It's a significant occasion the first time you feed your baby solid foods. You're adding new tastes, textures, and experiences to their tiny world! Whilst it is an exciting time as a parent, especially a first-time parent, it can be pretty nerve-racking. You want to ensure that you are feeding your little one the right foods and preparing them correctly.
Introducing solids can be tricky at first as your little one will be unsure what to do – start by introducing solids slowly to give your baby time to get used to all the new tastes and textures.
This post will cover how to prepare your baby’s first solid foods, the best first solid food for babies, foods to avoid, and how to prevent choking.
Why Babies Need Solid Foods
As your baby gets older, the iron reserves they have had since they were in the womb start to diminish. They can no longer obtain sufficient iron from breast milk, they require solid foods for adequate iron and other critical nutrients to aid their growth and development.
What Age Should You Start Feeding Solids?
The current recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is that solid foods should be introduced between the ages of 4 and 6 months. (Read our article on Baby's First Foods by Age)
Many parents introduce solids around the 6-month mark. However, every baby is different, so it is essential to look for the signs that your baby is ready to start with solids.
How to Prepare Solids for Your Baby
At first, your baby will have an easier time eating foods that are mashed, pureed, or strained and very smooth in texture. It might take time for your little one to get used to different taste sensations. Your baby could cough, gag, or regurgitate. Introduce thicker and lumpier meals as your baby's oral abilities improve.
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It is essential to feed your baby foods that are the right texture for their development. Prepare foods that can be easily dissolved with saliva and do not require chewing to help avoid choking.
Tips for preparing different foods:
Tip # 1 – Cereals
Mix cereals with breast milk, formula, or water into a smooth paste so that it is easy for your little one to swallow.
Tip # 2 – Fruit and Vegetables
Mash or puree vegetables, fruit and any other food until they are smooth in texture.
Hard vegetables such as carrots must be cooked and mashed or pureed before being fed to your little one. The same applies to hard fruit such as pears and apples.
Tip # 3 – Meat
Remove all bones, fat and skin from meat, fish and chicken before cooking.
Tip # 4 – Round Food
Never feed your baby round food that could become lodged in the airway. Foods such as grapes, berries, baby tomatoes must be cut into small pieces.
Best Foods and Textures to Start With
Start with one food at a time. Start with savoury foods first. The reason being that you want your baby to acquire a taste for plain or savoury foods before sweet. If you start with sweet food such as fruit, it will be more challenging to encourage them to eat more savoury foods later.
If your baby won't eat the solid foods you offer them, keep trying. Some babies may need to be fed with a new food 10 to 15 times before accepting it; therefore, patience is essential.
Good first foods to start with:
Food #1 – Cereals
If you begin with cereal, select a single-grain, iron-enriched, whole-grain type like brown rice or whole-grain oats. To make a creamy “soup,” combine a small amount of baby cereal with milk, formula, or water. Do not sweeten the cereal; instead, feed it to your baby plain.
Food # 2 – Vegetables
Sweet potatoes and carrots are good starters for the yellow or orange team, including somewhat less intense tastes. Green veggies like peas and string beans are a little stronger in flavour and should be consumed after you've tried the milder yellow or orange options.
Food #3 – Fruit
Mashed bananas, baby applesauce, peaches and pears are all delicious, nutritious first fruits. Starting with smoothed-down mashed or pureed ripe avocado — it's creamy, delicious, and jam-packed with nutrients.
After a few dozen meals, rice cereal, applesauce, bananas, and yellow veggies grow old. Add some spice to things at around 7 or 8 months by using:
- Minced meat (chicken, lamb, turkey or beef)
- Scrambled egg
- Mashed potato
- Whole-milk yogurt
Although water is not required in healthy babies as breast milk, formula, or a combination of the two provides all the hydration they need. It is acceptable to offer a little water when you begin feeding your child solids.
How to Prevent Choking when Introducing Solids?
Choking is a genuine concern for parents when they first introduce solid food. So here are some tips to prevent choking:
Tip # 1 – Never Leave Your Baby Unattended
You need to stay close by and watch every bite that your little one takes in these early days.
Tip #2 – Start Off With Very Smooth Food
Keep food very smooth. Food can be thinned out if required.
Tip #3 Introduce Small Pieces of Food Slowly
When you start introducing pieces of cut food, start off small. The pieces should be small enough that your little one can swallow them without chewing.
Tip #4 – Keep Portions Small
Prevent your baby from grabbing and shoving too much food by only putting small portions in their bowl in front of them. It is essential that you are feeding your baby enough but not overfeeding them because, at this age, your little one still requires necessary nutrients from breast or formula.
Tip #5 – Ensure your Baby is Seated
Always feed your baby only when they are sitting in their feeding or high chair.
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Foods to Avoid When Introducing Solids
You should only give your baby foods that can dissolve in their mouth; they can mash with their gums or quickly suck into their windpipe.
Avoid the following foods:
- Whole peas (unless they are mashed)
- Raw, firm vegetables such as carrots (unless cooked and mashed)
- Raw, firm fruit such as apples (unless cooked and mashed)
- Large pieces of meat or poultry (always be sure to thoroughly cook meat and put it through a blender)
- Chunky nut butter
- Hot dogs and sausages
Juice should not be given to infants under the age of one year old.
Our Baby's First Foods by Age contains some great ideas on what should be offered to your little one by age.
Food Allergies and Solids
The AAP no longer advises delaying certain foods like eggs, fish, nuts, or dairy to avoid allergies. The organisation formerly recommended waiting these items until one year old to prevent allergies; however, the data indicates that waiting does not prevent food allergies.
The AAP now says that feeding children allergenic foods like peanut butter earlier in life — between 4 and 6 months old, and most importantly by 11 months old — lowers their chances of developing a food allergy. Ensure you have introduced a few other solids, such as cereal and vegetables, before offering potentially allergenic foods.
Don't offer cow's milk or honey to a baby before the age of one. Cow's milk isn't adequate in iron and might raise the risk of iron deficiency. Honey may include spores that can cause infant botulism, a severe illness.
As you start to feed your little one solids, you can expect to see some changes to their stools. This is entirely normal.
Remember, each baby develops at their own pace. Some babies love eating solids and accept them quickly, whilst others are more resistant to the change. Be prepared, and if your little one rejects solids at first, do not be discouraged. Keep being patient and offer solids but do not force your baby to eat if they are not ready yet. Eventually, your little one will accept the changes and begin to enjoy all the new tastes and textures offered to them.