Introducing your baby to solid foods, sometimes called complementary feeding or weaning, should start when the baby is around six months old. In the beginning, how much your baby eats is less important than getting them used to the idea of eating. They’ll still be getting most of their nutrients from breast milk or infant formula.
Giving your baby a variety of foods alongside breast or formula milk, from around six months of age will help set your child up for a lifetime of healthier eating. Moderately, increase the amount and variety of food your baby eats until they can eat the same foods as the rest of the family, in smaller portions. However, if your baby was born prematurely ask your doctor for advice on when to introduce solid food.
It is advisable to wait until six months before introducing solid foods because;
- Breast milk provides the energy and nutrients your baby needs until around six months.
- Breast milk has antibodies that help your baby fight off viruses and bacteria.
- Breastfeeding promotes healthy weight gain and helps prevent childhood obesity.
- Waiting until around six months gives your baby time to develop so they can be able to cope with solid foods.
- Baby will be better at moving food around their mouth, chewing, and swallowing it.
When the baby reaches six months they will begin to show signs of being ready to start solid foods. Hints that your baby is ready for solid foods include;
- Stays in a sitting position and hold their head steady.
- Swallow foods rather than spitting them back.
- Can coordinate their eyes, hands, and mouth so they can look at the food, pick it up, and put it I their mouth by themselves.
- Open their mouth when you offer them food on a spoon.
- Have the ability to reach out for food.
- Shows an interest in food- for example, by looking at what’s on your plate.
When babies first have solid food they do not need three meals a day so start by offering them a small amount of food. Pick a time that suits both of you and start offering them foods before breastfeeding. They might not be interested when full but avoid feeding them when they are too angry. Keep giving them different types of foods even those they do not like. it takes a few trials before the baby accepts a new food texture particularly as they get older.
Introduce a cup from around six months and offer sips of water with meals. Using an open cup or a free-flow cup without a valve will help your baby learn to sip, and is better for their teeth.
You might want to start with a single type of food, it will help you know if there is any reaction with the baby. Mashed and soft-cooked potato, yams, sweet potato, carrot, apple, or pear is encouraged. Include foods that are not sweet helps your baby get used to a range of flavors rather than just the sweet ones. Help prevent them from being fussy eaters as they grow up. Make sure any cooked food has cooled right down before offering it to your baby.
If there is no reason to be concerned that your baby is at increased risk for food allergies, after a few first foods have been tolerated, you can start to introduce the more highly allergenic food (milk, egg, soy, wheat, peanut, and fish). Introduce milk and dairy products as early as six months, although it should not replace breast milk.
The weaning journey will be unique for every baby and parent, it’s an incredible time as you introduce your little one to a world of new tastes and textures. Take time to learn what your baby likes and be patient in every step.