It is the beginning of an exciting time! For the first six months, breast milk or formula alone will fulfill all your baby’s nutritional needs. After that period, it is time for them to start exploring different tastes and textures. However, it is not the moment to abandon their current diet all together yet, it is the beginning of a transitional period. “Where should I start?”, you must be asking yourself. The answer is simple: there is no right order, but it should be done slowly and gradually.
When is my baby ready to be introduced to solid food?
If your baby was born prematurely, you may need to wait a bit longer, so it is good if you consult your health care provider about this. If that is not the case, there are a few signs that indicate whether your baby is ready or not to start eating solid foods:
- They can hold their head and neck steady
- They sit upright
- They have a good coordination of their eyes, hands and mouth, enabling them to grab the food and eat it by themselves
- They show interest in food
- They can bring food from the front to the back of their tongue
How to prepare the food
As natural as it is, eating is a skill to be acquired. It involves biological as well as mechanical processes. In one hand, after six months of breastmilk, swallowing is unlikely to be a problem. In the other hand, the act of chewing will be an entirely new experience for your baby. With that in mind, there are different things to think about when preparing their food. To avoid choking, at the beginning you will have to remove all the seeds, cut it into small pieces, cook it into soft and mash it. Your baby should also be seated upright, and you should pay close attention to them while they eat.
What to avoid
Does your family have a history of severe allergies? If so, those are things to avoid giving your baby, at least when starting to introduce solid food. You should also avoid cold milk, honey, green-leaf vegetables, rice-cookies, salt, sugar, fennel and foods that represent a higher risk of choking. The so-called “potentially allergic foods”, such as eggs, soy, wheat, peanuts and so on, can be introduced with caution. It is very important to monitor and identify your baby’s allergies. But how can you detect an allergy? When introducing food, it is important to feed your baby one single-ingredient at a time. You should also wait 3 to 5 days until you switch to another one and pay close attention to how they react to each food. You should contact your health care provider whenever your baby shows any sign of an allergic reaction, such as:
- Trouble breathing
- Blood in their faeces
If the reaction seems to be more severe, you should take them straight to the hospital. Allergic symptoms can take up to a few days to show up.
What about breastmilk or formula now?
Remember: this is a transitional period. Your baby is getting used to new textures and flavours, most of their energy will still come from breastfeeding. For now, anything other than breastmilk or formula will be complementary in their diet. Once your baby adapts to eating solid food, they will be eating the same as the rest of the family in smaller portions.
References: - Choking Hazards. (2021, September 2). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. - Gorin, M. A. S. (2021, May 6). Baby’s First Foods: How to Introduce Solids. Parents. - When, What, and How to Introduce Solid Foods. (2021, August 24). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.