10 of the best ways to start solids

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Feeding a baby should be easy, right? Well that’s what you may think, until you have a baby and get to the “starting solids” stage. For a first-time mom, knowing what, when and how to feed your baby can be quite a daunting experience.

There is a lot of information available for feeding babies, which can also be confusing. Once you start with solids, you may also realise that not all babies are the same and what works for one parent doesn’t work for you. Here are a few guidelines to help you through the feeding process:

1. Get the timing right

Starting your baby on solids can have some serious consequences later in life. Rather give your baby the best start by waiting until he is ready. Your baby is ready for solids when he:

• Is between four to six months of age and has doubled his birth weight.
• Can sit with support and has good head control.
• Grasps objects and places them in his mouth.
• Has a growing appetite and is not satisfied after all of his milk feeds.
• Is curious about the food you are eating.

2. Start with the right foods

A puréed solid food is recommended for your baby’s first bites. Traditionally, a soft porridge is offered as the first food, but you do not need to start with porridge.

Appropriate foods to start with include puréed sweet potato, butternutcarrots, apples, pears, pawpaw, and peaches. By around eight months, your baby should be eating a healthy balanced diet that consists of:

Breastmilk or milk formula.
• Iron-fortified cereal.
• Yellow, orange and green vegetables.
• Fruit.
• Protein such as chicken, meat, fish, eggs, lentils and beans.

3. Feed your baby just enough

Start with just one to two teaspoons of puréed solid food. Ensure that the food is runny enough; add breastmilk or milk formula if you need to make the solid food a semi-liquid. Use a soft tipped plastic spoon to avoid injuring your baby’s gums. Begin with feeding once a day, when your baby is alert.

Your baby must first get used to the experience of eating and must practise how to keep food in his mouth and swallowing it. Breastmilk or formula milk still provides the majority of your baby’s nutritional requirements at this stage so don’t worry about the small quantity of food he is eating. You can add another feed as the amount of food he eats in one sitting gradually increases.

The 100% Breastfed campaign videos were created by Digital Medic South Africa, an initiative of the Stanford Centre for Health Education and the Stanford School of Medicine. 

Have you used any of these tips to start your baby on solids? Anything not listed here that really worked for you? Tell us by emailing to chatback@parent24.com and we could share your tips and tricks. 

4. Don't feed him when he's full

Your baby will not necessarily eat the same amount of food at each meal. You will know when your baby has eaten enough when he leans back, turns his head away from the food, or refuses to open his mouth for the next bite. Never force-feed your baby as this may result in future feeding problems.

5. Be allergy smart

If you have a family history of allergies, wait three days before introducing a new food in case your baby has an allergic reaction to a type of food. Waiting for a reaction will help you identify which foods (if any) he is allergic to.

Be sure to add a variety of foods to his diet. A variety of foods is recommended in order to provide a variety of nutrients in the diet. By the age of one year, your baby should be eating a varied diet such as your own, provided your diet is healthy!

6. Try and try again

Not all babies readily accept every new food they’re offered. If your baby turns his head from a certain food, don’t push it. Continue to offer foods and your baby will eventually start to eat a wider range.

Bear in mind that it takes about 15 to 20 times of exposing a baby to a particular food before he may start to accept it. Be sure to eat the foods you want him to eat yourself, since you are your baby’s main role model.

More than anything, it’s important to stay relaxed. Your baby will pick up on any anxieties you have which may affect his eating.

7. Get cooking!

It’s best to prepare your own baby food as you can monitor exactly what is going into your baby’s food. And don’t worry about this being difficult and time consuming – you don’t have to cook baby foods every day!

You can cook up a batch of vegetables (don’t add any salt, pepper or sugar at all) in bulk, purée them and freeze the food in ice trays for appropriate serving sizes (defrost a block at each feed). Your food does not have to be bland though; you can add herbs and salt-free spices for added flavour.

8. Food made to feel

As your baby grows and develops, you should transition the texture of his food from a semi-liquid, to a strained or mashed solid that is more textured and eventually move on to small pieces of finger foods (although not too small or hard that they pose a choking hazard) in order to aid his oral development and to encourage a love of food.

Your baby is ready to start eating finger foods when he has developed his pincer grasp. Examples of  nger foods that you can give your baby include: boiled egg quarters, strips of cheese, chicken pieces, banana, avocado strips, halved grapes, peeled pears, peeled cucumber, cooked noodles, bread strips and rice cakes, but there are loads more.

Get creative to keep things interesting and to include a variety of different foods. Never leave your baby alone with any food to avoid choking – keep an eye him.

9. Make it a family affair

Use a feeding chair when it’s time to feed your baby so that he can sit securely and comfortably. The family should eat together as much as possible so move your baby’s chair close to the table at mealtimes so that he is included. If this is not possible, then allow your baby to enjoy his meal with you if the rest of your family (or dad) are not around.

The right equipment is important. Make sure you have appropriate feeding spoons, plastic bowls and bibs for your baby. And be prepared for a mess! Allow your baby to explore his food with his hands as well as his mouth and encourage self-feeding.

10. Don't stress

Starting solids is a hectic time in a parent’s life. The key is to slow down and try to enjoy it as much as possible. Your baby’s weight gain slows down after the age of six months, and many parents worry unnecessarily about a lack of appetite.

Remember that a healthy child will not starve himself. Be sure to monitor your baby’s weight and height every month on his growth chart. If your baby is following his growth percentile, then he is adequately nourished.

Have you used any of these tips to start your baby on solids? Anything not listed here that really worked for you? Tell us by emailing to chatback@parent24.com and we could share your tips and tricks. 

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