Preparing your baby's first meal
In recent years the recommended age to introduce solid foods to your baby has gone from 3, to 4 to 6 months.
The WHO (World Health Organisation) now recommends that solids are introduced alongside continued breastfeeding from the age of 6 months. The main reason for this is that starting solid foods too soon can reduce your baby’s intake of breastmilk which is more important for him before 6 months. Also it is not until your baby’s gut has matured that he is able to digest and absorb foods properly. Eating too soon may increase the risk of allergies and intolerances to some foods.
So, don’t be in a hurry to start solids. Your baby is not necessarily ready to start if he’s chewing his hands, looking at your food with great interest or putting everything in his mouth! Look for signs that milk is no longer satisfying his or her appetite. Is he taking his usual feed and looking around for more? Not lasting long between feeds before he’s hungry again? Waking in the night for a feed where previously he was sleeping through? If you start and baby doesn’t take well to solids, don’t be afraid to stop and try again at a later date.
So, who’s in charge?
Traditionally babies have been weaned onto solids with baby rice, fruits and vegetables, which are mostly cooked, pureed and fed by spoon. Baby Led Weaning is another option whereby baby is given pieces of suitable foods, cooked where necessary, (carrot batons, broccoli florets, sweet potato chunks) and encouraged to feed himself.
The major advantage of this method is there’s no need to make purees, however it can be more difficult to hide vegetables!
What’s on the menu?
If you are starting before 6 months, stick to what I call Stage 1 weaning foods, baby rice or other gluten-free cereal, single fruits and vegetables which have been peeled, steamed and pureed. Initially try a few teaspoons midway through the morning feed, then after a few days introduce solids before the early evening feed. These should eventually become your child’s lunch and supper. I find that many babies manage without solids at breakfast until 8 or 9 months-this being the last meal to introduce.
Babies naturally have a sweet tooth. Therefore foods which are on the sweet side are normally relished by a baby who is starting on solids at the right time. Try pear, apple, sweet potato, carrot, banana and sweet apricot or peach.
Next try stronger more savoury foods such as cauliflower, parsnip & broccoli. Your baby may need to taste a new food numerous times before deciding he likes it. Just remember how new and exciting this is for him after only milk all these months! Whichever method you use to introduce solid foods to your baby, it’s really important that he still has a certain amount of milk. Don’t let your baby fill up so much on solids that he refuses his milk on a regular basis.
Whether you’re breast or bottlefeeding, a baby under 6m still needs his full quota of milk, solids shouldn’t take over.
Moving on-a full diet. After 6 or 7 months a baby still needs approx 3 milk feeds a day and should be working towards a full diet. His iron stores start to become depleted after this age. If you’re formula feeding consider switching to a ‘follow-on’ milk. If you’re breastfeeding, and you have a picky eater, consider daily vitamins after 7 months. At this stage, protein foods are needed for continued growth, and starchy carbohydrates for energy – crawling is tiring work!
Add to these a variety of fruits and vegetables and your baby is on his way to enjoying a great diet. As in the example above, a 7-8 month baby may have a diet which is similar to this:
If you are choosing to follow Baby Led Weaning, the above foods are all appropriate but would be given as pieces for baby to hold, or mashed for him to pick up with his fingers. In the coming months, encourage your baby with his finger foods, and help him get used to lumpier textures as he approaches his first birthday. Always offer your baby drinks of water when you start solid foods-from a bottle or trainer cup.
- Adding salt to your baby’s food, or using stock cubes which are high in salt.
- Honey-may contain a bacteria which causes infant botulism. So avoid for at least the first year.
- Whole nuts are a choking hazard in children under 5. As are other smooth, round foods such as cherry tomatoes & grapes. Always cut them up first.
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