Our guide to introducing solids
Getting ready to introduce your baby to solids is an exciting, yet daunting milestone. There is a lot of information out there about which baby food to start your baby on! So to help make the process seem a little less overwhelming, here’s a simple guide about introducing and starting solids. We also talk in depth about solids here too!
Remember that as you start this culinary journey and set up their love of wholefoods for life, this should be an exciting time for both baby and you…
Is my baby ready for solids?
The Nutritional Health and Medical Research Council in Australia states that babies should be introduced to solid foods between four to six months. This can vary depending on the child (premature babies may need a little bit longer), but on average most babies start showing signs of readiness around the four to six month mark.
Signs of readiness include:
- Being able to sit upright in a highchair and hold up their head
- Declining tongue thrust reflex (the reflex that automatically goes to push food out of their mouths)
- Generally seeming more hungry and fussy
- Wanting to grab and showing signs of interest in the food around them
When you have decided your baby is ready, it’s time to start thinking about how you’ll introduce foods. There is no set time of day, it’s more a matter of whatever works best for you. However, from experience, I’ve found that mornings are typically the best time to introduce foods. This way you can observe any reactions. Not to mention, babies are generally more accepting of new foods when they’re not tired. Plus parents tend to have a little more patience in the morning, which can help the process go smoother. For information on solid foods and why we introduce solids to baby at an early age read more here.
What are great first foods for my baby?
The best foods to start weaning your baby with are ones that are nutrient-dense, particularly iron rich and easy to prepare and purée. Ultimately the goal is to get your baby eating a puréed version of what you eat, then finely chopped and mashed for older babies, moving towards finger food portions for toddlers.
Early introduction and exposure to allergic foods is preventative!
The latest research is now shows that with early introduction and exposure to allergic foods you can reduce the likelihood of your child developing food allergies. The World Health Organisation and The Australian Society of Clinical Immunology recommends that allergenic foods should be introduced to babies between four to six months, ensuring they have been exposed to the most common allergenic foods multiple times (if tolerated) before 12 months of age. Delaying the introduction of these allergenic foods or consuming them as a once off might actually increase the risk of your child developing food allergies.
When introducing allergens, make sure you find age-appropriate ways to introduce them, starting with very small amounts, doing each food one at a time, alongside breast milk or formula will ensure the best tolerance and then, continue to repeat the exposure if the food is tolerated.
What foods could my baby be allergic to and how do I introduce them?
- Dairy: Whole milk natural yoghurt to milk kefir (organic if possible).
- Tree nuts or peanuts: A small amount of nut butter added to a puree or thinly spread onto a crust of bread or rusk.
- Eggs: Scrambled or boiled eggs added to purees
- Fish and shellfish: White flakey boneless fish, well-cooked prawns or scallops, added to a vegetable puree or as thickened fish soup.
- Soy: GMO free and organic tofu, natto (first food in Japan!) or edamame bean puree.
For more information visit allergy.org.au.
What are the best baby purees to start with when introducing solids?
4-6 month food guide: Purees and steamed vegetables
When baby is 4-6 months nutrient dense purees and iron rich foods are what you should aim for when introducing solids.
Vegetable purees are the perfect carrier for foods such as egg yolks, ground meats (chicken thigh or grass fed beef) and organic chicken liver. They also act as a base for introducing other allergents including egg. Here are foods to include at this age…
- Steamed green vegetables: Puree a combination of zucchini, peas and baby spinach, which work well for constancy. Green leafy vegetables are a source of non-heme iron.
- Well-cooked legumes: Add lentils and black beans to a vegetable puree.
- Eggs: Add to puree or simply scramble.
- Porridge: Combine smooth oats and prunes (prunes are a good source of iron and in addition are good for easing constipation. See one of Brittany’s favourite baby porridge recipes here.
After the age of six months is when I recommend parents start to try a baby led weaning approach. Encourage self-feeding and allow them to play with foods and get a little messy.
This is also a crucial window to introduce flavour and texture. Flavours should include mild herbs and spices (cinnamon, vanilla, turmeric) as well as sour and bitter foods (green vegetables including broccoli or natural yogurt). The more variety that is introduced during this period, the less likely they are to become a fussy eater as they approach toddlerhood. You’ll also be providing a good variety of nutrients that they need. Here are foods to include at this age…
- An abundance of cooked vegetables, in the colours of the rainbow.
- 1/2 serve of fruit daily (cooked, pureed and mashed as needed).
- Small amounts of good quality fish: Flakey boneless smaller species of fish).
- Soaked and well-cooked legumes, if tolerated: Homemade Dahl, legumes such as lentils or beans, blended into textured purees).
- Grass-fed meats, organic poultry and eggs roughly blended into purees: Homemade meat and vegetable meatballs, scrambled eggs).
- Ground nuts and seeds: LSA sprinkled onto yoghurt or porridge, nut butter added to a puree or on a crust of sourdough bread).
- Whole milk yogurt or milk kefir.
- Whole grains: Oat porridge, barley, buckwheat, brown rice, sourdough bread, baby bircher, homemade pancakes, risotto, add grains to soups.
- Use extra virgin olive oil or grass-fed butter for cooking, if needed.
9-12 month food guide: Baby finger foods and family foods
This is the time to start transitioning your child away from smoother foods and start incorporating even more texture and finger foods, whilst getting them used to eating meals with the family. I encourage my patients not to think about adult food and kids’ meals but instead making one family meal that can be made baby-friendly.
- Breakfasts: Soaked porridge or muesli, smoothies, scrambled, poached or boiled eggs, homemade pancakes using whole grains, vegetable fritters.
- Lunch/dinner: Risotto, Dahl, veggie stews, chopped meat and fish, meatballs or veggie balls.
- Snacks: Hummus or babaganoush with soft veggies, yoghurt with fresh fruit, miso soup, nut butter on toast, whole grain crackers.
What foods to avoid when introducing baby to solids?
- Honey because of the risk of botulism if introduced too early.
- Choking hazards including popcorn, frozen fruit and vegetables, grapes, cherry tomatoes, whole nuts and seeds (expect butters) and sausages.
- Foods with added salt. Babies don’t require more than 200mg of sodium daily from foods. Look at nutritional panels for sodium content and added salt in the ingredients list.
What about milk?
- Stick with breast milk or formula as a primary beverage until your baby is one year old, alongside the introduction of solid foods from four to six months of age. Adjust the amount of breast or formula milk, depending on your child’s appetite.
- Avoid cows milk as a drink until 12 months of age, but it’s fine to use small amounts of cow’s milk in cooking or baking.
What do I do if my baby refuses and is fussy?
Don’t give up! It’s normal for your baby to be ‘fussy’ or not want to accept certain foods the first few times. Research shows that it takes babies an average of 12 exposures before a baby will like a new food. Be patient and keep offering.
One Fine Baby Expert Brittany Darling @wholefoodhealing
The information contained in this article is for informational and educational purposes only. We cannot guarantee that any information found in this article, will work as advertised, nor that they will give you the desired results. Individual results may vary. None of the information contained in this article is intended to diagnose, treat, alleviate or relieve any medical or health conditions nor serve as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional. You should always speak with your physician or other healthcare professional before adopting any treatment for a health problem or undertaking any new dietary regime. If you have or suspect that you or your child has a medical problem, you should contact your health care provider.