Like any milestone, starting solid food can be a confusing time for new parents.
There’s so much conflicting information out there and outdated advice still doing the rounds. It is hard to get your head around it all and feel confident that you’re doing the right thing for your child.
We see many new parents come on the Bub Hub forum with questions about starting their baby on solids. Often the same questions are asked over and over again. Here are the most common concerns and some straight answers for you …
Starting solids – 7 common questions answered
When should I start my baby on solids? Other babies her age have already started.
The current recommendation* is that babies start solid food when they are around six months of age and not before they’re 4 months**.
So – that’s the basic and general information but how do YOU know when YOUR baby should start? After taking those recommendations into consideration you must look for the signs your baby is ready to start solid food and act on them. Does your baby show an interest in food, try to eat your food? Does your baby still have the tongue-thrust reflex? Can your baby sit upright with support and has good head and neck control?
And once you’re confident that you’ve made the right decision based on the current information and your own instincts then try not to compare your baby with others. Everyone’s baby is different and everyone’s life is different.
My baby has no teeth yet. Will this matter when eating solid food?
Not at all. Babies are so different – especially when it comes to teething. Some babies start teething early and it’s not unusual to have a one-year-old who is still all gums! So it doesn’t matter much when it comes to eating solid food. Just stick your finger in there and you’ll feel exactly how strong their jaw and gums are!
Baby’s food should be of a texture appropriate to their stage of development – whether they have teeth or not. Hard food is a choking hazard for babies so stick to softer foods. Some good soft foods are bananas, toast, steamed carrot sticks, mashed or pureed vegetables and meats, roast chicken, fish, pears, omelette and avocado.
Do I give solid food before my baby’s milk feed or after?
When you’re first starting solid food you should offer solids AFTER your baby’s usual milk feed. At this age, they’ll still be getting the majority of their nutrition from breast milk or infant formula and solid food is not for filling up their bellies. Also they will be more happy to try new things and this will make starting solids less stressful for you.
Eventually solid food will replace their milk feed altogether but until they’re at least 12 months breastmilk or formula should still be one of their main sources of nutrition. After 12 months they should be eating family foods.
My baby just isn’t interested in eating solid food. What can I do?
It can be so frustrating to try feeding a baby who just isn’t interested in solid food. First of all – make sure they’re not too young. If they are younger than 6 months then perhaps they are just not ready. Don’t stress about trying if they’re not into it. Wait until the recommended time – around six months – and try again.
If your baby is older than six months and still not showing any interest in solid food there are a few things you can do to tempt them such as have them sit in the high chair with the family at meal times, offer a variety of new foods and keep offering the same foods even if they didn’t like it the first time – experts say babies can sometimes need to taste something 12 times before they like it!
I am so worried about allergies – should I be delaying certain foods?
It was once thought that delaying the introduction of allergenic foods – and solid food in general – could help reduce the risk of allergies in babies and children. Further research has shown this is not the case. The current advice in terms of starting solids and allergy prevention is that you should introduce solid food from around six months (but not before 4 months) when your baby is developmentally ready and while they are still being breastfed **. And you should not delay the introduction of common allergenic foods such as cooked eggs, peanut butter, wheat and fish.
There are a number of factors that can increase a child’s risk of developing an allergy – including a family history, early introduction of cow’s milk and introducing solids before 3-4 months of age. If there’s a family history of allergies or if your baby already has an allergy, such as eczema, please talk to a health care provider who is up to date with the latest allergy advice about how you should introduce solid food.
How much are babies supposed to eat? I’m worried my baby isn’t eating enough.
A baby’s first meal of solid food will only be a few teaspoons. The first meal is mostly about exposing them to the new idea of solid food – of moving food around their mouth in a different way. It is not to fill up their little tummy. As they grow their appetite will increase and gradually they’ll eat more and more. But remember that they still have little stomachs and do not need as much food as we do – the standard serves and recommended portion sizes for babies and toddlers might surprise you.
Because they don’t eat a lot it is important to make sure the food they DO eat is packed full of nutrients – steam instead of boil, offer a variety of food and avoid foods with little nutritional value. Baby’s first foods should also be iron-rich. If your baby is enjoying a wide range of nutritious foods and is still having milk feeds then you should rest assured they’re getting the nutrients they need. Remember that all babies are different – some just have greater appetites than others.
I think my baby is constipated now he’s started solid food. What can I do?
Your baby’s poo will change once they start eating solid food. It will become more solid and probably more stinky! It isn’t constipation unless it is difficult for them to pass and is hard and dry – sometimes like little pellets. To help prevent constipation when your baby starts solid food make sure they’re eating a nutritious diet that includes wholegrain cereals and fresh fruit and vegetables for fibre. They should also be drinking water when they start eating solid food.
If you think your baby is already constipated then you should talk to your doctor about treating it early. Prolonged constipation can cause a child to become fearful of doing a poo and can lead to an exhausting and traumatic cycle of them becoming scared, holding it in, becoming constipated again and then back to the start … becoming frightened, holding it in, becoming constipated again. And so on.
*Infant Feeding Guidelines NHMRC 2012
** Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA)