Starting your baby on solids is a major milestone in your baby’s development and often the cause of much excitement, followed by confusion in parents.
Many parents can feel a little overwhelmed by where and how to start and find the thought of providing three meals a day daunting.
Just ease yourself into it, following the simple and practical Food Babies Love approach and before you know it you will be confidently feeding your baby three meals a day and watching your newborn grow and develop into a bouncy, bonny babe.
1. When to Start
While guidelines state you should start your baby on solids between 4 and 6 months of age, there is also a need for mother’s intuition. Your baby will givfe you signs that he or she is ready such as:
- Watching you when you eat and following your food with their eyes
- Reaching out for your food
- Finding it harder to last between milk feeds, and
- Waking in the night looking for an extra feed.
Research tells us that starting too early can mean your baby’s stomach lining is too immature, and starting later than 6 months of age can impact your baby’s tolerance to known allergy-causing foods, so don’t wait too long. If your baby shows little interest in their first meals, you may need to wait a few days and try again. Remember, all babies come to things in their own time.
QUICK TIP: Make sure both Mum and Dad and any excited siblings are home for the first taste. Saturday lunchtime is a great time to get started – chances are you can all be home and if you structure it after a milk feed (when they’re not too hungry) and an hour before sleep (so they’re not too tired) then conditions are looking promising. Remember to have your camera charged and ready!
2. How to Start
You will start your baby on a teaspoon of rice cereal mixed with a little of their regular milk (breast or formula). Your baby will mainly play around with this getting used to the feel of it in their mouth.
As your baby gets used to solids, gradually increase the quantity of rice cereal and then start to introduce single vegie purees such as carrot or pumpkin.
From basic purees you will move onto more interesting meals such as Chicken Apple and Pumpkin puree. Be sure to offer a variety of tastes and colours each week. I recommend preparing four different meals each week for your baby, freezing them in ice cube trays and then rotating them around to provide the variety baby needs to keep enjoying meal time.
3. Equipment and Handy Hints
Here’s a list of things you’ll need to make life that little bit easier.
Preparation and storage
- Stick blender From early purees to soups and delicious fruit smoothies, your stick blender will be out every day
- A good peeler You will be peeling more than ever and a good peeler will save you time
- Grater Treat yourself to a new one that’s not rusty and works well
- A small saucepan and frying pan You will be cooking much smaller portions than usual and the right sized pot or pan will not only reduce washing up, but will also help avoid your baby’s food taking on a burnt flavour
- Microwave steam jug, with lid For steaming veggies and stewing fruits
- Ice cube trays A freezer full of baby food cubes is super handy
- Storage containers As your baby’s appetite increases, good food tubs with sturdy lids will come in handy
- Food processor/chopper There are many types available. Get one that suits your budget and your kitchen storage.
Sitting down to eat
- High chair Choose one that fits in the space you have available and is easy to clean. Beware lots of padding!
- Bibs Find a good quality dishwasher-safe plastic bib with an open food catcher tray
- Bowls The design of the bowl does make a difference to your baby’s ability to master self-feeding. Look for those with an internal edge that allows your baby to get some leverage
- Spoons Always use plastic spoons and never metal. Watch the scoop size
- Face washers Choose lightweight face washers that are soft on baby’s face and don’t hold food in their fibres
- Drop sheet A simple calico drop sheet spread out under the high chair will save you countless hours of vacuuming and mopping
- Smocks I cannot recommend these highly enough.
4. What Not to Do
There are so many common mistakes that parents make including over complicating things, bribing and forgetting who is the boss in this relationship.
Meal times do not need to be a battle ground, they should be easy and pleasurable, for all. By avoiding these few common mistakes your experience of solids will be much calmer.
1. Do not feed an over tired child.
If your baby is really tired then skip the meal. Before 12 months their regular milk is their primary source of nutrition so skipping a meal and getting a good sleep is the way to go.
2. Set meal time parameters and boundaries
Having a set structure around meal-time is really important in developing your child’s confidence. As with most things, kids who know what to expect are happier and more relaxed. Set some rules around meal times and stick to them. For example;
- meals are always in a high chair
- TV always off, no phones, iPads or toys on the table
- Always sit with your kids, regardless of whether you are eating or not
These sorts of things are all about setting the foundations for family meal times.
3. Don’t Use Squeeze Pouches
Squeezies are bad. No matter how Organic or Natural the ingredients are. To enable them to be shelf stable, they go through a process of extreme heat and pressure to KILL any bacteria, which also kills the nutritional value. They are high in sugars and use fillers and stabilisers to thicken as they are high in water content. And they taste really foul.
Solids is the time for children to learn to taste, chew and enjoy food. Squeezies offer no sensory stimulation; babies do not see, smell or touch the food. They are teaching kids that food comes from a packet, not from fresh ingredients lovingly prepared in the kitchen.
4. Serve delicious food
Babies (and toddlers, in fact all of us) like food with flavour. It is a massive misconception that babies like or need bland food. Cook with flavour and love, and you will be rewarded with a happy eater. Serve bland boring and repetitive food and your child will start to refuse it.
5. Too many treats and too much sugar
Everyone loves a treat. But they need to be clearly labeled as ‘Sometimes Food’ and not offered every day. Your child will very quickly develop a preference for sweet (or salty) foods that can lead to a life-long love affair that is difficult to break. Help them by limiting it from the outset. Ways to help avoid too much sugar in every day life;
- Serve porridge and homemade muesli over packaged cereal products
- Only buy natural whole milk yogurt. Skim milk products and kid-branded tubs and pouches have enormous amounts of sugar in them
- Bake your own muffins and biccis controlling the amount of sugar you put in
- Follow the rule that if it’s in ‘mini packets’ it’s probably got lots of sugar or salt, two nasties for our kids.
So, keep it simple, take one step at a time, remember who’s boss and try to enjoy this phase of parenting. Believe it or not they’ll be eating the family meal in no time.
Food should be fun and it should be delicious. If it’s becoming a battle, then pause and readjust your approach.