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A Guide to Introducing Solids to Your Baby
When babies are born, they only need breast milk or a suitable infant milk formula. However, as your little one grows, they will need other foods to make sure that they are getting everything they need for their optimal growth and development. All babies are different and will wean differently. Keep it fun and relaxed and be led by your baby!
When should I start introducing solids?
Professionals recommend that babies have breast milk exclusively for the first 6 months. Some babies may seem ready for solids a little earlier, but breast milk provides your baby with the perfect amount of calories, protein, fats and carbohydrates that they need for optimal development. Before this time, your baby’s tummy and immune system will not be ready, and it poses risk of infection, choking and undernutrition in the short term, and increased possibility of obesity, heart disease and diabetes in the long term. After 6 months, it is important that your baby starts to have solid foods, whilst carrying on with breastmilk or infant formula, for their physical and mental development. Your little one should be able to sit and hold their head steady and be able put their hand to their mouth to start introducing solids.
A sensible time to offer your baby solid food for the first time would be after a breakfast or lunch milk. First foods should be smooth and easy to digest. A great option is a little rice or maize-based cereal mixed with your milk to make a runny consistency, fed with a soft-tipped feeding spoon. Your little one might only eat one spoonful for the first few tries. Continue offering the solid food to them at regular mealtimes. Once they have accepted the cereal, you can start introducing vegetable and fruit puree. Introduce vegetable puree before fruit puree, as fruits are sweeter than vegetables, and your baby may develop a preference for fruit. Start with subtle, sweeter vegetables like butternut, sweet potato and carrot. If you need to, you can mix a little breast milk or formula with the food.
It’s important to give your baby the same food for 3 days in a row to allow them to get used to the taste and texture, and to confirm that there are no allergic reactions. To deal with food allergies, read our Baby Feeding Problems and Solutions.
How much should I feed my baby?
Start with one feed of solid food a day, in combination with your regular milk feeds, until your baby becomes accustomed to it. Start introducing 2-3 solid food feeds after a few weeks. Your baby will probably only be able to eat 1-2 teaspoons at a time.
After 7 months, or a month after introducing solids, include variety in your little one’s diet through different vegetable and fruit purees and cereal flavours. This encourages your baby to try new flavours and develop a palate for different tastes, supplying a wide variety of nutrients to their diet. By this time your little one can have two to three small meals a day, and half a cup of food per feed.
At this stage your baby is ready for more complex tastes and textures and is now ready to learn to chew, regardless of whether teeth have appeared or not. Introduce more coarsely textured and mashed food such as PURITY® 8 month food jars to teach your baby to coordinate the different parts of their mouth and use the muscles they need for speech development. Your baby may struggle to accept new textures at first, but keep trying.
Babies are now able to cope with finger foods and with holding a spoon and using it with more accuracy. This is due to the development of their ‘pincer grasp’ (they can hold something between their thumb and forefinger). Foods that work well are those with a natural handle like broccoli, boiled egg quarters, banana or a piece of cheese. Offer these finger foods with a nutritious dip, like hummus, to pique your baby’s interest and encourage further hand-eye coordination.
Once your baby has reached a year, you can start including most of your lightly flavoured family foods. By now they can eat all food types with a couple of solid snacks, too. If you want to introduce cow’s milk in your little one’s diet, now would be the right time to begin.
There are some foods that you should only give your baby after they turn one year old, like salt, sugar and honey. Finely ground nuts and nut butters are fine to give a baby before they turn one year, but whole nuts should only be given to children after they turn 5 due to the risk of choking. If your baby is prone to allergies or you have allergies in the family, consult a health professional before introducing certain foods.
Solid foods are a choking hazard to young children, so never leave your baby unattended with solid food. Always test the temperature of your baby’s food after heating to avoid scalding your baby’s tongue. It’s advised to heat the food slowly in a warm water bath, rather than a microwave, to avoid hot pockets of food.
Disclaimer: Breastfeeding is best for babies. WHO recommends exclusive breastfeeding for six months. PURITY fully supports this with continued breastfeeding, along with the introduction of complementary food as advised by healthcare professionals.