When is the Best Time for Starting Baby on Solids?
Starting babies on solids is an exciting time in your baby’s development. They're getting older, and while the days of solely breastfeeding or formula-feeding are coming to an end, an amazing time of discovering their favourite foods and getting messy in the kitchen is just beginning.
The transition to starting solids can seem overwhelming, but it's an important step as babies need solid food so that they can get enough iron and essential nutrients for growth. As parents, it can be hard to let them figure out the new textures of solid foods, but it's a necessary step for babies to learn independence and trust their instincts.
If you're wondering when to start your baby on solids, keep reading to find out official recommended ages for starting solids, signs your baby is ready to start solids, and what you'll need to feed your baby.
When to Start Baby on Solids
While in the past paediatricians have recommended starting babies on solids from four to six months old, it's becoming more common to begin solid foods at six months and up. Six months in age is a general guideline as there are requirements your baby should meet before they are ready to start solid foods.
Signs your baby is ready for solids:
- Baby can sit up on their own
- Baby has control over neck and head
- Holds small objects and brings to mouth
- Opens mouth when offered food
- Interested in food and what you eat
After these initial signs are seen in your baby, and they are at least 4-6 months, you can confidently start your baby on solids. This age is critical because they have now developed the ability to push food to the back of their mouths to swallow it.
Additionally, at 6 months of age solid food supports growth and energy production. Breastfed babies and formula-fed babies get the nutrition they need from milk for the first six months of life, but after this age they can't get enough of their iron requirements from breastmilk or formula alone.
It is not recommended to start solids before four months of age. Starting solids too early can increase the risk of weight gain and obesity in infancy and early childhood. Always consult your baby's paediatrician for any further questions.
Foods for Starting Baby on Solids
So, you've determined your baby is ready to start solids. Now what?
The ideal foods for starting babies on solids are nutrient-dense foods that are smooth, mashed or soft in texture. Solids should be introduced one food at a time, starting with small amounts after baby has had a breastfeed or formula feed.
Good examples of foods to offer at the start:
- iron-fortified infant cereal,
- steamed vegetables that are mashed or pureed,
- steamed fruit that is mashed or pureed.
Baby purees are the most common types of first baby foods. To make a baby puree, blend whichever food you choose with breastmilk, formula, or water. You can then feed it to your baby with your assistance or let them use a spoon themselves.
You want all foods to be soft and plain at the beginning. There is no need to add salt, sugar, honey or other flavours. Make sure that the pureed food has been properly prepared. Hard foods such as apples and carrots should be steamed, baked, or boiled until soft.
How To Start
Always feed baby when you are both relaxed and calm, and initially start with a small amount of food.
Breastfeeding or formula feeding should continue while solids are being introduced until at least 12 months of age. Solid foods should supplement breastfeeding or formula feeding at this age.
Offer baby 1-2 teaspoons of food after a breastfeed or formula feed. Slowly increase this to approximately 2 tablespoons. At first, offer solids once a day, and build this up over time to 3 times a day.
You may find that your baby refuses some new foods - this is normal. However, continue to offer these foods to your baby at other meal times or on another day, as it can take some time for them to like new foods.
Looks for signs that baby has had enough food to eat - such as turning their head or not opening their mouth. Follow these cues, and don't feel your baby has to eat all the food in their bowl if they are showing signs of being full.
As baby grows, a variety of food textures and thickness can be introduced such as minced food or chopped food. By offering different textures, this helps to develop their teeth and jaw, which is essential for language development as they grow.
Foods that should be avoided under the age of one are:
- raw or runny eggs,
- reduced fat dairy,
- whole nuts, whole grapes, popcorn or similar hard foods as these are choking hazards
It is important to supervise your baby when they are eating as they are still learning how to eat, and there is always the risk of choking. Always ensure your baby is sitting upright to eat and they are awake and alert.
What You Need to Start
Next to consider is what products you'll need to feed your baby solids comfortably. Self-feeding and baby-led weaning is usually the best approach for feeding babies. If you're having a hard time getting your baby to eat certain foods but not others, and they aren't baby led weaning, try letting them feed themselves.
Baby bowls and spoons designed for the little hands are perfect to further encourage this process. Babies who self-lead their eating habits often grow up to have healthier eating habits and have less risk of obesity. Self-feeding also makes it easier for parents to introduce new foods to their babies.
Food storage containers are a good idea for freezing home made baby puree blends. You will be able to easily and quickly pop out your pre-prepared frozen food, and have it ready to serve to baby in seconds.
In addition, you'll want a high chair, plenty of bibs and maybe even a floor mat to protect the floor from the aftermath of your baby exploring a new world of colours, tastes, smells and textures. At Ecostork, we love the Leander Classic high chair as it provides ergonomically correct support for children of all ages. The back, seat and footplates can be adjusted to fit your child.
Once your baby has reached six months of age, you may want to offer cooled, boiled water in a cup. Babies can learn to drink from an open cup at this age, and they may be interested in water at mealtimes or during the day.
While there are many things to consider when starting babies on solids, both you and your baby will get better at it the more you practice. Always feed your baby when they are happy and calm, and initially start with a small amount of food. There will be challenges along the way, but it is a really exciting time for you both.
Get prepared by anticipating this new stage in your baby's development and enjoy watching them try new foods.