Australian StandardsIn the past Australia followed the World Health Authorities when giving advice on when to start a baby on solids. WHA suggests not to starting solids before six months of age due to the childhood mortality in third world countries often caused by unhygienic conditions. Australian health professionals have recently recommended changing the age for starting solids between four and six months although they are still encouraging those who breastfeed to continue till at least six month or longer.
The increase of all types of allergies, especially food related allergies, which has greatly increased in the past few years, has cause great concern. Immunologists, doctors and dieticians specialising in allergies have recently recommended starting solids between 4-6 months as delaying the introduction of solids may be interfering with the normal immune development reducing food tolerance and increasing allergies. (see article: The Solids Controversy written by Karen Simmer PHD FRACP. Professor of Newborn Medicine, University of Western Australia). This recent research concludes that delaying the introduction of foods may not only be to the child’s determent but also may have long-term effect on their food preferences.
Guide LinesBefore introducing solids there are some things to take into consideration; the reason why you want to introduce solids, what is the best time to feed your child and how and what foods to introduce first.
One of the guides we look for when starting solids is the child’s readiness, is he/she looking interested in food? Does he/she watch you while you are eating? or are they reaching out for your food? Your instincts will often help you decide. If in doubt try a small spoon of baby cereal and watch the reaction. Remember never force a child and avoid giving large amounts. Start with small amounts. One to two teaspoons for the first month is sufficient. Offer solids about twenty minutes after a milk feed until baby is nine months. Milk is a feed not just a snack and at this age contains all a babies nutritional requirements. By nine months a baby will be eating about one cup of solids before every milk feed except the morning feed when solids usually come after the milk feed. By this age a child should be having from 3-4 milk feeds per day with not feeds over night.
At the beginning, when starting your baby on solids, it is an introduction to food not a meal; this is a taste of things to come. It is a learning experience to encourage baby to develop their tongue and mouth muscles to thrust food backwards. This also helps develop the muscles for speech. For the same reason dummies should be limited only to sleep time and by the age of 9 months eliminated all together otherwise it may hamper speech or cause speech impediments such as a lisp.
From the beginning give your child a spoon to help them learn how to feed themselves. Be prepared for lot of mess, this is part of learning.
Introducing solids or a formula feed before baby’s night sleep to help them sleep through the night is no guarantee for a good night sleep. If a child has never really learn to self settle during the day (sleeping blocks of 2 -2 ½hours) then giving more food at night is not going to help with self settling. Babies generally sleep eight hours at night (without a feed) from three months old and 12 hours from nine to ten months old. There are of course exceptions to the rule when babies sleep through at an earlier age.
What Foods to Introduce First?Iron enriched rice cereal is commonly the first solid to be introduced due to babies dwindling stores of iron. Cereal can be mixed with breastmilk, cooled boiled water or formula. Cow’s milk and honey should not be given to a child under 12 months. Seasoned food includes salt and sugar should be avoided. Try starting your baby on vegetables to avoid the vegetable aversion that some babies develop when introduces to fruit first.
Don’t be too hasty try new foods. The rule to thumb is to try only one new food every 5 days. Introduce the new food in the morning when you have all day to see if there is an adverse reaction. If baby doesn't like it try again a few days later and keep trying. Babies sometimes need to try up to ten times before they acquire a taste for some foods. Avoid your child becoming a fussy eater by introducing a variety of tastes and textures over the first year of their life. This will also help them to develop a preference for healthy foods.
Baby may gag on the spoon or the food even when it is highly pureed; this is expected as they haven't experienced swallowing solids before. She/he is also learning how to move food from the front to the back of her/his mouth. Proceed with caution while baby learns this new skill and expect a lot of mess.
How Much?Do not be tempted to over feed your baby; some babies don’t know when to stop. Offer one teaspoon and at the most two for the first month, once a day, then slowly increase to half a cup by six months, twice a day, and one cup three times a day by nine months.
Never force a baby to eat as this can often cause feeding problems and unpleasant mealtimes. When baby shows signs that she/he has had sufficient don’t push her/him to take more just to finish the bowl. If baby begins to spit, throw or play with their food it is time to remove it. This will also encourage baby to eat when it is mealtimes and not play. Have a cup of cooled boiled water on hand to offer baby, encourage the use of a cup. Start to introduce a cup around six months when you are starting her/him on forked mashed solids.
PreparationIf you are using a microwave to heat food make sure you stir the food well to disperse the hot spots. Don’t over heat food or reheat half eaten food. Always take out of the storage container what you need for one meal, and then add more if necessary. Never re-use half eaten food. Freshly prepared food which can be frozen in ice cubes is preferable to processed baby food. Many babies become fussy if only given processed foods and will refuse other types of food including those which are not highly pureed. When you cook your own vegetables take some out to prepare for baby. This will save you time.
This article was written by mothercraft nurse Sally Hall from Cradle 2 Kindy Parenting Solutions. Call and find out how we can provide professional guidance to help you raise your children. If you would like more information on this and other similar topics our E-books are packed full of practical parenting tips. Down load an E-Book specifically related to your child's age group through Publications at Our Shop.
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