You have probably mastered the breast or formula feeding techniques and routines by now. However, soon you will embark on a new and exciting journey. Starting solids is a thrilling milestone in your baby’s life. But this can also come with some anxiety for new parents who may not have all the information regarding introducing their baby to solid food.
Checking for readiness
The AAP and the WHO recommends starting solids only after your baby completes 6 months of age. But all babies develop differently and it is important to check with your pediatrician before starting solids. However, here are some guidelines that will help you decide if your baby is ready to start solids.
- Loss of tongue thrust: Baby doesn’t push the spoon out with their tongue when placed in their mouth
- Sits upright: Baby can sit upright and hold their head up without support. This can be in your lap or in a high chair. Loungers, rockers or bouncers where the baby is inclined are not recommended.
- Curious about food: Baby is showing eagerness and looks at you intently when you are eating something
- Not satisfied: They are still hungry even after a full day’s feeding and not satisfied with breastmilk or formula.
Before you start
- Remember breastmilk or formula remain the primary source of nutrition until 1 year. Do not drop any breastmilk or formula feeds.
- Have an action plan ready after discussing with your pediatrician in case of allergies or choking
When to offer
- Start with one meal a day - Try to offer solids in the first half of the day, so if baby develops a tummy ache or allergies, they can be taken care of during the day and you do not have to deal with it at night
- Offer solids 45 minutes after breastmilk or 90 minutes after formula milk.
- It is best to offer all allergens like nuts, eggs, fish before 8 months of age. This reduces the severity of allergies.
- By 1 year of age, the baby should be on 3 meals + 1 or 2 snacks. Try to offer these meals along with family meals, where everyone eats together.
- Any new food items or allergens should be offered in the morning.
What to offer
- Fruits and vegetables make great first foods for your baby.
- Sips of water are recommended after solids to maintain oral hygiene
- Offer a variety of tastes and textures
- Babies can eat family foods minus salt and sugar and adjusted for spices (once each ingredient has been tried independently and baby is not allergic)
- Focus on iron rich foods and balance with fibrous foods to avoid constipation
- Good fats like ghee, butter, and coconut are important for your baby.
What to avoid
- Salt, sugar and animal milk should be avoided till age 1
- Mixing: Formula or breastmilk shouldn’t be added to food but be offered separately
- Backups shouldn’t be offered if baby rejects a meal - remember, their primary source of nutrition is breastmilk or formula
- Distraction feeding: The baby should use all their senses while eating and shouldn’t be watching TV or distracted by toys during this time
- Force feeding: Let your baby decide the quantity. It is your job to offer and baby’s job to eat as much as they want
How to Offer
It is up to you and your family if you wish to follow BLW or TW or a mix of self and spoon feeding
Baby Led Weaning is when the baby eats by themselves from the start. Finger sized food in small quantities are placed on the baby’s plate or high chair tray and they pick it up and eat themselves. Purees are not offered.
In this approach, mashed or pureed foods are spoon fed to the baby and then gradually chopped up food is offered.
Whichever approach you may choose, be mindful of choking hazards
- Round or cylindrical food items like grapes, makhana, berries should be quartered and offered to the baby
- Cut cucumbers, carrots etc into finger sized long slices so that the baby is encouraged to bite instead of merely swallowing
Things you will need-
1. High chair
Based on your family’s needs you may choose to buy a high chair or a booster chair that attaches to a dining table chair. Choose one that is easy to clean and free of distractions.
An apron style bib that covers most of your baby’s body is ideal to prevent getting their clothes dirty. Bibs with a pocket work well to catch any food that may fall out of your baby’s mouth or on the way from the plate to their mouth.
Child size spoons and forks are easily available at a local steel store. No need for anything fancy
You may choose to offer food on the high chair itself but if you are getting a plate, then one with suction helps the plate stay in one place. Plates with dividers like the traditional thali can be used to separate food items and offer choices in a presentable way.
While your baby doesn’t need a lot of water, it is good to introduce them to an open cup or bottle with a straw to drink water from. Do not offer milk in the cup or water in a milk bottle - keep them separate to avoid confusion.