So, 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. 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.
So you want to start in the best way possible and make it an enjoyable experience for you and your baby.
Here are some of our tips on making baby’s first meal a successful one …
First of all – before you even think about starting – it is important to ask yourself is my baby ready for solids? Can they sit upright when supported? Do they have good head and neck control? Are they interested in watching you eat?
If you’re sure they are ready then read on …
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’. In fact, you’ll be too busy with your own food at a normal meal time (or if you’ve got older children, you’ll be too preoccupied). Find a space in the day when your baby is usually at their most happy and when you don’t have other commitments.
Give breastmilk or formula first
Your baby’s first meal isn’t about filling them up – 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. It is the start of an important stage in their development. So there’s no need to offer the first meal on ‘an empty stomach’. In fact, your baby will be much happier and more agreeable if you give them their first meal after their usual milk feed.
Capture the event!
This is a big deal – plus it is hilarious to watch babies taste a new food for the first time. So if you can, set up a camera close by or even better, have someone else record the occasion. Maybe get Dad to give the first meal and you capture the moment.
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 his 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.
Find a ‘good first food’
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. Some 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. Don’t add salt or sugar.
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!
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!