Starting little ones on solid foods
Posted on 10 August 2017
It can be daunting to make the transition from a milk-only diet to helping your baby discover solid foods. But it’s an exciting time for you and your little one, filled with new experiences.
At around six months of age, the time is right to start introducing solid foods to your baby. Moving onto solids is important, because breast milk or formula isn’t enough to sustain a growing baby older than six months. Solids also provide important elements in a baby’s diet, such as protein, zinc, iron and vitamin A.
We asked paediatrician Dr Maretha Combrink of Mediclinic Kloof in Gauteng to talk us through the do’s and don’ts of introducing solids.
First, Dr Combrink explains why she doesn’t use the term ‘weaning’: ‘I prefer to call it complementary feeding, because weaning implies that milk feeds should be stopped, which is not the case with the introduction of solids.’
How do I know when my baby is ready for solid foods?
Dr Combrink says that as no two babies are the same, the indicators for introducing solids is not just age. Before introducing solid food, babies should:
- be older than four months (at least)
- have good head control
- have doubled their birth weight (or weigh at least 6-7kg)
- show an interest in food
- have started drooling and putting their hands in their mouths.
However, even if your little one is showing all these signs, the golden rule is never to force a baby to eat. Dr Combrink advises to try again every few weeks if your baby isn’t ready to accept solid foods yet.
What’s for starters?
When deciding what solid foods to start your baby on, the considerations are what they like and dislike, and whether there’s a history of allergies in the family. Dr Combrink recommends testing new foods by placing them on your little one’s skin or gums first to see if there’s a potential allergic reaction.
If you’d like to start with purées, ‘try a wheat-free cereal such as rice cereal or maize, or yellow-coloured vegetables like butternut and carrots,’ Dr Combrink advises. If your baby doesn’t like the mushy stuff, you can let them decide what they want to eat. Known as baby-led weaning, you can offer steamed soft veggies, cooled down and cut into a size they can hold in their hands.
Start early with table manners
There’s more to developing a baby’s diet than just a change of ingredients. Make sure your little one eats at the table with you at mealtimes, and avoid distractions like phones and tablets while eating. ‘Babies learn by watching others. Allow them to explore with their hands and try to feed themselves,’ says Dr Combrink.
A balanced diet
All new things are best introduced in moderation. If you’re not sure about how much food and how much milk to give your baby, Dr Combrink suggests this: ‘Offer food at least one and a half to two hours after a milk feed. Start with one teaspoon of puréed vegetables or cereal and gradually build up to five teaspoons. At this point you can start introducing a second and then a third meal per day.’