When your little one is about 6 months, breast milk or formula will no longer provide all the nutrition they need for healthy growth. That is when the time comes to finally begin adding solid foods to your baby’s diet.
How to begin?
The beginning must start by offering small amounts of solids one time per day, at a time of the day that suits you and your little one. Eventually baby should increase the amount of solid food they eat, until they are able to eat 3 small meals a day with the rest of the family. Breastfeeding or formula feeding should continue alongside the solid foods, even though they are not enough alone, they still form an essential part of the infant diet.
Why start at 6 months?
At around 6 months baby’s appetite will not be satisfied by breast milk or formula alone and he will be running low on iron and zinc – solids are needed to replenish these and other nutrient levels so your baby can continue to grow. By the way, 6 months is the time when baby’s digestive system will be ready to cope with solid food and little one will be physically mature enough to take food from a spoon with their mouth.
Why not earlier?
Waiting until your baby is about 6 months old will ensure that he quickly adjusts to this new way of feeding. If your little one would be younger, he would be not ready for solids and he will push the solid food back out of their mouth. Also, you should know that it would increase a risk of infection and would decrease breast milk production, of course, if you are still breastfeeding.
Is he really ready?
There should be main 3 signs that your child is ready to include some solid food to their diet. First is that your little one can sit up without any support and hold his head steady easily. Also, he already has the co-ordination to look at food and pick it up and put it in his mouth without help from you. And lastly, he is able to bite and swallow solid food instead of just pushing it out of their mouth with their tongue.
What should be the first foods?
It is recommended that you should start with a food that is rich in iron. You could try iron-enriched baby rice or baby cereal, cooked and pureed red meat, chicken, pork, liver or fish but of course, remove any bones in fish before cooking, also cooked and pureed tofu or legumes. Even though little one and you will pick your favorite foods, remember to keep adding new foods all the time. Once your baby gets going, add some pureed fruit and vegetables, and some dairy products like yoghurt. Then just keep adding a variety of different foods as your child gets used to lumpier textures.
What about finger foods?
Baby should be ready for finger foods when he is about 8 months old. If you are wondering what should be the foods to give, you might want to try giving him pieces of soft raw fruit or cooked vegetables, perhaps small pieces of boiled or steamed vegetables, like beans, potato, pumpkin, carrot circles.
What should my little one drink?
Keep giving your baby breast milk or infant formula as their main drink up until they are 12 months old. Small amounts of cooled, boiled water may also be given in a cup. But as your little one eats more solids he will gradually reduce their intake of milk or will drop one of their milk feeds altogether. Beyond 12 months, he can drink full-fat pasteurised cow’s milk and water. However, you might want to keep offering your baby some breast milk beyond 12 months, as well.
What should be avoided?
Be careful by giving your baby small, hard pieces of food that can cause choking, such as, nuts, seeds, raw carrot, celery sticks and chunks of apple. Of course, best would be to avoid them completely. Also, be sure to avoid soft drinks, fruit juice, coffee and tea and honey. Excessive amounts of salt and sugar are also unhealthy for your baby, and can encourage bad eating habits. It’s best to cook everything yourself using fresh ingredients, rather than using processed foods. However commercial baby foods are convenient on occasions. Cow’s milk, other animal milks, and plant-based milks like soy, almond or rice milk, are not suitable alternatives to breast milk or infant formula in the first 12 months. However, they may be used in cooking or be mixed with foods from 6 months.
Moving to solids is a huge step to make as a parent and especially as a child. Be sure to follow at least these main rules and your journey with solid foods should be simply successful.