Many parents worry about the right time to introduce their baby to solid foods and when to adjust their milk feeds as they grow.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) the recommended age for a solid start for your baby is six months – exclusive breastfeeding, or if necessary, infant formula is entirely sufficient until this age. Mom and baby can establish a positive new experience with the introduction of solids, but it is important that they aren’t introduced too early (before four months) nor delayed for too long, as solid foods contribute to optimum growth and overall health development of your baby.
So how do I know when my baby is ready for solids? Renowned paediatric dietician and Pampers Institute expert, Claire McHugh says that there are certain signs to look out for that will let you know that your baby is ready for ‘real’ food:
- If baby is no longer satisfied and needs milk feeds more often, then consider the introduction of solid foods
- Baby should be sitting with support and able to lift herself on her elbows when lying on her stomach
- When baby wakes up more regularly than before for night feeds than before
- When baby has doubled her birth weight, her diet is ready for a change
- When baby has lost her natural tongue thrust reflex
- Babies also begin to show an interest in food when mom and dad are enjoying a meal or snack together.
Taking the first ‘bite’ McHugh recommends that baby’s first meal is soft and easy to digest. “I advise moms to start baby on plain rice cereal that is mixed with baby’s milk to a texture that can pour off the spoon. Not only does it taste familiar, but rice cereals are normally fortified with iron and we know that baby’s iron levels are generally depleted by the time she is six months old. While some believe starchy vegetables offer baby the best start, it is important to remember that this particular food group is not rich in the iron that baby needs,” says McHugh. McHugh also suggests choosing a feeding time when baby is calm and relaxed and not too hungry so that her first food experience is a happy one. “As soon as baby has accepted rice cereal, start introducing starchy veggies such as pumpkin, butternut, sweet potato and squash. New foods can be introduced every two to three days provided that baby has not demonstrated an allergic reaction. Fruit can be added to baby’s menu shortly thereafter. Bananas, puréed apples and pears are good ‘everyday’ foods.
What about milk? Your baby will be consuming between 800ml and 1000ml of milk per day up to the age of six months. As you adjust their milk feeds and replace them with solid foods, the milk intake can be reduced between 600 and 700ml a day, and to about 500ml a day by the time they are one year old.
Is baby getting enough food? Every mom worries about whether or not her baby is getting enough milk and food and often asks about the amount of sustenance their baby should be consuming. McHugh recommends that you start off with one feed a day and gradually work your way up to three feeds after a few weeks. “The baby will only be able to eat one or two teaspoons at a time at first, after the next few weeks you can then gradually increase the thickness and amount of food per feed. It is important to allow your baby to direct you on the amount of food they eat – if she doesn’t want to eat, turns her head or shuts her mouth tight, don’t force her to eat it; try again at another time. If she doesn’t seem to like a particular food at first keep offering it as it takes many exposures before a flavour may be accepted,” says McHugh.