Top tips on starting solids for your little one!
Being a parent and seeing your little one grow and work through different milestones is a heart bursting experience. If your baby is ready to start his/her journey into the world of flavours, then sit back and relax. We are here to assist you through this with a bunch of useful tips on starting solids.
Our nine-month-old baby girl Navy loves her food and has done since we first introduced her to solids. She demolishes bananas, and don’t even get me started on her eating spaghetti! Her face lights up when she sits in the high chair next to her brother Jett, she watches his plate in anticipation, checking out what’s on the menu for the day.
We know it can be a bit overwhelming, especially for first-time mums so we thought we’d share a few tips that worked for us when we first introduced our two to solids.
- Wait until your baby is ready!
Most parents consider starting solids when their babies are around four months old. However, studies from the WHO and Australian National Health and Medical Research Council show that it is better to breastfeed / formula feed for the first six months. Studies suggest breastmilk/formula provides the necessary nutrients and goodies a baby needs at this age, introducing food is simply for food. The strongest recommendation is to wait until your little one is ready. Each baby is different so there is no definitive age, but you should wait until your little one has gained full neck control and can sit up supported.
If your baby is showing an interest in solids i.e., watching you eat, mimicking you opening and closing your mouth, that suggests they may be ready.
- Start with food items that have a lower thickness/ consistency.
As it is your baby’s first time with anything other than milk, try to start with softer food items. Your baby has only had liquid in their mouth until now so they may be slow to accept different tastes and textures. With Jett and Navy, we started with runnier foods like mashed banana, avocado and even porridge. It takes a few attempts and that first spoon was always interesting to watch, but after a few tries, they loved it. Over time you can slowly increase the thickness of the foods once your baby has gotten used to it. Add less liquid, blend or mash less and slowly increase the thickness of the food you are giving to your baby.
- Try to introduce one food item at a time!
All babies are different, and their likes, as well as dislikes, vary. JUst like adults they might not be interested in having certain kinds of food items. So, it is essential to be patient and try to take it slow.
It is recommended to start by introducing one food item at a time, wait 3 days and introduce another item etc. This is to identify if your baby has any reactions to the food you have given them. There is some different advice out there around whether to introduce fruits or vegetables first. Some believe introducing sweet foods such as apples or pears can put your baby off eating vegetables later, but research also suggests babies don’t develop aversions to food until the early years. We don’t think there is a right or wrong way. We started with a mixture of both. Avocado, banana or even avocado and banana mixed together. What I can tell you is we introduced broccoli early on with both and they both love “little trees” with dinner.
Sometimes babies may not like a specific food. It might take a minimum of ten to fifteen tries for some babies to like certain solids. Don’t give up and dismiss that particular food, keep trying because they like to keep us guessing and one day they’ll just eat it.
- Try mixing things up a little bit!
There are different methods for starting solids, spoon-feeding and baby-led weaning (BLW). Some parents prefer spoon-feeding as they are nervous about giving their baby whole foods. Some parents prefer baby-led weaning as this promotes independence and self-feeding.
Personally, I don’t think the two have to be mutually exclusive, why not do a combination of both? With Navy, I would alternate between spoon-feeding her cereal, other days I would give her some toast to gnaw on. We try to mix it up and it helps give the best of both worlds. You could also consider serving both at the same time, i.e. pieces of broccoli and a puree. This will allow your baby to practice self-feeding but also experiment with the taste and texture of the puree.
There is no right or wrong way, follow your baby’s cues and if they appear to enjoy one method over the other consider running with it.
A final note on this topic, I read that you should always taste the food before giving it to your baby but!, I cannot say I ever ate pureed chicken (never did it for me), but it cannot be a bad idea.
- Make your baby comfortable.
Ensure that your baby enjoys the experience of eating. Make sure you first introduce solids when your baby is not tired, sick, or teething. Pick a day when they appear to be happy to start your solids journey. This will ensure both you and baby are relaxed and comfortable with the experience. Jett was always off his food during teething, so know this is normal and don’t force the issue.
Try and introduce cues to your baby that its time to eat; put your baby in a high chair, consider putting on a bib (I know a great store that sells them 😉). This will trigger your baby to know its time to eat. Try and have a calm and peaceful environment when you begin, calming music or even just talking to your little baby can make all the difference. Try and avoid having the tv on in the background as this can be a distraction. We always have music on, and I can highly recommend the ‘Acoustic Chill’ playlist on Spotify.
Sometimes your baby will be disinterested in eating, don’t put too much pressure on them or yourself, it is an exciting time, have fun with it.
- Continue breastfeeding or bottle-feeding
Your little one might have started solids, but you should continue breastfeeding or bottle feeding for the first 12 months. Babies get most of their nutrients from their milk so, it is essential to have it in their diet. Breastmilk changes as your baby grows and the nutrients it provides adapt to your baby’s age. The amount of milk will decrease as your baby’s appetite for solids increases. When it comes to solids, most of them end up on the tray, the floor, or the bib for the first few months anyway.
- Keep an eye on allergies!
Food allergies are a crucial problem most parents face when it comes to solids. Most parents avoid milk, nuts, and some vegetables for their babies due to the fear of allergies. However, some studies show that delaying introducing these food items can increase the risk of an allergy later in life.
Be considerate when introducing allergens, introduce a new food item every 3 days and watch out for any symptoms. Potential symptoms can include vomiting and diarrhea, coughing and wheezing, itching skin (hives) swollen lips and others. If any symptoms become noticeable within a few hours seek medical advice as soon as possible.
I was nervous about introducing Jett to peanuts, his cousin has a peanut allergy, so it put me on edge. We introduced it and he was fine, no worries at all, now he tries to eat peanut butter with a spoon.
If you are concerned about introducing certain food items, talk to your doctor or healthcare provider.
- When can I start solids for my little one?
- When your baby starts to show interest in food items on the table
- When your baby can move his or her tongue
- When your baby can sit up supported
- When your baby has gained neck control
These are some of the things we took into consideration when we started solids with our little ones. It’s an exciting time, do your research, relax, and just enjoy it.