A cheat sheet to introducing solids
Recommendations for introducing solids to your little one’s diet has changed over the years, especially when it comes to foods that can cause allergies.
So if you haven't had a chat with your doctor yet, here's a cheat sheet to get you started.
Your baby’s iron stores start to drop around 4-6 months as they use up what they got from mum in the womb. This is why it is important to introduce iron-rich foods.
Most babies will be ready to start solids sometime between 4-6 months (but not before 4 months). Signs that your baby is ready to start solids are:
has good head and neck control - can sit upright in a highchair with support
shows an interest in food - grabs for your food, opens mouth when you offer food
Start with 1-2 teaspoons of pureed food after a breastfeed or bottle (that way the worst of your baby’s hunger has been satisfied and they are happy to try something new). Your baby will let you know when they are full or have lost interest by:
turning their head away
pushing the spoon away
clamping their mouth shut
You don’t have to introduce foods in any particular order so long as you start with smooth purees.
It is fine to start with a mix of foods such as pureed cooked veggies, soft or stewed fruits, iron-fortified rice cereal. If your baby has eczema or there is a family history of food allergies, you can introduce new foods one at a time to help watch for allergies. Either way, remember that if you're not too excited about the taste of the food (esp rice cereal) then it's likely your baby won't be impressed either! But don't be tempted to add salt or sugar.
Your baby still needs breastmilk or infant formula at this age.
At this age your baby will be ready to move from smooth purees to lumpy mash including foods such as egg, cooked fish and minced meats. Try adding in finger foods like cooked veggies, soft fruits and toast to get them interested in feeding themselves. Why not embrace the mess by giving them a spoon too! (I recommend eating outside on a nice day so you don't have to worry about all the bits of food that end up on the floor).
At 6 months you can introduce cooled boiled water in a sippy cup to have during mealtime but they will still need breastmilk or infant formula throughout the day.
The Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA) guidelines recommend giving all babies (including babies with a high allergy risk) allergenic foods such as peanut butter, cooked egg, dairy and wheat products in the first year of life. Studies have shown that this can actually protect your child against developing an allergy.
If you think your child has had a reaction to a food, see your doctor for advice. You will need to take precautions for a child living with a food allergy.
By now your baby should be used to a wide variety of foods and textures. The amount of food should be gradually increasing to reach 3 small meals per day by 12 months.
Stay with breastfeeding or infant formula for their regular milk intake until 12 months of age.
After 12 months
After 12 months you can introduce honey, pasteurised cow’s milk, goat’s milk and soy milk.
Hold off on whole nuts and similar hard foods until 3yrs of age as these are choking hazards.
NOTE: Always supervise babies and young children when they’re eating. Be careful with hard foods like nuts and meat with small bones because these are choking hazards. Sitting with you child while they are eating not only helps prevent choking but also encourages social interaction around mealtime.
Related Children's Book
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
This is a classic picture book for toddlers. It tells the tale of a very hungry caterpillar who eats through way too much food to become a fat caterpillar. But he needed the food so he could sleep in his cocoon to turn into a beautiful butterfly!