By Amy Brown
Introducing solid foods to your baby can feel overwhelming. When to do it? How much? What foods? The good news is that it is nowhere near as complicated as some people like to make out. Here are five top tips to help you and your baby make that journey from milk feeding to eating family meals:
1) Wait until your baby is ready
Guidelines suggest offering solid food to your baby at around six months. A good way to tell if your baby is ready is to look at them: can they sit up well with some support? Do they have good head control? Can they pick up a piece of food such as some broccoli and bring it to their mouth? If so, they’re most likely ready to move onto eating solid foods. If not, wait a little longer, although if your baby is older than 6 months and not showing these signs, talk to your health professional
2) Start slowly
At the start of introducing solid foods, your baby will only eat very small tastes. As they get used to eating solids, aim to increase this until they are eating around 175 – 200 calories a day from solid foods. If you split this into three meals (and snacks if you like), that’s only a few mouthfuls per meal. As they get older (towards 9 – 10 months) you can gradually increase this again
3) Remember that milk is still important
Breast or formula milk should remain the largest part of your baby’s diet throughout the first year. If you are breastfeeding, offer your baby solid foods and breastfeed as much as your baby wants around that. If you are formula feeding, gradually reduce the amount your baby has as they eat larger amounts. Your baby will likely naturally start to cut back. Follow their cue and don’t force them to finish a milk feed.
4) Experiment with different tastes and textures
Weaning is all about introducing your baby to new foods. It’s a big learning experience for them and there are so many new foods they get to try. Focus on variety rather than giving your baby the same foods again and again (even if they love them!). If you are spoon-feeding your baby, give them finger foods too. Chewing food is important for jaw development and holding and playing with food helps encourage them to try new things.
5) Let your baby show you if they are hungry or full
Let your baby set the pace of meals. Signs of them being hungry include watching the food, getting excited and leaning towards a spoon. Don’t try to persuade them to finish a meal if they are showing signs that they are full such as clamping their mouth shut or turning their head away. If they refuse a new food, take it away and try again another day. Sometimes you might need to offer a new food up to 10 times before they accept it.
About the Author: Amy Brown is the Director of LIFT - the centre for Lactation, Infant Feeding and Translation at Swansea University, UK. Her new book, Let’s Talk About Feeding Your Baby, the 4th title in a new series from Pinter & Martin, helps navigate you through your baby’s feeding journey, covering breast and formula feeding, mixed feeding, starting solids and more.