Getting Healthy Eating Right from 3 Months
When to introduce solids
It is recommended that you introduce solid foods around 6 months of age. Around 6 months is when babies need additional nutrition including kilojoules (energy), iron and zinc. Signs your baby is ready for solids include: biting movements; no longer sticking tongue out when food is put in their mouth; still showing hungry signs after a breast or formula feed; reaching out, opening mouth and or putting their hands in their mouth when you eat. Babies will also need to be able to sit up with limited support. Formula or breast milk will however remain the most important food for your baby until they reach 12 months of age.
How to introduce solids
Start by giving 1 – 2 teaspoons two times per day. The amount of solid food accepted by your baby will vary greatly. The first few times you introduce solids, the consistency should be ‘soup like’. The consistency of the food can get thicker and lumpier as tolerated. The amount of food will also increase to a few tablespoons per feed.
Your baby will most likely spit out the food at first until they figure out how to swallow the new texture. Some babies grasp the introduction of solids right away and for others it will take a few weeks.
Solid foods can be introduced in any order, so long as the iron rich foods like infant cereals or pureed meat and poultry dishes are included in these first foods, along with breast milk and formula milk. To prevent botulism, do not feed honey to babies aged under 12 months.
You can mix a small amount of rice cereal with breast milk or formula to a thick consistency. Gradually thicken the texture over time. You may have heard that by adding rice cereal to a baby’s bottle, your baby will sleep longer at night. Research has proven this theory to be false.
Once your baby has tried infant rice cereal or another iron containing food, try a range of cooked and pureed or mashed fruits and vegetables and dairy products such as full fat yoghurt, and cheese.
There is no need to add salt or sugar to your baby’s food. Neither is needed by your baby and baby’s taste buds are very sensitive. Let them enjoy the new flavours they are experiencing.
Do not despair if they spit food out or throw food away as that’s all totally normal. Your baby might not be hungry or they are unsure of the new taste or texture. Keep trying! A food previously rejected is often eaten with delight after the fifth or fiftieth messy offering.
Extra tips to introducing solids
Make extras when preparing fruits and vegetables. Freeze the extra servings of fruits and vegetables in ice cube trays. Once the cubes are frozen, store them in ziplock bags. This is an economical way of always having something fresh and home cooked to offer your baby. This will also mean you don’t need to cook at each meal and that you’ll have easy on-the-go meals ready for your baby.
No child can be forced to eat. Babies are excellent at knowing when they have had enough. Therefore, watch your baby’s facial expression and body language when feeding. Your baby will tell you when they have had enough.
Children’s appetites change, mostly in response to how much they’re growing. This means that some days they will eat a lot, and other days not so much.
At 6 months most babies are big enough to sit comfortably in a highchair for meals. Once in the highchair your baby will be free to explore their meals. It is highly recommended that you are also eating meals and snacks with your baby.
Bibs, plastic mats, vinyl flooring, face washers, and paper towels are all great things to have at hand for the next two years! Eating should be exploratory, messy and as stress free as possible.
What to drink
The only drinks your baby needs are breast or formula milk. Avoid offering juice, cordial or soft-drink, as these drinks can damage growing teeth and cause a baby to gain too much weight. From around 6 months, small amounts of cooled boiled water can be given in addition to breast milk or formula.