The first form of food that your precious child will have for at least the first few months of his or her life would definitely be a form of liquid, that generally being either breast milk or formula. The next big step in a newborn’s diet is the transition to solid foods. This is essential for your child’s development. Benefits include getting your child to be more familiar with textures and tastes, to build up the teeth and jaw areas of your child, and even to help them with their language development and speaking. Above all that, solids provide other essential nutrients for your child’s growth that breast milk and formula may be unable to provide.
This usually happens when your child is between 4th to 6th months of age. There are a few signs of readiness which you, as parents, can look out for in your baby, before deciding if your child is ready for solid foods. Here are some signs that could mean your baby is ready:
- Your baby has good control of his or her head movements, being able to hold their head steadily in an upright position
- Your baby is able to sit up with some form of support
- Your baby shows interest in foods, leaning to take peeks at the food or wanting to try the food
- Your baby’s tongue-thrust reflex is gone; he or she does not instinctively push solids out of their mouths with their tongue
- Try bringing a spoon to your baby’s mouth, if they open their mouths to receive the spoon, it could mean they are ready
- Your baby is still hungry after being fed their daily amount of breast milk or formula
Upon deciding that your child is ready, you now have to decide what types of solids you want to introduce to your child. Something that is not only going to be well-liked by the child, but also good for their health as well. As a general guideline, the types of solids you should be feeding your child should progress in coarseness, from pureed food, to a mashed consistency, before moving on to chopped or minced foods whenever you feel that they are ready. No matter the consistency of the food they are consuming, it is important that you are paying attention your child when they are taking solids, as there are chances of choking or difficulties eating.
A child should be breastfed for at least the first 6 months as a guideline. This allows for the children to get the nutrients that they require to grow up healthily through their first few months. Beyond that, mothers should try to breastfeed or given formula all the way up to the 12-month mark, supplementing the breastfeeding with solid foods.
With these signs for you to look out and a general guideline for the types of food to feed your child, what exactly are the types of solids you should be introducing to your baby when it is time to make the change? Let us help you to decide.
Before we begin…
We felt that it would be a good idea to point out some foods in which you should not be feeding your child, at least until they are a year (12 months) old.
Honey: You should not introduce honey to your child before the age of 12 months. There may be spores or bacteria within the honey that can trigger Botulism, which is a potentially fatal illness that can affect the baby.
Cow’s or Goat’s Milk, Soy Milk: Forms of milk from animal sources are also not recommended for children below the age of 12 months as well. Animal milk such as cow or goat’s milk is harder to digest than formula and breast milk, and can stress some organs in the baby’s body, causing serious illnesses to follow. Soy milk can lead to deficiencies in your child that could be fatal.
Large and hard forms of food: These foods are choking hazards for children under 4 years old, and should be reserved till when your child knows fully about chewing or is able to chew. These foods should be pureed, mashed or cut up and fed to your child accordingly.
Types of Solids to Introduce to Your Baby:
- Single-grain cereal
Most of such cereals for babies are fortified with iron, due to the fact that the iron levels in the baby may experience a drop after birth. This helps to provide the child with the essential nutrients needed for his or her growth. It is an extremely common recommendation for a baby’s first solid food!
It is normally recommended by most sources as a form of solids to first introduce to a baby. The cereal is mixed with breast milk or formula accordingly, before being fed to a child. It is good that at this point you get your baby to sit upright as you feed them, usually twice a day. Do not use a bottle to feed the child, as the whole point is to get your child to get used to the process of eating. As such, be sure to feed them with a spoon!
Alternatively, you can substitute the cereals for oatmeal instead, grinding them up and softening up to an appropriate texture for your baby. Oatmeal has more fibre content which can prevent your baby from getting constipated!
2. Fruit or Vegetable Puree
Fruit purees are another common form of foods fed to babies in their first few months. These purees can be easily found and bought in different stores, or can even be made at home, which generally means you are given a good variety of fruits to select from and decide which nutrients you want to provide for your child. As such, fruit and vegetable purees provide a wide range of benefits, stemming from nutrients such as vitamins.
For starters, you can try to introduce single-ingredient purees to the child, introducing the baby to different kinds of fruits and vegetables, how they taste and how their textures are like. Slowly, you can create some purees with 2 or more ingredients to experiment. To keep the nutrients of the fruits of vegetables, you should steam them if needed, and just puree softer fruits directly. Here are some ideas for single-ingredient purees:
- Apple Puree
- Green Bean Puree
- Peach Puree
- Green Pea Puree
- Butternut Squash Puree
All these purees will have their own benefits from the base ingredient, and you can experiment mixing them around for new tastes. If you are making the purees at home, you can try to reduce the amount of liquids you add into the puree to get a more solid texture as time goes by, to help with the progression of coarseness of the solids. There is an abundance of recipes online, and you should definitely visit the web for new recipes and their benefits.
