Baby's first food: a guide
Just when you thought you were beginning to master the art of breastfeeding, Mother Nature comes along and throws a new challenge your way - introducing your baby to food. But there’s no need to spit the dummy; sticking to age guidelines can help make the process a little easier for both you and bub.
When to start weaning
For about their first six months, breast milk contains the nutrients your little one needs. If you're not able to provide breast milk, find a quality, age-appropriate infant formula instead.
Every baby is different, but after about four - six months, your baby will need more nutrients than breast milk or infant formula provides and they’ll be ready to try a variety of different foods in addition to breast milk or formula. Although, at first, the foods may be anything but ‘solid’ to make it easy for baby to eat and digest.
Starting your baby on solids slowly to help your baby get used to the new foods, and your body to get used to producing less milk. Signs that may help you to know when to try solids include: your baby can sit up and hold their head steady, they will start to show interest in food and may even give your plate of nosh the eye or take a swipe at a passing forkful of food.
They will also be looking for more food after a good feed of breast milk or formula, and be able to take puréed food from a small spoon without immediately pushing it out of their mouth with their tongue
Baby’s first nibbles
It may take numerous attempts before your baby comes on board the food train, and they may only eat a small amount of food at first, so it’s important to continue to provide breast milk or formula at this stage. Even getting the taste of food is a good start, so don't be disheartened if you're creating more mess than success at first.
There aren’t really any rules about what order to introduce foods, or how many new foods you should try. Start off with a small amount of puréed foods using a soft plastic spoon (not metal). A good start is a teaspoon of iron-enriched baby rice cereal, made into a paste with breast milk or formula. Single-vegetable purées of potato, sweet potato, pumpkin and carrot, or cooked fruits like apple or pear, are also good first foods.
Foods that contain iron liked cooked and puréed fish, chicken and meat are also very important to include.
Keep introducing the different tastes in the form of purées over the next months and gradually increase the number of times they’re offered, as well as the amount. Be patient, and persevere!
If you’re not sure if your baby is ready for solids, or if you have any problems or concerns, talk to you child health nurse or doctor.
Onwards and upwards
When your little one is aged between seven and 10 months, it's time to get bigger, bolder - or at least thicker. Try mashing foods like avocadoes, bananas and even cooked meats, fish and poultry. Commercial baby foods are ok from time-to-time, but using these too frequently may lead to poor acceptance of new and much more interesting tastes and textures, which is really what it’s all about at this stage.
Growing babies like to exert more independence. Even from 10 months of age, some children like to try to feed themselves. While they may not have mastered the teaspoon, kids can feed themselves with finger-food appropriate to their age. Banana slices, cooked peas and sliced avocado are all great options. As they get older and have more teeth, minced foods and macaroni cheese can also be fun.
The no-go zone
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Honey should be avoided during the first year as it can contain bacteria that are dangerous for bub.
The introduction of cow’s or goat’s milk should also be delayed until after a year old, and don’t add sugar, salt, butter or margarine to their food. Plant and soy-based drinks like almond or soy milk are not suitable for your baby as they do not contain the nutrients your baby needs.
Fruit juices and cordials can be high in sugar and can cause tooth decay, amongst other issues, and is not recommended for babies younger than 6 months. Drinking cooled boiled water is best for babies older than 6 months.
From 6 months, you can introduce foods like eggs, nut pastes (e.g. peanut paste), wheat, shellfish and sesame, even if there is a family history of allergies. By not introducing these foods, or delaying giving them to your baby, this can actually increase the chance that your baby will develop an allergy. If your child does show symptoms of an allergy (including rashes, welts or hives, swelling, vomiting or diarrhoea) within 30 minutes of eating a particular food, avoid giving that food again and see your doctor.
Finally, some foods can be hazardous when you're a little tacker. Whole grapes, nuts, popcorn, raw vegetables and fruits that are hard, can all be a choking hazard, so it’s important to always stay with your baby when they are eating.