces of foods at the same time; this way he’ll have opportunity to explore and eat what he enjoys.
Baby porridge/ rice and other cereal mixed with your baby’s usual milk is another great option for your baby’s first foods. Buy cereal rich in iron, as it’s very important in your child’s development.
Other foods you can give to your baby include:
- starchy foods such as wholegrain bread, pasta, rice, quinoa, crackers (unsalted)
- soft cooked lean meat ( turkey, lamb, corn-fed chicken) and certain fish (salmon, cod, mackerel and sardines are good for your baby, however you should limit it to maximum twice a week as they contain minor toxins).
- hard-boiled eggs (the yolk is the healthiest)
- dairy products, such as natural yogurt, cheese
- beans, lentils, peas and corn
3. What texture should my baby’s first foods be?
It’s really up to you how are you planning to offer your baby’s first foods: either blended, mashed or cut into soft ‘finger’ foods. What if your peanut doesn’t have any teeth yet? Not to worry, his hard gums will do the job just right. Try experimenting with different textures and flavours to see what your baby likes.
If you decide to start with purees (like I did), try to move on to mashed or solid foods sooner than later. This will not only help your little one learn how to chew but also speed up his speech development as eating finger foods forces your baby to exercise his jaw muscles.
4. How many times a day shall I serve my baby solids?
When you first start serving your baby solids you should give her just a few spoonfuls or chunks of food once a day. The whole idea really is just to get your baby used to the fact she will now get more than your breast milk or formula.
Remember, until your baby is 12 months the milk she’s having (either from breast or a bottle) will be the main source of nutrition so it’s no point for you to stress out about the amount she’s eating.
As we know, not every baby is the same, some need more some less food than others. But as long as your baby’s weight gain is in healthy rate, you can relax.
What’s more, for many babies the process of weaning means actually experimenting and playing with the food- with my baby girl was exactly like that. She loved to take all kinds of food to her mouth, half of which ended up on the floor or spread around her face and hair. She haven’t really fed properly until she reached about 11 months!
As time goes on, your baby’s appetite will naturally increase; you can start offering three meals a day at about eight or nine months. By the time your baby is 1 year old, she should be having three meals a day ( with some healthy snacks between meals).
5. Which foods shall I avoid?
a) Honey. Your baby should not taste honey until she’ reaches her first birthday. The reason behind is that it can contain bacteria that younger babies digestive system cannot deal with.
b) Whole nuts. They’re a hard no-no until your little one is about 5 years old- for obvious reasons they can lead to choking. However, smooth peanut butter is fine.
c) Certain fish such as baby shark, swordfish, marlin or raw shellfish- they contain high levels of mercury leading to serious sickness and food poisoning.
d) Certain cheeses- some of them can lead to food poisoning because of the unpasteurized milk they’re made of. These include brie, Camembert or soft blue-veined cheese.
e) Tea or coffee- Caffeine will disturb from getting a good night sleep and prevent absorbing iron from your baby’s food
f) Sweet/ fizzy drinks and sweets- As we know, sugar is bad for teeth and overall health (you should not have it too, your baby is watching you!).
6. What ‘gear’ do I need?
There are certain things you have to buy: a high chair, some good bibs, plastic spoons, forks and bowls.
You can get either a traditional high chair, which is also the cheapest option or a bit more expensive, but also much more functional high chair like this one here. It has 3 reclining positions so you can start putting your baby in it before he even sits properly. You can also fold it so it won’t stand on your way when not in use, plus it has a very useful basket underneath where you can put toys or other things your baby just randomly plays with during the day. The tray is removable and adjustable so you don’t have to worry about your child growing out of it any time soon.
When it comes to bibs, you would think you don’t need any recommendation, right? After all, you can get them basically in any baby shop. Well, I thought the same and I was using traditional bibs for almost a year, until I went to visit my friend who has a baby almost the same age as mine. She got these excellent bibs that have pocket at the bottom.
This leak-proof pocket made a big difference during our meal times, especially since I started giving my baby girl finger foods. Before, most food she didn’t mange to eat landed on the chair and all over the floor; when I bought those new bibs, the food leftovers just gathered in the ‘pocket’ which meant less cleaning for me= yaay! Plus, they’re made of silicone (so are easily washable) and fold nicely (so you can store them anywhere you want).
Thinking of spoons, forks and bowls, think: safety. If you give your baby a bowl/plate and a cutlery you’re using yourself, s/he may hurt herself or simply break the glass. Instead choose a plastic, colourful cutlery and bowls or trays. Trays with compartments are especially beneficial if you’re serving finger foods- dividing food like that that will encourage your child to eat. Try to make the food look yummy and colourful too- apparently, if your food does not look ‘neat’, your baby may refuse to eat it.
Another essential piece of ‘gear’ (that unfortunately you cannot buy) is smile, encouragement and lots of patience!
If you’re lucky your baby will love eating and experimenting with all kinds of food, but if you’ve got a fussy eater (just like I do), you’re gonna have to try all kinds of entertainment to make her eat at least few spoons. From puppet show, changing voices, making silly faces to playing a classic ‘spoon airplane’, there are many ways to make eating fun, you just have to find your own path.
Good luck mamas and take it easy!