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When to Introduce Solids

Oobi eggs bib.1.jpgIt is recommended that solids are introduced anytime between 4 and 6 months – but it is important you focus on the signs of readiness (see below) for solids rather than the age of your baby.

Signs of Readiness

 
Waiting until your baby is ready is very important as it respects your baby's development, greatly reduces the risk of an allergic reaction and shortens the transition time between spoon- and self-feeding.  Eating will be a much more ‘fun’ experience if you wait and watch for when your baby is genuinely interested and ready for solids. Your baby will give you clear signs.

If you give your baby solids to early, you increase the risk of digestive problems or food allergies.   If solid food completely replaces breast milk or formula too quickly, your baby is at risk of becoming malnourished. 

 
Cues that baby is ready for solids include:
 
  • Head control. Babies need to be able to sit and hold their heads steady by themselves before they can begin to eat.
  • Sitting well when supported. Even if baby is not quite ready for a highchair, they do need to be able to sit upright to swallow well.
  • Significant weight gain. A very general guide that baby is ready if that birth weight has doubled. (this is not an indication alone)
  • Interest in food and watching others eating.
  • Ability to let you know when full. Look for signs such as turning away from the bottle or breast. This is important so that baby is able to have some say in the process and can communicate if and when they’ve had enough. Babies have build a built in natural appetite and therefore it is important they can self-regulate the amount of food they eat.   
  • Growing appetite. Baby is hungry — even with six to eight feedings of breast milk or formula a day.
  • Understand the dynamics of their mouth, lips and tongue. Your baby's mouth and tongue develop in sync with the digestive system. To start solids, baby open their mouth when food is offered and should be able to move food to the back of the mouth and swallow.
  • Loss of the tongue-thrust reflex. To keep solid food in his mouth and then swallow it, your baby needs to stop using his tongue to push food out of his mouth. Also a baby needs to know how to use their tongue to keep themselves from choking. If you start solids too early, your baby may experience a choking sensation by having food in their mouth that they can’t control. This is dangerous for baby and will make meal times stressful for all involved! 
 
Remember - "outward" signs of being ready for solids do not mean that your baby's inner digestive system is mature and ready. Always seek professional opinion if your baby does not respond well when you try to introduce solids. 

The Place for Breast Milk or Formula

  • Do I still need to give my baby Breast Milk or Formula?
Yes, it is really important that breast milk or formula remains a big part of the diet until 12 months of age.  Both provide important vitamins, iron, and protein in a form that your baby is use to digesting.
 
Up until solids are introduced at 4 - 6 months, breast milk or formula provides all the calories and nourishment your baby needs and can handle. So babies should be exclusively given breast milk or formula until this time.
 
After about 6 months of age, breast milk or formula alone cannot meet an infant’s energy requirements and stores of iron and zinc are likely to be depleted by this age. So solid foods are an important addition to your baby’s diet. In saying this however, it is important to highlight that the first few weeks of solids and eating are really experimentation for your baby.
 

Solids and Sleep

 

Yippee so my baby will sleep through the night once I start solids...right?

 
If only it was that simple!!
 
Frequently waking throughout the night when a solid sleeping pattern had been established is sometime the catalyst for parents to start their baby on solid food. It is assumed the waking is due to hunger but there are a number of reasons why baby may start waking in the night.
 
In reality, waking in the night is not the best indicator for need to introduce solids. Sleeping and eating patterns continually change as your baby grows and there are a number of other factors that will effect your child’s sleep – hunger, teething, illness, and temperament.

A note for all you sleep deprived parents
Be reassured that your little one will sleep through eventually but unfortunately it is not true that establishing solids will result in a blissful 12 hours of unbroken sleep per night.  Growth spurts (@ approximately 3-4 months, 6-7 months and 9-10 months) will effect your child’s behaviour whether solids are well established or not….and don’t forget those other factors (such as teeth, sickness, and temperament).
 

Tips to Help when Introducing Solids 

  • Mess and time. Baby is learning a new skill so be prepared and enjoy!! Being patient and calm helps your baby see that mealtimes are a fun relaxed time and helps to build a positive association with food. Prepare by spreading newspaper, a plastic drop sheet or a tablecloth which can be easily wiped clean to make mess more manageable.
  • Required Equipment. A highchair or equivalent (such as the Me Too Chair) that meets safety standards with a safety harness. When solids are first introduced it may be more comfortable for baby to sit on your knee but down the track a high chair is essential. For mess - bibs, a bowl with a suction bottom, and a mat or newspaper on the floor are a must.  Use a soft rubber-tipped spoon to avoid injuries to gums and these spoons are fabulous as they are designed to be sterilised under high temperatures for your babies safety.
  • Set the scene for healthy eating attitudes. Let your baby experiment – Even if your baby is interested in the food, it is very natural for them to push much of the food out as they attempt to negotiate with the new sensation and texture of solid food. If your baby doesn't seem very interested in eating off the spoon, let them smell and taste the food and then just offer it again a few days later.
  • Eat with your baby…right from the start. Eat at home, as a family and without other distractions (such as TV). This not only is this very entertaining but it shows your baby good mealtime habits, the importance and the social aspects of food. The Me Too Highchair, Kaboost or Little Beetle are fantastic as they allow your baby to sit with the rest of the family…even when you go out!!
  • Respect your baby – don’t force them to eat or continue to feed when full. From day one, respect your baby’s food choices and avoid mealtime battles over food.
  • Offer variety and a nutritionally balanced diet. Yum Yum Kids has great food books that help with the introduction of solids.
  • Avoid processed foods and foods full of additives as long as possible. Choose whole, seasonal, organic, homemade options when possible.
  • Keep it positive and fun 

 

For a Step by Step Guide to Introducing Solids, click here.  Includes the process, foods to start with, foods to avoid, how much, how often, progressing with solids and all you need to know to make the introduction of solids easier.

 


 

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