There may not be any need to think about starting solids until your baby is at least 4 to 6 months old, even if you are formula feeding.
I have met many people, including my mum who couldn’t understand why I would deny my poor baby “people” food until that age. It wasn’t until she saw how fat and healthy my boys were on just my breast milk that she stopped bothering me about it.
Introducing first baby foods too early can actually lead to food intolerances and allergies -showing up even as late as adulthood. A baby’s stomach needs to be ready to take in and process foods and the different substances they contain.
Have you noticed how now it seems that just about everyone has an allergy, I’m starting to wonder if part of that is the result of generations and generations of starting eating table food too early?
When is the best time for starting a baby on solid foods?
Somewhere between 4 to 6 months of age is the recommendation from the World Health Organisation. And for most families, until 12 months solid food is generally there to help with the baby’s oral development play and discovery rather than nutrition.
When your baby is about 6 months old he may show signs of being ready for eating table food:
- Your baby’s tongue-thrust reflex may disappear, so he or she will stop poking out their tongue.
- Your baby can control his or her head and sit unaided.
- Your baby may be interested in what you are eating.
- Your baby may try and take food from your plate.
How to start babies eating table food?
The Traditional Way
The traditional way of transitioning your baby to solids is where you either puree some soft veggies or mix rice cereal with water or breast milk. You can learn how to make homemade baby food for the first time here.
When families went down this route they would usually start by introducing one meal a day -usually breakfast- after a breastfeeding session. And increasing it as the weeks go by.
A couple of important things to note here:
If you want breast milk to remain your child’s main source of nutrition until 12 months, as recommended by the World Health Organisation, it can help to offer breastfeeding before offering solid food.
Breast milk contains more of what your baby needs than fruit, veggies or meat does so while other foods can fill your baby’s tummy, the vitamins, fats, and minerals in those foods may not be as valuable.
It can also help to keep your baby on one food for about 3 days. In other words, if you are feeding baby bananas keep offering only bananas for a few days. This will give your baby time to react to the food if he or she is going to.
I’ve known people who have introduced a few foods within a couple of days. When their baby reacted they had to eliminate everything already introduced because they didn’t know which food caused the reaction.
What are the first fruits and vegetables to introduce first for the baby?
When starting solids, it can help to introduce the softest fruits and vegetables first. So if you start with rice cereal for breakfast, you can move on to pumpkin, broccoli, potato, banana, apple, pear, and then move on to harder veggies, like carrots, etc.
If there is a history of food allergies in your or your partner’s family then it might help to speak to your health professional about whether or not to delay introducing the substance they are allergic to.
As your baby gets better at eating it can help to introduce some texture. For example, rather than pureeing bananas, mash them only slightly so that it’s textured. This can help your baby’s oral and speech development.
When should you stop pureeing your baby?
I kept my second baby on pureed foods for way too long. It was just so convenient and I didn’t realize that he actually needed to progress texture-wise.
He was still dribbling at nearly 3 years old. He speaks really well and is doing fine otherwise, but I have been told by a speech specialist that the late introduction of texture in his food may have contributed to his dribbling.
Baby solid food introduction according to their age
First meals (between 4 and 6 months old): this is when the baby is introduced to solid foods. Baby discovers vegetables and fruits, with a very smooth texture. We go there gently, to awaken him to tastes and get his digestive system used to it.
From 6 to 8 months: the choice of flavors and nutrients offered widens. We incorporate animal proteins at lunchtime and fats at each meal, and we play on the tastes with spices and aromatic herbs.
From 9 to 12 months: baby eats more complete meals. Hello starchy cereals, and less and less smooth textures! Baby learns about pieces and discovers lots of new textures.
From 12 months: baby eats table food like adults. He’s starting to appreciate real morsels, and can taste almost anything!
Other things parents noticed during the transition to table foods
If you are letting your baby breastfeed when he needs to you might not need to introduce water or any other liquids.
You can offer water if you chose, but you can at least feel comfortable in the knowledge that they probably don’t need it if it all ends up being tipped down the sink.
If your baby spits out the food, throws it on the floor, or vomits, it’s all ok. It may be his way of telling you that they have had enough, so you may not need to feel like you have to keep shoveling food into their mouth.
After all, they are still taking in your breast milk and that’s going to give them all they really need until their first birthday.
Breast milk meets the nutritional needs of most babies until about 6 months of age. This is why the recommended age for introducing solid foods is 6 months. However, some medical professionals sometimes advise starting to offer table food between 4 and 6 months of age.
As growth rates and needs vary from child to child, it is possible that some babies may need to eat before 6 months. On the other hand, it is not recommended to give them solid foods before 4 months, as this can harm their health.