Feeding your babies first foods is a real milestone! You’re at roughly the 6 month mark (some babies will want or need solids earlier), and congratulations you’ve made it this far! Bubba is far more interactive and his little personality is starting to shine. He might be sitting up and certainly he is a sponge in terms of learning. Now the fun really begins!
Feeding solids is an awesome little activity, it creates variety in the day, and it’s just too hilarious watching the facial expressions as they feel that first spoonful of mash between their gums. So cute!! But… it can be a little daunting too… so we are here to help.
So how do you know your baby is ready for solids? There is no hard and fast rule, but generally around the 5-6 month mark is good. You will notice your baby staring at your food, maybe even grabbing for it. If your baby has had trouble with weight gain, you may want to start a little earlier, but it’s best to ask your Maternal and Child Health nurse for advice.
By 6 months you definitely want to give solids a crack, as breastmilk (or equivalent formula) don’t quite cut it in terms of nutrition anymore, and particularly iron is a nutrient that needs to be provided. For this reason, iron-fortified rice cereal is a popular choice for a first baby food. However again this is not set in stone: other cultures feed their babies natural, unprocessed wholefoods such as soft vegetables and fruit, egg yolk, and even organ meats. In fact, these natural unprocessed foods may be more nutritious and more easily digested by the immature digestive system and gut flora of babies.
I personally love wholefoods and I would always choose a natural food over something highly refined and processed and that comes with a shelf life longer than your baby is old. These are my favourite options for babies first foods:
- Avocado: great source of good fats that babies need, and as it’s given raw it’s full of live enzymes that are good for digestion. The mild flavour is nice and easy for little tastebuds too. Just add a little breastmilk or formula if you find it too sticky, you want to aim for about yoghurt consistency.
- Steamed sweet potato: full of vitamins and antioxidants, this lovely root vegetable is smooth and mashable and a real favourite for bubs
- Roasted pumpkin: similar to sweet potato, pumpkin has such a lovely smooth texture and mild sweet taste. Roast with coconut oil for those extra good fats.
- Roasted or steamed zucchini: very plain flavour that is very palateable and easy to digest. You may want to peel it in those early days and only serve the soft white flesh.
When do I feed solids? A good time to feed solids is mid morning, about an hour after a milk feed and not too close to a nap (so that he’s not too full and not too tired – this may be tricky for some!). Make sure baby is happy and alert, and sit him comfortably in a supportive high chair or on your lap. Gently place a spoonful into his mouth, and just let him explore. He may push the food out of his mouth with his tongue, may move it around his gums, may even gag – this is all normal. If he turns his head away he’s had enough, then give it a rest and go again the following day.
You may find that initially it’s more of an experimentation than a meal. And that’s ok! Bub is learning, and the main source of nourishment should still be his milk. The first few spoonfuls are all about learning to swallow and exploring textures in the mouth. Don’t put pressure on yourself or your baby to eat a certain amount, and just have fun with this new activity. Remember, these are babies first foods, it’s a brand new experience and there is no rush.
How often? Start with just a few spoonfuls, 1-2 times per day. As bub becomes more accustomed to the new routine and swallowing, you can just keep feeding until he turns his head away. Little by little, the solid foods amount will naturally increase, and milk feeds may start to decrease. And it’s not really until 12 months of age where solid foods should outweigh the milk feeds.
What about allergies? If you are concerned about allergies, you may want to feed each food item for a few days before introducing another new food. This allows you to pinpoint what the potential trigger was, if there is an allergic reaction. If you have allergies in the family, then your baby will have a higher susceptibility too, so you should be extra careful. Remember to ask your Maternal and Child Health Nurse for help, particularly when introducing nuts, eggs or shellfish.
Once you are confident with the single foods you will be able to mix it up and become more adventurous, combining a few ingredients at a time. Soon you can add good quality protein to the mix, including egg yolk, soft fish, soft cooked meat (processed to be smooth) and fats such as coconut oil, coconut cream, olive oil (unheated) and real butter (no margarine please!). Check out our easy wholesome baby food recipes here.
Creating a varied and balanced diet: It is really important for the whole family to eat a variety of fresh, colourful and whole foods, so you should start from this very early age. Babies can really eat anything, perhaps with the exception of raw fish (like when you were pregnant) and honey. And of course no sugar or salt please. Check out our blog post on Feeding your Family for more tips and ideas.
Organic vs non-organic: Given their small body size and immature detoxification systems, it’s really important to minimize chemical exposure, and some of the most popular produce (eg apples, strawberries, peaches, animal produce) are the most sprayed or medicated in the industry! Your baby doesn’t eat much yet at this stage, so if you can afford it, opt for organic babies first foods where possible. If not, make sure you wash very thoroughly and peel if appropriate as well.
Babies first foods should be a fun and enjoyable activity for both of you
All of this information is not meant to scare you or put you off. Feeding solids is fun and should be enjoyable. You will have fussy days, and easy days; food they gobble up, and food they throw. So if you keep it natural, keep it simple, and keep it nourishing, you are on the right track! Choose natural wholefoods, colourful veggies and fruit, and prepare them with love. And obviously if you need some help… grab some Bubba & Bean 🙂
How do I know my baby is ready for solids?
- My baby is somewhere between 4-6 months old
- Able to sit up with minimal support, and hold his/her head up comfortably
- Shows interest in your food and watches you eat
- Accepts the food when you put it in his mouth (as opposed to reflexively pushing the tongue forward like with milk suckling)
What are the best babies first foods to give?
- Natural, unprocessed, easily digested wholefoods. Eg mashed avocado, steamed sweet potato, pumpkin or zucchini.
- Steam the veggies, mash with a fork and add some liquid – aiming for the consistency of yoghurt.
- Some prefer fortified rice cereal mixed with breastmilk or formula as a first food.
Main guidelines for creating a balanced diet
- Choose fresh, seasonal produce; organic where possible.
- Give your baby lots of variety, think colours, flavours and textures.
- Avoid processed foods and snacks, sugar and salt.
- Check out our Baby Food Recipes for some great meal and snack ideas 🙂
- Have fun!
Check out some other useful information from the Raising Children’s Network.