What are the signs your baby is ready for solid food?
- Maybe not as satiated with their milk feed?
- Showing an interest in your food?
- Not sleeping as well as usual – maybe waking every two hours at night?
- Is their weight slowing on their percentile charts?
- Putting everything into their mouth? Maybe developmental as is the dribbling of saliva.
- Are they around 4-6 months old? ASCIA recommends 4-6 months, NHMRC recommends around 6 months - but every baby has different nutritional needs and there is a window of opportunity. The gut is more permeable before 6 months so the theory is if we give foods that are likely to be "allergic' it is helpful to expose the immune system to them earlier. As a nurse I've found when the age was increased to 6 months I actually saw an increase in asthma, eczema, hayfever and anaphylaxis. As long as you stick to the 2-3 day rule of new food then your baby will most likely be OK.
If you’re starting at 4 – 6 months start on purees. If they’re over 6-months – option of either purees and finger foods or baby led weaning. How you parent and the preference of your baby is a very individual thing. Some babies hate mess and the finger foods thing! Whereas other babys love control and self-feeding.
Homemade vs Bought Baby Food & Pouches
Try and use mainly homemade if possible. It's closest to a family diet and easier to move on in stages. You don’t need to be a great cook. Just try some basic purees and your confidence will improve. Try some of the free easy recipes on the Louise Fulton Keats website at http://www.louisefultonkeats.com
Remember though it may take 20 occasions before a baby likes a food so don’t feel they’re rejecting you if they reject your food. It’s a time thing. Try again in a week or so.
Freeze food in easy to defrost portions – try using ice-cube trays or Qubies to freeze purees in the early weeks and putting into freezer bags when frozen, labelling contents. Prepared baby food is safe to store in the freezer for 3 months. A deep chest freezer will store it safely for 6 months.
You don’t always need a food processor. A fork or potato masher can be used for many soft cooked fruit and veggies.
At 4-6 months old feed baby on your lap or a bouncy chair. At 6 months put baby in a highchair, strapped in or Bumbo on the floor with tray attached to give added stability and safety. Sterilise feeding equipment till 6 months of age and store food and utensils hygienically.
What time of day should you start? It’s really up to you. Choose a time of the day when you have more time to spend with baby. Before 6 months give milk first and solid food ½-1 hour afterwards. After 6 months give food first and milk second , except for the first milk feed of the day. The reason we change it around is because food becomes more important.
Amounts of food and milk
- Week One - When you first start give a few teaspoons once a day,
- Week Two - A few more teaspoons once a day. To start with we are just trying tastes and textures. Don’t rush things. Be patient! If baby keeps spitting or moving the food out of their mouth maybe they’re not quite ready. This is the extrusion reflex and is a normal reflex. Wait a week or two and try again.
- Week Three - Move to two meals a day and really increase the amount and feed to appetite.
- Week Four - Try three meals a day. Listen to your baby. If the mouth is open like a baby bird then give more food. It's hard to overfeed a baby with solids.
Feed your baby to appetite
Your baby may take up to 1-1.5cups of food 3 times a day between 6 months and one year old. A cupful is around 1-2 Weetbix.
After 6 months of age, milk is still important and your baby will need at least 3-4 breastfeeds or 500 – 750ml of formula a day till one year old. If they’re having more milk than this then give more food. Not enough milk? Then give less food. Remember it’s a balance.
Foods to start on at 4-6 months
"There is no particular order in which to introduce foods. However, iron-rich foods need to be included from 4-6months (such as iron-fortified cereals, meats, fish, poultry, cooked egg and legumes)".
First carrot, pumpkin, butternut squash, parsnip, zucchini (courgette), broccoli, cauliflower, sweet potato, potato, avocado, rice cereal, quinoa.
Then move on to protein - meat, fish, eggs, lentils and pulses. This encourages savoury tastes. Introduce lentils, chickpeas and pulses carefully and slowly as some babies can get an upset tummy and lots of gas.
Once you've tried all the veggies and protein move onto fruit. Ripe banana, red apples (pink lady, royal gala), pears, nectarines, peaches, plums, apricots, pureed blueberries, strawberries, kiwi, papaya etc.
Most fruit and veggies will need to be washed, cut into small pieces and simmered in water that just covers it, on a stovetop for 10-15 minutes until softened and blended to a puree. Mix food into a puree with water that the veggies or fruit have been cooked in or breast milk or formula. Use a nutri-bullet, food processor or handheld blender to puree food.
Do not add salt or sugar to foods.
Food reactions - Allergies & Intolerances
Introduce each new food every 2-3 days and observe for a possible food reaction (allergy/intolerance). You’re looking for: a skin rash (eczema type rash or hives), diarrhoea, stomach pain and in severe cases anaphylaxis. http://www.homemade-baby-food-recipes.com/babyfoodallergies.html Any concerns with food reaction - contact your GP, Paediatrician and/or a dietitian.
Once you've tested each new food they can then be added together in different combinations such as banana and avocado, or cauliflower, potato and apple
Then introduce other foods. Meat (in braises/stews), white fish, salmon/ocean trout, sardines, garlic and herbs, pasta, gluten (oats, wheat, rye and barley), full fat dairy (yoghurt, butter, cream, grated mild cheddar), strawberries and berry fruits, oranges and citrus, kiwi and tropical fruits such as papaya, mango and pineapple, vegemite, pulses, lentils, chickpeas and baked beans, calcium-enriched tofu, onion, cabbage, peas, sweetcorn and brussels sprouts.
Strawberries are no more allergic than other berry fruits (urban myth) and kiwi fruit is a fairly common allergen.
Introduce new foods every 2-3 days especially if there is a strong history of family allergy or intolerance in either or both parent or their siblings. However, omitting foods until later can lead to more in-tolerances/anaphylaxis as the body doesn't build up a tolerance.
Remember no chili till 2 years old.
Avoid honey till 12 months (risk of bacteria botulinum).
Introduce peanut butter and all nut butters around 4-6 months. Again try a very small amount at first. Repeat over 2-3 days. Baby needs to eat the nut butter. It isn't enough to smear it on their face or their lips. It needs to be ingested to stimulate the immune system.
Eggs and age of introduction is around 4-6 months. Give hard-boiled eggs to start with. You can either give the whole egg or the yolk can be given separate to the white. Start by giving only a very small amount, around an eighth of a teaspoon. Always remember that egg is the most allergic food, especially the white. Never give raw egg.
At 6-7 months introduce finger foods. See separate blog on this topic at the end of this blog.
At 7 months introduce more lumpy food to your baby
This is important for speech development. Then gradually move baby onto family foods by 12 months of age.
Encourage self-feeding at 6-7 months of age. Control is important for a lot of babies and if your baby is allowed to feed themselves they will be likely to take more food from you. Give them a baby spoon to play with.
Try and sit with your baby at mealtimes and eat your meal or a snack too. Modelling behaviour is very powerful for teaching your baby how to eat. Turn off the TV and your mobile phone. It's important to pay undivided attention to your baby. They are learning from you. Pull a chair up to the table and enjoy the interaction. Be patient and enjoy the process. It’s fun.