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Starting solids – how to start solid food, baby’s first meal

Baby having his first meal of solid foodSo, you’ve decided it’s time to start your baby on solid food! It’s a big step—but an important one for their development.

It is recommended that your baby start solids around six months of age. It is important to continue to breast feed or give formula until they are 12 months of age, as this is their main source of nutrition.

Many parents think their baby is ready to start solids because they are able to sit upright, they have good head and neck control and they are interested in watching you eat. These are good signs that your baby is developing normally but not necessarily ready to start solids. Your baby needs to have a reduced tongue thrust reflex so that they won’t be pushing away food with their tongue when offered but rather use their tongue to push food backwards into their mouth.

Starting solids is not just about learning to eat—it is also about exposing your baby to different tastes and textures, developing their jaw muscles and even helping with speech development and teeth spacing.

Here are some of our tips on making baby’s first meal a successful one…

Tips on making baby’s first meal a success

Offer the first meal at a time when you and your baby are relaxed and happy

This doesn’t have to be a traditional ‘mealtime’. Any time that suits you is fine as you will usually start by offering one meal a day and see how it goes.

Give breastmilk or formula first

Remember to give breast milk or formula first as this is their main source of nutrition and the goal of solids is not about filling them up on solids rather than milk. It’s about exposing them to a new taste and introducing them to the idea of chewing, moving food around in their mouth and swallowing.

Capture the event!

This is a big deal—plus it is hilarious to watch babies taste a new food for the first time. Have the camera handy to record the event.

Make sure the highchair and utensils are clean (but no need to sterilise)

Anything you intend to use to feed your baby their first meal should be washed up as normal and dried. There’s no need to sterilise bowls or spoons—by this age your baby is probably putting all sorts of non-sterilised things in their mouth!

Make sure you’ve got a bib (and one for the baby too!)

OK, maybe not a bib for you—but it could get messy. Don’t get dressed to go out then give your baby their first meal! A bib for bub is a good idea. A soft fabric one is good for a small baby just starting out. The first meal may not be a terribly messy one (they’re to come soon though!) but it pays to be prepared.

If spoon-feeding, look for a good soft-tipped spoon

A nice small, soft-tipped spoon will be much easier to use if you’re spoon-feeding your baby. Look for ones that are shovel-like rather than rounded as they’ll help you get every last bit of food from a bowl.

You may decide to do baby-led weaning and this will get even messier! Offer your baby really soft foofds which may be laid out on their high chair tray and let your baby choose what they eat.

Find a ‘good first food’

At around six months of age your baby’s iron stores start to deplete and they need to start eating iron-rich foods to get iron into their diet. This is why it is recommended that your baby start on foods containing iron. Traditionally this has been fortified rice cereal because extra iron has been added and rice is very unlikely to cause allergies.

Some other iron-rich first foods are cooked pureed meat, chicken, fish, tofu, beans, legumes, lentils and iron-fortified. Also good first foods for baby are pumpkin, pear, apple, sweet potato, avocado, carrot and banana. If cooking vegetables, steaming is better than boiling as it retains all the nutrients.

You might like to add some apple, pear or mashed banana to their cereal to help them have a little more. However, don’t add salt or sugar to their foods.

The current recommendation is that foods can be introduced in any order as long as iron-rich foods are included in baby’s first foods and they’re an appropriate texture for the baby’s stage of development [1].

READ: You can read more about starting solids in our Starting Solids Hub

Offer smooth or soft food for the first meal

To make their first meal easier to eat make sure it is smooth or soft. You might choose to start with a puree—like pumpkin—or some mashed avocado. If you do start with a puree, quickly increase the texture within the next few weeks so baby can develop those muscles needed for chewing.

If you start by offering some finger food, make sure it is soft enough to squish between your fingers and long enough for baby to hold—like steamed carrot sticks or banana. Here’s a trick: Did you know that a banana can be separated into segments like an orange? Gently squish the banana using your fingers until you see where it comes apart—these segments are perfect for baby to hold!

It is important to gradually increase the texture of your baby’s foods over the next couple of months by moving from pureed foods to mashed foods to foods containing lumps so baby can learn how to move these foods around in their mouth and develop those muscles needed for chewing.

Start with a small amount of food

Don’t have high expectations for how much your baby will consume at their first meal. About 1-2 teaspoons is a good starting point.

Don’t worry if they don’t eat much (and don’t keep the leftovers)

Remember that this is the first meal of many. In no time your child will be eating you out of house and home. Start small and increase each time. You should throw out anything left in the bowl too.

 

And remember to always watch your baby while they eat. Not only for safety reasons (so they don’t choke or fall from the highchair) but to make eating an enjoyable and social time!

1.Infant Feeding Guidelines NHMRC 2012

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