Breastfeeding or formula feeding is important for your baby’s early growth and development. Breast milk contains all the nutrients your baby needs for their first six months, and continues to be an important part of their diet during their first year.
Some babies are eager to wean, while others enjoy breastfeeding a little longer – some up to two or three years. The time frame is up to you and your baby.
It’s essential, however, for their growth and development, to introduce solid foods at around six months while they continue to reap the benefits of breast milk or formula.
Here are some guidelines for knowing when your baby is ready for solids, which foods to choose and how to introduce new foods.
Can I start weaning and introducing solids earlier than six months?
By the time your baby reaches six months, they will be developmentally ready for you to slowly introduce solid foods.
If you try too early, your baby will reject the food; pushing it out with their tongue which can be very frustrating for both of you!
Developmental reasons to start introducing solids at six months
At around six months of age, your baby’s digestive system will be able to cope with solids.
With a changing appetite, they’ll be hungry for more than just breast milk or formula.
Nutritionally, their levels of iron and zinc start to run low. This is why it’s important to introduce foods rich in these nutrients to support healthy growth.
Physically, your six month old develops the reflexes to take and swallow food from a spoon.
How will I know when my baby is ready to start trying solids?
There are three signs to look for as your baby approaches six months of age.
You’ll know it’s time to start introducing solids if your baby can:
- Sit up without any support and can hold their head steady
- Take and swallow solid food without pushing it back out
- Look at the food and start to have the coordination to pick it up and put it in their mouth by themselves
Once ready, find a time when both you and your baby are relaxed and happy, then offer very small amounts of pureed foods.
Bought baby food and homemade baby food
Pre-made baby foods are an easier option, but fresh is always the healthier way to go if you have the time and money. You can batch it up in advance, but always label with the date and taste before offering it to your baby.
If defrosting or heating your baby food, always check the temperature carefully before offering it to your baby. Avoid microwaving foods, but if you need to, make sure you mix the food after warming up to distribute the heat.
Note: there is no need to add sugar to anything. Cooked apple, pear, carrot and pumpkin are natural sweeteners.
What solid foods do I introduce first?
Baby cereal or baby rice that has been iron-enriched and mixed with a little breast milk or formula is perfect! Your baby will recognise the smell and taste and should take to it quickly.
You can cook up and puree meats such as chicken, carefully boned fish, red meat, lamb, pork or liver.
Vegetarian babies will benefit from iron-rich foods such as cooked and pureed tofu or legumes like peas, chick peas and lentils.
Start with feeding just once a day and slowly increase from there. By 12 months, they will be eating three meals a day along with the family.
The texture of your baby food is important
For your baby’s first foods, make it super smooth. This will ensure they can easily take it from the spoon and swallow. A blender or food processor will become your new best friend!
Once you find they are managing the smooth foods well, it’s time to start adding some soft lumps such as grated, minced or chopped food. Mashing instead of pureeing also gives a thicker texture.
Chopped meat or coarsely mashed fruits and vegetables like potatoes pumpkins, carrots, apples or pears are great options for this next step.
Other good food options include pasta, rice and breads. You can even feed them hard boiled or scrambled eggs.
As the textures change, they will learn how to chew, first using their gums and later with their teeth.
Avoid feeding your baby small, hard pieces of food that can cause choking, such as raw carrots, celery sticks, apple chunks, nuts and seeds.
What should my baby be drinking while they’re moving to solids?
You can continue breastfeeding or offering formula to your baby while they’re progressing onto solids.
It’s important to note that animal or plant-based milks are not suitable alternatives to breast milk or infant formula during the first 12 months. You can, however, include them after six months in your baby’s solid food.
Boiled water that is cooled can be introduced in a sip cup once baby reaches six months. Avoid soft drinks, fruit juice, sweet milky drinks, coffee, tea and honey.
Now it’s time to progress to ‘finger foods’
At around eight months, your baby will be ready to try eating foods they can pick up themselves.
Introduce soft pieces of raw fruit and vegetables like banana, strawberry, watermelon, pawpaw, avocado and tomato. Cut meat into strips, steam vegetables or, for a bit of crunch, make some toast fingers or rusks.
There’s an endless variety of foods you can offer. Make sure you do some research online to ensure they are age appropriate and always supervise your bub at mealtime.
By 12 months, most babies will be able to eat the same foods as the rest of the family, but, of course, you will still need to chop some to make them manageable.
Be patient when introducing new foods and enjoy the process!
If your baby isn’t interested the first few times you offer a new food, persist and try again another time. Provide variety as your inquisitive baby will love to sample new flavours.
As for how much food to feed them; you’ll soon learn the signs from your baby when they don’t want any more. Don’t force them to eat once they’ve had enough.
Most of all, make it a pleasurable time for you and your baby. You will love watching the expression on their face as they discover new tastes for the first time.
Helping your baby progress from breast to plate
Children need healthy and wholesome foods to fuel their minds and bodies. They need balanced meals and plenty of hydration. At Petit Early Learning Journey, that’s exactly what we provide.
All our meals are designed by Dr. Cris Beer, an expert in nutritional medicine, and prepared daily by our on-site chef. We include seasonal, fresh ingredients and focus on healthy eating practices appropriate for the developmental stages of every age group.
Let us help you and your baby make the progress from breastfeeding or formula to solids an easy and enjoyable experience. Book a tour and let us show you how, together we can help your baby to grow and develop in health and happiness through every stage of their life.