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A Guide to the introduction of solids

This is an individual decision, depending on the age, present weight, weight gain, and general development of your baby.

Generally, a guide is when baby shows an interest in food, and will watch while you are eating. You may even get the feeling “gosh, my baby, you would like a taste of my meal”

The modern trend is to start solids later than previously. Usually baby will be at least four months old, and over 6 kilograms in weight. Early introduction of solids is thought to be associated with the increased chance of allergy development.

How to start and what to give.
Start once a day, before a milk feed in the mid-morning. This is when baby is hungry and so more likely to take the solid. Although it is very unlikely, this gives enough time in the day to resolve a reaction, like cramping, or a rash developing.

I personally recommend that you start with one of the sweeter vegetables such as butternut or sweet potato. Babies, like their parents, prefer sweeter tastes. They will take the sweeter of two milks.

Prepare the vegetables by steaming them until they are soft, and then mashing with a little water if needed. No butter or salt to be added.

In small amounts, slowly dribble one or two teaspoons on top of baby’s tongue, using a plastic-coated baby teaspoon. Usually baby will suck a little in, and swallow it. Half will go on the chin, half on the cheeks and nose, and baby will swallow the rest.

Over the next few days, baby will quickly get used to solids, and open her mouth like a little bird when she sees the food and spoon coming. Gradually increase the feed as she enjoys and readily takes it. You could be up to three to five teaspoons after a week.

When baby is taking the food well, change to another vegetable. This is usually after three to five days. If you started with butternut, try sweet potato next. Again, the same process of a little at a time, building up over a week.
Then start to mix vegetables, use what baby is used to and likes as a base, and add another like peas, patty pans, beans, carrots, broccoli.

When baby is taking the vegetables well, you can give them in the evening, round 1800, and still a milk feed thereafter before sleep at about 1900. If baby goes to sleep with a full tummy, baby will usually sleep longer at night, and drop a night time milk feed.

Go slowly. Babies do not like change. Build up on what they enjoy, and gradually introduce more flavors. Do not add anything like butter, salt, sugar, or spices

After about two weeks aim that baby should be taking a nice mixture of three or four vegetables. These you can vary after every few days.

To start the second meal of the day, double up with the vegetables to twice a day, but give a different combination at each meal. Most babies will have solids mid-morning around 10:00, and dinner around 18:00

After a few weeks of two solid meals a day, I recommend starting fruit as the third meal. The times then shift to about 8:00, 12:30 -13:00, and 18:00 -18:30, depending on your own routine. Vegetables are not as sweet as fruits, so if baby takes vegetables well, usually the fruits will go down well to.

Baby can have fruit in the morning, and mixed vegetables for lunch and dinner.

Start with one flavor, such as steamed and mashed apples. Give a little in the beginning and build up. After four or five days move to another fruit, perhaps pears, or mashed papaya and so on.

After two weeks, you can vary and introduce plain white full cream yogurt, which you sweeten with fruit. You can also give mashed avocado pear, soft cheese and cottage cheese.

Cereals are low nutritional value foods. Although they are convenient and quite filling, they should not be given regularly as one of the meals, but now and then is fine. They can be added or given as the evening meal to add extra calories, or help baby sleep better.

Eggs, chicken, meat and fish are introduced from six months of age. Remember most babies do not like change too often, so add just a little chicken or meat until baby enjoys it. Gradually build up to a ratio of about one third protein and two thirds vegetables.

In the beginning the food is a puree, but slowly blend less and less, so that by six months there are a few small granules and pieces in the food. Continue this process so by a year the vegetable meal can just be mashed with a fork with pieces the size of mince granules in it.

Points to remember:

  • Go slowly and get baby used to a flavor, before changing or adding another.
  • It is fine to start in the beginning with the prepared store-bought bottled baby food, to see what baby likes, and the consistency of the food. But as time goes by switch to your homemade food.
  • Aim that baby is “eating the rainbow.” Each different colored food has different vitamins and nutritional benefits.
  • Small oily fish are particularly high in healthy oils, such as sardines, pilchards and herrings. So are avocado pear and soya products
  • Nut butters can be added to the meals, as can powdered nuts, from six months of age.
  • Do not give honey until after a year of age
  • Finger foods can be introduced at about eight months of age.
  • Mealtime should be fun. If baby is not hungry at a meal, do not worry and try to finish the meal. Stop feeding when baby turns her head away, or closes her mouth. Babies know how much they need to eat. Some meals less, some meals more.
  • Herbs a generally a healthy addition to meals after six months of age. But no salt, extra butter, or sugar should be added.
  • Fresh milk is only given after a year of age. Baby need the extra iron and vitamins that are added to the formula milks.
  • I recommend that the TV is switched off during meals, as it is just a distraction. Do not let baby manipulate you into singing songs and dancing around to encourage him to eat. He will eat when he is hungry, if he is not hungry at a particular meal do not worry, he will eat better at the next meal. Remember a normal healthy baby will not go hungry.
  • As children grow up, they learn at least 60% of their vocabulary at the dining room table.

An example of the routine of a six month old baby could be a milk bottle at about 6 on waking, solids at 730 -0800. Cooled boiled tap water around 10:00, solids about 1230-1300, milk bottle 14:00 before the afternoon sleep. Water again at 1600, solids at 1800, bottle of milk at 1900, and a kiss before sleeping. This should fit into your routine, when you wake, when you get home and so on.

Once baby is taking three mixed meals a day, 500 to 600 mls of milk a day is enough, with at least two bottles of water, as much as baby wants,