So you’ve taken the leap to starting your baby on solids and you have decided which food to introduce first, now you need to decide how and when this momentous occasion in your little one’s life will take place.
The time of day is not important but it needs to be a time when both you and baby are relaxed. Choosing the right time is key as it will set the tone for your baby to associate meal times with a happy time going forward. Remember that if you are stressed or tense your baba will be too (and that also works in reverse!).
To determine when would be the best time for you both, choose a time when your little munchkin isn’t overtired or too hungry. You want them to be hungry but not starving so that they are in the right frame of mind to take a leap out of their comfort zone (steer away from a HANGRY baby!).
I found mid-morning to be the most optimal time of day, an hour or so after the mid-morning milk feed. By introducing foods for the first time in the morning, you have the full day to watch out for any potential negative side effects.
Do not act as if you will be going into your very own version of The Hunger Games by buying every box of organic rice cereal, leaving no aisle in Baby City unturned, until you have claimed ownership of every last box in stock.
Your baby is going to be tasting tiny amounts until they are able to tolerate full meals. You will eventually work your way up to three meals for breakfast, lunch and supper (eventually at the same time as the rest of the family), so the initial period is simply to expose them to the various sensations associated with eating solids.
There’s no ‘one size fits all’ here, some babies can tolerate more than others. Your baby will guide you by either pushing the spoon away, closing his mouth, turning his head away or crying to show you that they have had enough. Start with a tiny amount (around one teaspoon) once a day and then slowly work your way towards a little more each time. If they continue to resist you it may mean that they aren’t ready to start solids and you should give it a few days’ rest.
Remember that starting solids is not meant to replace meals or fill up your baba’s little tummy. Rather it is to get them comfortable with the concept of eating, whilst breast milk or formula continues to form the basis of their diet.
Start with introducing one food or flavour at a time, waiting 2-3 days to gauge your baby’s reaction to each food as you go. There’s plenty of time to get creative with flavours and combinations once your little one is more comfortable with this new and strange concept of starting solids. This is also to ensure that your baby learns to recognise the individual different tastes and flavours (i.e. apple sauce before apple sauce and cinnamon).
Here is a rough guideline to show you what you are working towards (by no means is this the holy grail, merely some information to help guide you):
- Step 1 (the first 3-7 days): start by introducing a teaspoon of rice cereal or veggies once a day. If your baby is between four and five months you can go slower than you would with a baby five months and older. Try one teaspoon for three days for babies older than five months or about a week for babies between four and five months.
- Rice cereal can be given every day (if rice cereal doesn’t agree with your baby, rather stick to veggies or try a different grain as advised by your paed or nurse).
- Different veggies should only be introduced every 2-3 days (you have the option of sticking to the same veg for 2-3 days and then trying a new one or even alternating with something non-allergenic like rice cereal).
- Step 2 (roughly between the second and third week): your baba has now graduated through the first few days and is ready for a second solid meal in their day. If you have been giving them solids in the morning then this second meal could be at night before bath time and their last milk feed. He should now be able to tolerate a few teaspoons at a time. You have the option of introducing other grain cereals like oats, barley, quinoa, millet or maize (keeping to the 2-3 day rule when it comes to introducing any new foods).
- Step 3 (roughly between the third and fourth week): baba is now ready for three solid meals a day including a variety of veggies, fruit and cereal for breakfast, lunch and supper. Cooking veggies and fruit can be done with herbs and spices for some additional flavour (again different herbs and spices should each be introduced separately).
- Step 4 (from six months old): from six months your baby should be eating three solid meals, two snacks and she should be eating protein with every main meal (again remembering to introduce new foods only every 2-3 days). By six months your baba should be eating pretty much anything unless you have a family history of allergies or advised otherwise by your paed or nurse.
SOME HELPFUL TIPS :
- Never force anything on your baby. If the fancy organic rice cereal you went out especially to find or your homemade butternut puree is getting the cold shoulder, don’t force the issue. Rather wait a few days and then try the food again. That said, just because your baby wasn’t mad about something doesn’t mean that you should steer clear of it forever more. An adventurous eater means being exposed to lots of different foods and flavours and getting used to something may take some gentle perseverance.
- Avoid feeding porridge or any other thinned solid foods out of baby’s bottle as this could result in your little one overeating and prevents them from developing key eating skills.
- Offer a variety of tastes, textures and food groups to avoid any fussy eating habits later on. Don’t be afraid of textures and avoid getting into a habit of pureeing everything to a fine consistency. Even babies without any teeth are able to tolerate lumps!
- Allow your baby to touch her food and explore with her little hands. From six months your baby is able to hold finger foods so give her pieces to hold and allow her to explore her new found independence and eat on her own. Get over the mess and make it all about your baby.
MY TWO CENTS:
Starting solids needs to be seen as a personal and unique adventure for your little one. An adventure that can and should be well informed but need not be followed according to a textbook step-by-step process. It needs to be fluid, adapting as you go along according to how your baby responds. Your baby is a little individual after all!
Us moms get so caught up in what the other is doing that we forget to go with our gut and do what may very well be a better fit for our own baby. Trust your instinct and when that fails (because sometimes we actually have no clue what we are doing – sigh!) then let your baby guide you as you go.
Most importantly, remember that this is your and your baby’s own special journey (it’s not a race!) and that it is up to you to pave the way for your baby to have a healthy and happy relationship with food, now and later on in life.
Always allow hot food to cool before feeding it to your baby
Never leave your baby alone when they are eating
The above information shouldn’t replace the advice of your paediatrician, GP or nurse