When Master E was 4 months old I remember feeling absolutely overwhelmed with the information on when to introduce solids, not to mention the disagreement there seemed to be amongst mums as to when to feed babies solids. I found that some people said 4 months, others argued that 6 months was the age for starting babies on solids. And then it went into the detail of what you should and shouldn’t feed them, looking out for signs……it was a mine field!
But second time round with Miss M, I can honestly say I’m still not 100% confident on when to start solids and the best way to do it. This is why I sought the help of an expert.
I think one of the biggest mistakes mother’s make (me included) is resorting to forums and private Facebook groups to discuss these sorts of things. In the end, what one mother does with her children may not suit another mother AND what they suggest may not, in fact, be correct or even safe.
Expert advice on introducing solids
I had the pleasure of interviewing Karen Faulkner of Nurture Parenting. Karen is a Child and Family Health nurse with 17 year’s experience working with and advising families on introducing solids, infant nutrition and more, as well as a published parenting author.
What age should I be starting my baby on solids? Why this particular age?
Babies should start on solids between 4-6 months. This is based on the newly published ASCIA guidelines.
At 4-6 months we can help prevent food allergies. The baby’s gut is more porous before 6 months and this helps the immune system prepare and prevent allergy. After 6 months giving food has less of an impact on the immune system as it is much less porous. Research has shown that, for example, if we give eggs before 6 months we can reduce the risk of egg allergy 5 fold. It is similar with peanuts. At 6 months babies need more iron in their diet and starting before then helps the baby master the skill of eating and swallowing.
So, how do I know if my baby is actually ready to have solids?
There are a number of things you can look out for. Perhaps they are not as satisfied with their milk feed, they could start showing an interest in your food or perhaps they’re not sleeping as well as usual. Other things to consider are if their weight is slowing on their percentile charts, they are putting everything into their mouth or their extrusion reflex has disappeared (when they stick their tongue out).
What type of foods should I introduce and how should I introduce them?
ASCIA recommends all foods apart from honey. Start your baby on what the family usually eats. You can introduce each new food every 2-3 days to check for food reactions or just give things together and work backwards if there is a problem.
Start slowly if you’re giving food at 4 months by giving a few teaspoons of solids each day. Giving solids too quickly and too much of them increases the risk of constipation. It’s best to start on veggies first because giving fruit first could potentially encourage a sweet tooth.
Food needs to be pureed up to 6 months with the texture and consistency of yoghurt or custard. Avoid adding salt and sugar to foods. Mix to a puree with either breastmilk, infant formula if formula feeding, cooled boiled water or the water the veggies were cooked in or full cream cow’s milk.
What happens if my baby shows interest in solids before the recommended age?
Go with your baby and don’t worry. Babies are all ready at different ages. Some babies prefer finger foods and baby led weaning, avoiding the puree and spoon feeding altogether.
Are there any foods in particular that should NOT give to my baby until a certain age? Why is this?
Yes. Avoid honey until one year old because of the risk of the bacteria clostridium botulinum.
I’ve always been concerned about my baby choking on solid food. What should I do?
The gag reflex is a normal reflex, all babies have a gag reflex until 9 months old. The gag is further forward than adults and is protective. You have to move baby onto finger foods and lumpy foods after 6 months to help the gag reflex disappear.
Some foods should be avoided because of the risk of choking e.g. hard pieces of carrot and apple, nuts, frankfurters, cherry tomatoes, olives and cherries (unless cut in half) and lollies. All these foods can get stuck in your baby’s airway.
Do you have any other tips on introducing solids to babies?
- Starting finger foods at 6 months and allowing your baby to self-feed is very important.
- Eating with your baby, turning the TV off and being present can increase the amount a baby eats by 25%.
- Lamb cutlets and chicken drumsticks are a great way to introduce babies to eating meat as it gives them control. After 6 months feed to appetite i.e. until baby closes their mouth and turns their head away. It’s very hard to overfeed a baby and I think mums are worried about obesity so don’t always feed them enough solids to help them sleep.
- After 6 months look at a balanced diet and make sure your baby is having protein and low glycaemic index carbs for growth and sleep (e.g. sweet potato, brown rice, wholemeal foods, oats and weetbix).
- Also, if you opt for feeding your baby solids in pre-prepared pouches, check the carbohydrate and protein content. Protein should be a 1/3 and so should the carbohydrate e.g. oats, brown rice, etc.
- Give the food via a spoon and not squeezed into your baby’s mouth. Chewing and moving food from a spoon to the back of their mouth by using their tongue is very important for speech development.
I’ve certainly learnt a lot from this interview even though I’ve gone through the process with Master E before. It’s great to feel better equipped with knowledge from an expert, to me it brings around a sense of confidence considering how overwhelmed I felt the last time I had a baby starting solids!
If you’re at the stage of introducing solids, don’t forget to check out my post 10 Homemade Baby Food Recipes.
Disclosure: This is not a sponsored post, simply an article and interview which I thought my readers may find useful.