Over the years, I have written many articles on introducing solids, and I initially created Food Babies Love because I felt so overwhelmed when I was introducing solids with my twin babies. I quickly realised that I was not alone, many parents found this phase of parenting challenging and there was need for a practical and simple guide.
Combining my love of food with practical advice and a touch of mum-wisdom, I wrote Food Babies Love: A guide to introducing solids. Here are some Q & A’s to get you started.
How do you know when it’s time to start?
Are they aged between 4 and 6 months?
Are their eyes following your food from plate to mouth, reaching out to grab at what you eat?
Or perhaps they are not lasting as long between milk feeds?
These are all indicators that your baby may be ready to move onto solids.
Do I need special equipment?
I like to keep things simple and recommend a good high-chair that is easy to clean, a feeding smock and quality plastic bib and a few kitchen essentials. You don’t need to spend lots of money on big kitchen gadgets; a simple stick blender will do just fine. We also recommend a good vegetable peeler and a grater that’s not rusty. A good microwave safe jug with a lid is also handy. You will need lots of food storage containers for freezing all your beautiful cooking in small portions.
Do I start with purees or textures?
There is lots of talk about skipping purees and going straight to texture or even finger food (Baby Led Weaning). My personal opinion is that smooth purees are fine for a few weeks, but it is important to start migrating to texture by about 6-7 months of age. Like so many parenting challenges, do what you are comfortable with, but I recommend sticking with purees to enable them to get used to tastes and then introduce texture.
I don’t believe there are any rights or wrongs, but beware of choking and never leave your baby unsupervised while they are eating.
What are some good starting purees?
It’s usually a good idea to start with individual purees and then combine two, and build up form there.
My favourite starters are potato, carrot, pumpkin, sweet potato, broccoli, cauliflower, peas; some good combinations are to simply add two or three of these together, adding proteins around the second month of eating.
What is baby led weaning?
It’s basically an approach to introducing solids where you bypass the puree and spoon stage and you offer your baby food from your plate and letting them suck on it and play with it.
Common concerns include risk of choking, the mess (it is a very messy business, so be prepared if you choose this path) and whether or not the nutritional needs of the baby are being met.
Read more on Baby Led Weaning here.
At what age do solids become more important than milk?
Your baby’s regular milk (breast or formula) must remain their primary source of nutrition until 12 months of age.
If you notice your baby’s milk intake is dropping a lot, then you may need to offer smaller serves at meal times. From 6 months to 12 months, their milk volumes will gradually decrease with some feeds dropping altogether. They should be consuming between 500ml and 600ml per day.
My baby is not interested, what should I do?
There may be a couple of reasons they appear not to be interested. One is simply because they are not ready. If this is your gut feel and they are still not yet 6 months old, then it’s fine to pause for a week or two and try again later.
If they are just showing the very common signs of minimal interest, then don’t give up! Persistence and timing is the key. There is no point offering food to a baby if they are over tired or not hungry. Try before their milk feed and when they first wake up.
Also remember that it takes up to 10-15 exposures of a new food for children to decide if they like something or not. So don’t assume that because they turned their nose up at pumpkin, they don’t like it, and that they’re a ‘fussy eater’. Keep trying, and mix up how you prepare the food. Try pumpkin pureed, mashed, hot or cold, mixed into lentils, roasted, in risotto, etc.
Aside from milk, what drinks should I offer?
Water. Water. Water. Do not give your toddler juice, cordial or softdrink. This is completely unnecessary, is a major cause of Paediatric dental decay and will impact their beverage choices for the rest of their life. Water and milk are all they need. We feel really passionate about this! It’s such an easy one to get right and so many parents muck it up.
Offer water with every meal and in between milk feeds and food just as you would require throughout the course of a day.
I have a fussy eater, what do you recommend?
‘Fussy eater’ is a commonly-used term to describe a child who is simply asserting their independence. In most cases, it’s a behaviour and definitely not a disease. Of course, there are some real cases of serious food aversions and sensory issues, but I am referring to the majority.
The most important thing is to never offer choices. If your child doesn’t want to eat what you serve them, don’t make a fuss; simply take the meal away and move on. Yes, they may go hungry; yes, there may be tears, but if you start to prepare another meal or offer them favorites, they will quickly learn that their behavior is rewarded with what they want. This can become a battle of wills, but a few nights off to bed with no food and they will quickly realise they need to eat what is offered.
As parents, sometimes, we need to take a brave pill to be OK with this, but trust me, it works. Your job is to provide a balanced nutritious diet and let them decide how much of it they eat. Don’t give in to the nagging for the honey sandwich or whatever it may be. Remember, kids won’t starve themselves.
What is a good meal time routine?
Set clear paramaters and boundaries around mealtimes from the outset and stick to them.
- Always sit them in a high-chair with a bib and feeding smock on. Once they know the drill, they won’t resist it.
- Never have toys on the table.
- NO TV and NO devices – you or them!
- Be firm with your expectations around table manners.
- Do not offer choices. If they don’t want the meal you serve, don’t worry. Move on from the meal.
- Always sit at the table with your baby and talk to them. You are setting the foundations for a family mealtime. Do you want your teenagers to sit and chat with you or do you want them eating in their bedrooms trawling Facebook?
How much should my baby be having each meal?
Every baby is different, so be guided by them a little. Remember, their tummy is no bigger then their fist, so if you have a baby that would keep eating and eating and eating, then put the brakes on. Also, if their milk intake is dropping significantly, reduce their meal size.
- A good guide for up to 18 months is approximately 5 to 10 cubes or up to 1 cup in volume per meal.
- Around 2 years of age, you may notice a drop in consumption. This is inline with slowing growth rates and is perfectly normal.
- Limit snacking and always make them healthy choices.
I hope these help you on your path to getting started with introducing solids.