There’s a lot of information available about starting solids: when to start, what constitutes a healthy nutritional diet and what foods should be avoided… it’s no wonder families can get overwhelmed and confused!
When should my baby start solids?
The World Health Organization recommends that infants should exclusively breastfeed for the first 6 months of life. Breastmilk has many benefits for mums and babies. Breastmilk provides all the energy and nutrients infants need and also contains antibodies, which help protect against many common childhood illnesses (1). Many families choose to mix-feed or use infant formula instead. Regardless of how your baby is fed in the early months of life, from age 6 months, babies have an increased iron requirement, as their iron stores from birth diminish. This is one of the reasons it’s recommended that babies start solids at this age. From age 4 months, babies can have food exposures (licks/tastes) and research shows that these exposures might help prevent food allergies as well (2). (Click here to read more about starting solids and food allergies)
How do I know if my baby is ready to start solids?
Parents can use cued care to see if their baby is showing signs that they’re ready to start solids. Cued care is ‘responding to your baby in the way that you are thinking that they are asking’
- Can your baby sit upright with support?
- Do they have good head and neck control?
- Have they lost the tongue thrust reflex that pushes food back out?
- Are they showing interest in food?
- Do they open their mouth when offered food on a spoon? Some babies might even grab food off your plate!
If your baby is not showing signs of being developmentally ready to start solids by 7 months, then visit your doctor.
Baby led weaning vs. spoon feeding with puree- what’s it all about?
Baby led weaning is exactly what the name suggests. It’s offering your baby food and allowing them to go at their own pace, inviting them to pick up and put food into their own mouth and eat. Spoon feeding involves blending or mashing up food into puree form and then feeding your baby.
There are many families who are solidly dedicated to one approach (pun intended) and lots of families who happily do a mix of both. There are also lots of different opinions around the benefits of each method of weaning. I always recommend families experiment to find out what works for them, using a mixture of spoon feeding and baby led weaning (finger feeding). Finger feeding can be with soft or hard foods that your baby can safely suck or nibble on. Families can even offer finger foods dipped in puree and let their baby feed himself!
Whatever method a family decides to try, I’d recommend they keep cued care in the front of their minds. Cued care allows parents to be flexible and not be driven by rules. Parents are recognising and making sense of their baby’s cues over time and experimenting to find what works for you both. Your baby might have their own opinion about how and what they want to eat. Cued care also helps parents consider their baby’s cues of satiety (full happy tummy!) A baby who is no longer hungry will give similar cues whether finger fed or spoon fed.
- Are they no longer eating the food?
- Are they no longer looking at the food?
- Are their lips pursed?
- Are they no longer mouth opening when I offer the spoon?
To be continued in Part 2 about when to serve solids vs milk time, and what the ideal diet looks like
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Dr Clementine David is an Australian trained paediatrics doctor, the CEO and Founder of held. and a mother of two kids who love both broccoli and ice cream!
held. are proudly the first accredited Neuroprotective Developmental Care Practitioner in Asia, providing holistic evidence-based care in antenatal education, sleep, settling, breastfeeding support and newborn care.
(1) WHO breastfeeding www.who.int/health-topics/breastfeeding (accessed 8/9/2020)
(2) ASCIA Guidelines - Infant feeding and allergy prevention https://www.allergy.org.au/hp/papers/infant-feeding-and-allergy-prevention (accessed 8/9/2020)
(3) NIH: Iron: Fact Sheet for Health Professionals https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Iron-HealthProfessional/ accessed 8/9/2020)
(4) NHS: How much salt do babies and children need? https://www.nhs.uk/common-health-questions/childrens-health/how-much-salt-do-babies-and-children-need (accessed 8/9/2020)