Introducing your baby to new fruits and vegetables can also help you to discover any allergies that you may not have known, and rule out such foods for future consumption. You should stick with the same foods for 3 days in a row before trying out something else, and look out for any forms of allergic reactions before introducing something new.
3. Meat Puree
Another common kind of base for purees is meat. Meats again provide different forms of nutrients, including the essential Iron, for your children, and can train them to eat slightly coarser textures. The method of preparation is simple as well, simply take the cooked meat, blending and adding water or other consumable liquid till the consistency is what your child can consume. Most meats will be able to work for this, such as beef, pork, chicken or fish, as long as they are cooked and have their bones removed to prevent any accidents or bad reactions happening to the baby. Other substitutes for meat that you can choose for your child include eggs or tofu!
A study has shown that feeding a baby with meat can help them to grow taller! Ask your doctor about when you can start your child on meat purees early at 4-6 months old, as meats have easily absorbable forms of iron and zinc which your baby needs. You can also start mixing some meat in the vegetable and fruit purees to get your baby started on meat, before progressing into full meat purees if you would like.
Avocadoes are well liked by adults for their health benefits, but also for their taste and creamy texture. The delicious fruit is actually also widely recognized by mothers to be fed to a child.
The fruit is full of unsaturated fats that are beneficial for your child’s brain development, and overall a great fruit to provide your child with more nutrients! The consistency of the fruit allows it to be fed early when mashed and pureed, and also allows it to be cut into wedges as well when your child is ready to learn to eat finger foods! This is definitely a great choice for your baby.
Yoghurts are a great form of solids to introduce to your baby, and it can be introduced fairly early in baby’s solid eating journey due to its consistency. Yoghurt is a form of dairy you can provide to your child apart from breast milk and formula. It is packed with calcium for strong bones, as well as other vitamins for your baby’s overall development.
It is important that you choose the correct type of yoghurt for your child. The yoghurt should be made from whole milk, as babies need the fats as calories. The yoghurt should be unsweetened as well, to minimize the chances of tooth decay and obesity. To add flavor or taste to the yoghurt, you can add some fruits or cooked vegetable purees into the yoghurt!
6. Sweet Potato
Sweet potatoes are also a very popular first solid for babies, and it is easy to see why. For starters, it has a sweet taste which might be more welcomed by your little ones. They also come packed with nutrients like vitamins and antioxidants to benefit your child! Just like avocado, this root is one in which you can play around with its textures to suit your child. You may choose to boil the peeled sweet potatoes or simply roast them and scrape the flesh out. From then, you can mix in an appropriate amount of water, formula or breast milk to puree the potatoes, or even feed it after mashing it up with a fork if your child is ready! Slicing them up into pieces for when your child is ready for finger food is also another possibility! Sounds like this potato is really a sweet first solid food choice!
Bananas have been commented on by many parents to be well liked by babies. Some even simply add bananas to something their baby might not be interested in, and they will start to be interested in the foods and finish whatever is in front of them! Maybe you can try it for yourself!
Bananas are rich in potassium and other vitamins which are beneficial for your child. As with the avocadoes and sweet potatoes, bananas’ textures are very versatile, making it a food that can be fed all throughout their solids eating journey. However, you should try to control the amount you are giving to your baby, as bananas can cause a slight bit of constipation even though they are full of fibre.
Other Tips for the Best Solids-Eating Journey
Here are some tips you may find useful when feeding your child:
- Don’t force your baby to eat more when her or she shows a lack of interest in the food after a feed
- Don’t force your baby to try something new if they are unwilling, just try again another time
- Let your baby play with food, just make sure it is soft and not a choking hazard
- You can try to give your baby formula or breast milk in a cup to slowly encourage the weaning process
- Make sure you are with your child during the feeding process to prevent any accidents such as choking from happening
- Look out for any potential allergic reactions in your baby and seek medical help if necessary, remembering what was consumed before the reaction
There are many kinds of solids which you can introduce to your child for their development and for their bodily health. If in doubt, always check with a paediatrician or a health professional about whether your baby is ready for solids and what kinds of solids would be most suited for your child to consume at the beginning of his or her solid food journey!