Baby is now six months old and is showing signs of being ready to start eating solids. He is reaching out to grab your food and is sitting up very well on his own in the high chair.
The initial introduction of solids will not only be about increasing calories and iron in the diet, but will be about exploration of tastes, textures and food safety.
A lot of my research has come from Gillian Rappley’s book: Baby Led Weaning. It is important to mention, in Britain, the term “weaning” means adding complementary foods not giving up breastfeeding, hence the term Baby Led Weaning.
What do we start with?
We don’t want to bombard the baby with too many different flavours in the first instance, so I would suggest that we offer only one or two different items of food for a couple of days. We might start off with some finger foods which are soft bite-sized pieces, that are easy to pick up and “gum” if he hasn’t any teeth yet. Remember that the baby should have the breast first, a very hungry baby won’t enjoy the solids if they think they are starving.
Breastmilk or formula will still be making up the majority of your baby’s calories until the time when they are having more substantial amounts of solid food. After a couple of days, we might add another type of food. A few days later, if the baby seems to be enjoying what we have offered, we can add other finger foods. I would also advise starting with just one meal a day and if all goes well, after a couple of days, increase this to twice a day and so on until the baby and you will be ideally eating together at regular mealtimes.
Some suggestions for early finger foods may be:
How much should we give the baby?
Every baby is different and there is not one rule that will fit all. I would start out with finger sized pieces to begin and gradually increase. In reality, the majority of babies are going to receive most of their solids using baby led weaning however, there will be occasions when spoonfed is appropriate for example, if you are in a hurry to get somewhere or when you are out of the house.
Drinks and Water
Babies under six months only need breastmilk or formula. After six months you can give babies a small amount of cooled boiled water, ideally from a cup. After twelve months you can give your baby pasteurized, plain full-fat cow’s milk, as Toddler or Growing up milks are unnecessary.
Fruit juices have high levels of sugar and are not recommended. It is best for children to eat whole fruit and plain tap water or milk rather than consume fruit juice. Soft drinks, sports drinks, herbal teas, tea and coffee are also not recommended.
Safety and Gagging
Never leave a baby alone when being fed and always have the baby sitting in an upright position. Avoid food that may be a choking hazard such as whole nuts. Gagging is not the same as choking, they may gag on a piece of blanched carrot for example, that they have poked too far down their throat – this is one of the ways they learn about food safety.
This is meant to be a time of learning for the baby and should also be a fun time for all the family. We don’t want arguments about “eating all your greens” or “never leave until the plate is empty”. Every baby will be different and will embrace solids at a different rate, so take your time, don’t rush it and enjoy.
For more reading on introducing your baby to solids, the below website has more useful information: http://www.thelittleloaf.com/2016/09/05/getting-started-solid-food-baby-led-weaning-spoon-feeding-nino/