Introducing Baby's First Solids: When Can Babies Eat Solids?
A newborn gets all his/her necessary nutrients from either breast milk or formula milk. For about the first six months of the baby's life, they use iron stored in their bodies. They also get some iron from breastmilk or infant formula milk.
As babies grow, their body requires more energy and nutrients to foster their growth and support their development. Solid foods give your baby additional nutrients and vitamins that they need to energize them through their milestones. The first few months of life are crucial to a healthy body and development. Therefore, parents are often excited to introduce solid foods, however they may also be asking when they should introduce solid food to their babies.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends children be introduced to food other than infant formula or breast milk when they turn six months old. Introducing solid foods before the age of 4 months is not recommended because every baby has a different digestive system and often at 4 months their digestive system is still adapting and developing.
Signs of Readiness:
The following factors will show you when your baby is ready for food.
Babies are ready if:
- At around 4 to 6 months, they show interest in what you are having.
- They show signs of hunger or lean towards your food.
- They open their mouths when you move the food closer to them.
- They can hold their head and neck upright.
- They can sit upright.
- They are still hungry after a full day's portion of milk or formula.
Signs your baby is not ready yet:
- turning their head away
- pushing the spoon or move food away
- keeping their mouth shut.
Notice these factors and then also consult a pediatrician if it is the right time to introduce solids.
How To Introduce Your Baby To Food?
A child needs certain minerals and vitamins to grow strong and healthy. Make sure you choose the food that has all the necessary minerals and vitamins they need. Let your child start with one ingredient first. This will help you see what he/she prefers to eat. You can switch to new food after 3 to 5 days to introduce them to new flavors.
Incorporate colorful utensils like silicone, BPA-free bowls, and bibs to attract the eating process. Babies start eating once new foods come in an attractive bowl. It also ensures that babies develop good eating habits.
Additionally, use a high chair so your baby is positioned upright. This can make the feeding process easier.
Your Baby's First Solids
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, you do not need to give food in a particular order. When they turn six months of age, you can start feeding them a variety of solid foods for example:
- Infant Rice cereals
- Small pieces of meat and other proteins
- Fruit puree
If your child consumes cereal, introduce them to multi-grain, barley, and oat instead of only rice cereals. Providing only infant cereal is never suggested by the Food and Drug Administration due to the child's risk of exposure to arsenic.
You will notice your baby eating less formula when starting solids, and there is nothing to worry about.
How to prepare your baby's food?
Initially, baby food includes giving your child mashed, strained, or pureed foods to eat with a spoon. They might take time adjusting to the new texture of the solid food. They might gag, cough, or spit it out. So feed your baby food from the front so you can monitor their intake. You can give them lumpier, thicker food or finger foods when they develop their oral skills and get the gist and hang of certain foods.
Tips to prepare baby food:
- Mix mashed cooked grains and cereals with formula, breast milk, or water to make it smooth and easy for your baby to swallow.
- Make a puree or mash the fruits, vegetables, or other foods until they are smooth. You can mix and match vegetables and fruits to introduce them to a variety.
- Hard vegetables and fruits like carrots and apples need to be cooked or steamed to make a puree or mash them properly.
- Cook the food until it’s soft enough to be mashed by a fork.
- Remove all skin, fat, and bones from meat, poultry, and fish.
- Remove hard pits and seeds from fruit and cut them into small pieces.
- Cut cylindrical foods such as sausages, hot dogs, and string cheese into short thin strips instead of round pieces.
- Finely mash or grind whole-grain kernels of barley, wheat, other grains, and rice.
- You can give soft finger foods if your child can handle or introduce solid finger foods by 7 or 8 months of age.
Food Types to Introduce To Your Baby:
Ensure your baby gets all kinds of food types.
Iron-rich foods include:
- iron-fortified infant or rice cereal
- poultry, minced meat, and fish
- cooked legumes and tofu
- mashed or well-cooked egg (don't give runny or raw egg)
You can add other healthy foods to these iron-rich foods, like:
- vegetables – for instance, cooked potato, carrot, or green vegetables such as broccoli
- fruits – for instance, apple, melon, banana, or avocado
- grains – for instance, bread, oats, rice, and pasta
- dairy foods – for instance, full-fat cheese, yogurt.
Risk of Allergy When Introducing Solids
While introducing other foods, give your baby potentially allergenic food too. Babies can try solid foods causing allergies in SMALL amounts from 6 months old to see which food suits them.
Potentially allergenic foods include eggs, shellfish, cow's milk, fish, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, sesame, and wheat. Before a child turns 12 months old, fortified soy beverages and cow's milk is not recommended; however, other products made of cow's milk like yogurt can be given before 12 months.
It is better to ask suggestions from GP, allergy and immunology specialist, dietitian, pediatrician, and child and family health nurse if:
- Your child has a food allergy already.
- You have a family history of food allergy, and you want to start a solid diet for your child.
- You are concerned about your baby's reaction to certain foods.
Babies who have eczema or their parents have a history of allergy to different foods are more likely to have food allergies.
It is also important to note that, while introducing solids, you will continue to give them breast milk or formula as necessary with their needs. Breast milk is best for your baby regardless of whether or not they have started eating solids.
Eating solid foods and introducing foods is a huge milestone for you and your baby. Therefore, it depends on what age he/she shows the signs of readiness. Keep in mind that every baby is different; wrap your head around your baby's needs and developments and then take the first step to give these solid foods to your baby.