In the past World Health Authorities advised not to start solids before six months of age this was due to the unhygienic conditions and child mortality in third world countries. WHO also thought it may contribute to the increasing problems of childhood obesity in the west. Breastfeeding is still encouraged till six month or longer as it contains all the nutrients a baby needs to grow and be in good health. Today parents are encouraged to start their babies on solids by four months. This is largely due to the increase of allergies in children.
Solids should always be given in small doses, one to two teaspoons for the first month is sufficient. Always offer solids about twenty minutes after a milk feed until baby is nine months. The milk feed is a feed not just a snack and at this age contains all a babies nutritional requirements.
Beginning solids is just that, an introduction to food not a meal but a taste of things to come. It also encourages baby to develop her tongue muscles to thrust food backwards. This also helps develop the muscles for speech. For the same reason dummies should be stopped by this age as this action reinforces baby’s sucking muscles which can hamper speech and cause speech impediments such as a lisp.
By nine months a baby will be eating about one cup of solids before their milk feed except the morning feed.
Solids or formula are often introduced before a baby’s night sleep to help her sleep through the night. This does not guarantee sleep. Babies generally sleep longer at night (7-8 hrs) from three months old and 12 hours from seven to nine months old. There are of course exceptions to the rule when babies sleep through at an earlier age.
What to introduce first? Babies iron stores at six month are beginning to decline therefore iron enriched rice cereal is the first solid to be introduced. This can be mixed with breastmilk, cooled boiled water or formula. Cows milk should not be given to a child under 12 months. Salt, sugar or other condiments should not be added.
Starting solids may cause a baby to become constipated. If this is the case introduce a little boiled water either in a bottle or cup. If baby continues to be constipated, cut out the rice cereal for a while and introduce a little diluted prune juice or pulp. Re-introduce the rice cereal when things have improved.
Six months is a good time to familiarize your baby with a cup especially if you plan to wean soon. This may be formula or cooled boiled water. If your are wanting to introduce formula putting it into her solids will help her to adjust to the taste. I suggest introducing a cup with a spout that has a valve to stop the liquid pouring out. To begin with remove the valve so the liquid will pour out when the cup is tiped up. You will need to control the flow to begin with but once baby knows there is something in it that is worth drinking, return the valve. Eventually she will realises she will need to suck to obtain the liquid.
By 12 months baby should be off bottles and drinking soly from a cup. Spout or straw are acceptable.
Tips: Don’t rush to start your baby on solids. Starting before 4 months and after six month may cause problems.
Remember: Always intorduce children to a new food slowly. Give at leaset 5 days between intoducing each new food. It is recommended to offer one small serve at the beginning of the day just incase there is a reaction to the food giving you time to seek medical assistance.
Also see our article on The Solids Controversy by Professor Karen Simmer PHD FRACP. Professor of Newborn Medicine, University of Western Australia.
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