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Nutrition 101, starting solids

Starting Solids: Ready, Set, Go!

So you’ve taken the leap to starting your baby on solids and you’ve decided which food to introduce first, now you need to decide how and when this momentous occasion in your little one’s life will take place.

WHEN?

The time of day is not important but it needs to be a time when both you and baby are relaxed. Choosing the right time is key as it will set the tone for your baby to associate meal times with a happy time going forward. Remember that if you are stressed or tense, your baba will be too (and that also works in reverse!).

To determine when would be the best time for you both, choose a time when your little munchkin isn’t overtired or too hungry. You want them to be hungry but not starving, so that they are in the best possible frame of mind to take a leap out of their comfort zone (steer away from a HANGRY baby!).

I found mid-morning to be the most optimal time of day, an hour or so after the mid-morning milk feed. The same goes for the mid-day milk feed. By introducing foods for the first time in the morning or mid-day, means that you’ll have the full day to watch out for any potential negative side effects when introducing proteins and other allergens.

HOW MUCH?

Do not act as if you need to prepare for a war/natural disaster by buying every box of cereal, leaving no aisle in your supermarket unturned, until you have claimed ownership of every last box in stock. The same goes for cooking in batches large enough to start you own baby food business. Two words to remember here: start small.

Your baby is going to be tasting tiny amounts until they are able to tolerate full meals. You will eventually work your way up to a total of three meals for breakfast, lunch and supper (eventually at the same time as the rest of the family), so the initial period is simply to expose them to the various sensations associated with eating solids.

NB: Milk will still form the bulk of your child’s diet for the first year of his/her life.

There’s no ‘one size fits all’ here, some babies can tolerate more than others. Your baby will guide you by either pushing the spoon away, closing his mouth, turning his head away or crying to show you that they have had enough. Start with a tiny amount (around one teaspoon) once a day and then slowly work your way towards a little more each time. If they continue to resist you it may mean that they aren’t ready to start solids and you should give it a few days’ rest. Never ever force the spoon into their mouth, there is no rush!

Remember that starting solids is not meant to replace meals or fill up your baba’s little tummy. Rather it’s to get them comfortable with the concept of eating, whilst breast milk or formula continues to form the basis of their diet.

HOW?

While organic rice cereal was once doned the ultimate food for starting solids (because it is totally allergy-friendly and bland in taste for new little taste buds), new studies have shown that childen should actually be exposed to as many foods, as early as possible from the 4 month mark. For this reason, veggies and fruits serve as the perfect foundation to which a variety of grains, healthy fats and proteins can be added to.

While previously, plain foods were the order of the day, experts are now encouraging parents to get creative with flavours and combinations from the onset. So don’t hold back on cooking with ingredients like olive oil and adding a variety of herbs and spices for slightly more complex and tastier flavours (remembering to avoid any added salt or  sugar).

When it comes to proteins, introduce one at a time, waiting 2-3 days to gauge your baby’s reaction  as you go.

Here is a rough guideline to show you what you are working towards (this is by no means the ‘holy grail’, merely some information to help guide you):

  • Step 1 (the first week): start by introducing around a teaspoon of  veggies once a day. It certainly doesn’t need to be one veggie at a time, instead you can combine veggies with interesting herbs and spices for tasty combos. If your baby is keen to try a bit more, then take his/her lead and offer a bit more. Let them guide you!
  • Step 2 (roughly between the second and third week): your baba has now graduated through the first few days and is ready for a second taste of solids in their day. If you have been giving him/her solids in the morning then this second meal could be after their mid-day milk feed. Your baby should now be able to tolerate a few teaspoons at a time. You are encouraged to introduce other foods like a variety of fats and proteins (keeping to the 2-3 day rule when it comes to introducing any new proteins). There is no reason to avoid any foods (other than salt, sugar and honey*) unless you have a family history of allergies (in which case you should consult with your baby’s health care provider).
  • Step 3 (roughly between the third and fourth week): baba is now ready for three servings a day including a variety of veggies, fruit, grains, fats and proteins for breakfast, lunch and supper. This third meal could be at night before bath time (they are guaranteed to get more than a little dirty!) and their last milk feed. Ensure that you aren’t giving them any new proteins at night (rather give tried and tested ones at night and experiment with new ones in the day to watch out for any negative reactions).
  • Step 4 (from six months old): from six months your baby should be eating three solid meals, two healthy snacks and should be eating protein with every main meal (again remembering to introduce new foods only every 2-3 days). Now is the time to have fun with finger foods! By six months your baba should be eating pretty much anything unless you have a family history of allergies or advised otherwise by your paed or nurse.

SOME HELPFUL TIPS :

  • Never force anything on your baby. If the fancy organic cereal (you went out especially to find) or your homemade butternut purée is getting the cold shoulder, don’t force the issue. Rather wait a few days and then try the food again. That said, just because your baby wasn’t mad about something doesn’t mean that you should steer clear of it forever more. An adventurous eater means being exposed to lots of different foods and flavours. Importantly to note is that getting used to something may take some gentle perseverance (10-14 times to be accepted!)
  • Avoid feeding porridge or any other thinned solid foods out of baby’s bottle as this could result in your little one overeating and prevents them from developing key eating skills.
  • Offer a variety of tastes, textures and food groups to avoid any fussy eating habits later on. Don’t be afraid of textures and avoid getting into a habit of puréeing everything to a fine consistency. Even babies without any teeth are able to tolerate lumps!
  • Take extra precaution to keep food as safe as possible for baby. More on preparation and storage tips here.
  • Allow your baby to touch her food and explore with her little hands. From six months your baby is able to hold finger foods, so give her pieces to hold and allow her to explore her new found independence and eat on her own.
  • Get over the mess and make it all about your baby!

MY TWO CENTS:

Starting solids needs to be seen as a personal and unique adventure for your little one. An adventure that can and should be well informed but need not be followed according to a textbook step-by-step process. It needs to be fluid, adapting as you go along, according to how your baby responds. Your baby is a little individual after all!

Us moms get so caught up in what the other is doing that we forget to go with our gut and do what may very well be a better fit for our own baby. Trust your instinct and when that fails (because sometimes we actually have no clue what we are doingsigh!) then let your baby guide you as you go.

Most importantly, remember that this is your and your baby’s own special journey (it’s not a race!) and that it is up to you to pave the way for your baby to have a healthy and happy relationship with food, now and later on in life.

Note:
  • Always allow hot food to cool before feeding it to your baby
  • Never leave your baby alone when they are eating
  • The above information shouldn’t replace the advice of your paediatrician, GP or nurse

*Honey should be avoided before the age of one due to the risk of infant botulism.

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