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Introducing solids

Starting your baby on solids can be an exciting time. A lovely new phase of your baby’s life as they grow. It can also be a bit stressful because there is so much information out there about when and how you introduce solid food into your baby’s diet.

The guidelines available around introducing solids are consistent in saying that babies need solid food from about six months of age (https://www.health.gov.au/internet/publications/publishing.nsf/Content/gug-director-toc~gug-solids). But this is obviously dependent on the baby and some babies may be ready before that. You shouldn’t however, offer solid food to a baby under four months of age.

Your baby will generally let you know when they are ready to have some solid food. Showing an interest in your food and an increased appetite are signs that a baby is ready. An increase in appetite can be shown by a baby waking more frequently at night and wanting to be fed, where they previously hadn’t. It is also important that your baby can sit upright with limited support, and that they can control their head and neck.

When you have decided to start solids often it is hard to know what to offer. Some great first foods you can try with your baby are:

  • Lightly cooked then mashed apples and pears

  • Blended or mashed avocado

  • Mashed or blended banana

  • Steamed and blended vegetables: potato, carrot and pumpkin are easy to mash and easy to digest.

  • Rice cereal

Pick one item from the list. Traditionally rice cereal would be offered first but I like to start with pear as it is so easy to digest and tastes great. Any of the foods on this list are great first foods. You might find when you start, your baby is really keen and gets stuck in, or they may be pretty nonplussed by the whole thing. The way babies respond to food varies a lot so try to be relaxed, and flexible and try not to follow any “rules”, just let your baby guide you as to what they need.

Start with one food only and offer that for a couple of days. If after that it is going down with a minimum of fuss, increase an extra teaspoon of food every day until they are having up to 1 or 2 tablespoons at a time. Also start to introduce new foods every few days but try not to overload your baby’s system with too many new foods at once. Baby’s digestive systems need to develop enzymes to breakdown the food, so if you overload their systems the food becomes difficult to breakdown and they might get constipated.

When you start solids you don’t decrease the milk feeds. This doesn’t usually happen till the baby is on three decent meals per day – around 6 to 9 months. It doesn’t really matter if you give food or milk first but I suggest leaving a bit of time between food and milk – at least 30 minutes – just so your baby has enough room to enjoy their food.

How do you know if your baby has a reaction to the food?

It is not always easy to know when food causes a reaction in babies. Symptoms like loose poo, red cheeks, nappy rash, vomiting, grizzling and night sleep problems can often have nothing to do with the diet. But if you are concerned, stop that food, wait a week or so and try again. This is the same if your baby refuses a food. Leave it a week or so then try it again.