A How-To Guide To Starting Solids

The newborn stage has been forgotten and it seems my little baby is growing up. Starting solids is an exciting new stage in a baby’s life – and his parents – but I’ve also found myself mourning my tiny baby and wondering who this kid is who grabs the spoon off me and shoves it in his mouth!

I thought I’d write about our early experiences with solids to give you an idea of how to start with your own baby. Before Olly was born I used to give a ‘Moving & Munching’ presentation at the local community centre to teach new parents about how to introduce solids. Since becoming a parent myself I’ve come to realise that you do your best to ‘follow the book’ but you also have to trust yourself and do what works best for your family (I gave Olly banana first despite my best intentions of only offering vegetables).

When to start

At around six months, exclusive breastmilk/formula is no longer enough to meet the nutritional needs of your baby. The recommendation to introduce solids ‘at around six months’ can be confusing and what I do know is that anecdotally many parents start much earlier.

When your infant is ready, at around six months, but not before four months, start to introduce a variety of solid foods, starting with iron-rich foods, while continuing breastfeeding.

Just as a baby takes time to learn to  crawl and walk; it takes time for their digestive system to mature enough to handle solid foods.

It is more appropriate to look for signs of readiness rather than focus on your child’s age:

  • No extrusion reflex i.e. if your baby pushes their tongue out when you offer food they are not yet ready. Once a baby loses the extrusion reflex they are able to take food to the back of their tongue and swallow.
  • Can sit up well either in your lap or highchair.
  • Shows interest in food and eating; may open their mouth while watching you eat or make eating actions with their mouth.
  • May or may not have teeth.

Please don’t rush to give your baby solids in the hope it fills them up so they will sleep better. After a very quick review of the evidence I found this statement which sums it up nicely: “infants who receive more milk or solid feeds during the day were less likely to feed at night but not less likely to wake”. And anecdotally, I know some parents do notice their child’s sleep becomes more unsettled when starting solids.

Olly’s First Foods

Don’t expect your baby to eat large quantities when they first start solids. Some days they will eat more or less but 1/2 tsp – 2 tsp is an appropriate amount of food when first starting out. Your baby will work up to eating 2-3 times per day between 6-8 months and 3-4 times per day by 9-11 months.

We started with:

  • Banana
  • Avocado
  • Kumara
  • Courgette
  • Strawberry*
  • Pear

Iron rich foods are extremely important for babies and toddlers. Make sure to include foods such as green vegetables, meats and liver, and legumes right from the start.

*It is recommended to wait until bub is a bit older (8-12m) before introducing citrus. This is because citrus fruits/tomatoes can be acidic and may cause a reaction e.g. rash around mouth. As with any new food, wait 2-3 days before introducing something new so you can pinpoint a reaction if it were to occur.

2 tsp puréed kumara.
Frozen cubes of 1) puréed pear and 2) puréed banana, strawberry and avocado.

Special Considerations

  • Introduce one single new food each 2-3 days. This is to keep an eye out for any reactions and better pinpoint the offending food.
  • You can introduce a new food with one you’ve already tried e.g. I gave Olly courgette for the first time by mixing with pureed kumara.
  • Take note of foods that may cause constipation or slow down digestion vs. speed up and offer these foods accordingly. Apple, banana and avocado may slow; pear, courgette and prunes may speed up.
  • Watch a video of gagging vs. choking (or better yet, take a first aid course) so you know what to expect. Both can be terrifying but gagging is fairly common and bub is able to work it out themselves.

Solids Routine

I’ve been giving Olly solids in the late morning and early afternoon. You should pick a time of day that works best with your current routine and when you’re both feeling calm and not rushed. I advise against giving solids later in the day because if bub does have an adverse reaction, this is better handled during the day and not when they’re winding down for bed or already in bed for the night.

The goal is to work up to a breakfast, lunch and dinner routine (with snacks as needed) by 9-11 months. Ideally, by 1 year your baby should be eating family foods like the rest of the household. Take it slowly and start with one “meal” per day at a similar time each day and build from there.

It’s usual to start with the breakfast meal then, once they’re managing to eat a full meal i.e. ~1/2 cup, add a dinner meal, then lunch, then snacks.

Olly’s lunch – puréed kumara with kelp pepper and steamed broccoli florets.
Mashed avocado and breastmilk; avo toast for Mum.

What equipment do I need

There are plenty of products you can buy that will make life easier when starting solids but in these early weeks/first month you can get away with using what you have on hand as baby will only be eating a very small amount. I also recommend holding off on buying all the gadgets until you’ve got your own system in place. I still cook everything as I go as I’m not yet back at work and have the time to do this every few days; you might need more equipment to store a larger batch of food and set aside an evening to prepare.

Basics

  • Baby spoon
  • Sippy cup
  • Small dishes to serve
  • Containers and freezer bags for storing food in fridge/freezer
  • Ice cube trays
  • Breastmilk/formula or boiled water for mixing with solids to create puree
  • Stick blender or food processor

Other

  • Self-feeding spoon
  • Kai carrier and other on-the-go food pouches/containers
  • Mesh or silicone self feeder
  • Large bibs/silicone catch bibs, bibs with sleeves
  • Highchair

Further information

I have found the following links to be helpful:

  • https://nadialim.com/baby-led-weaning/
  • http://www.thefitfoodie.co.nz/introducing-solids-my-top-5-tips/
  • https://www.recipes.co.nz/shop/BABIES+%26+TODDLERS.html
  • https://www.plunket.org.nz/your-child/6-months-to-1-year/food-and-nutrition/babys-first-foods/
  • https://juliebhosale.co.nz/starting-solids-the-meat-question/
  • https://www.healthyfood.co.nz/articles/2008/august/healthy-first-foods

I’m more than happy to offer further advice, please just leave a comment on this blog.

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