Solid food introduction for babies – What an exciting moment!
Solid food introduction for babies – one of the most exciting moment of early childhood. Try to imagine the first time you’ve ever tasted anything other than milk or formula to understand the enormity of this moment.
Introduction of solids is a sort of introductory to the culinary world and we think it is much more than chewing and swallowing.
The aim of this part is to give practical advice and provide tools for a successful initiation of solids eating in children.
If you want to be more specific on the advantages of early solid food introduction and who are the children that can start solid food at the age of 4 months, please read the specific chapter in this link
When to start introducing solid food to babies?
You can read all about baby nutrition in the first year of life in this link. Generally speaking, with most children an appropriate age to start solid food would be after 4 months.
How and with what should solid food introduction start?
First vegetables, then fruits.
Why this order? The relative preference to begin with vegetables is due to their less sweet taste. The baby is used to sweet flavours of breast milk or formula and introduction to additional flavours that are not as sweet, is recommended. Later you may certainly integrate fruits.
Which fruit or vegetable does solid introduction begin with?
Vegetables – Zucchini, carrot, sweet potato, pumpkin, squash and potato.
Fruits – Apple, pear, banana and avocado
Citrus fruits – Pomelo, orange or clementine.
How do you prepare the vegetables for the baby?
With a vegetable, it’s possible to steam it in order to reach a texture suited for feeding a baby:
You peel the vegetable and steam it in a steaming basket or a specialized steaming device until soft. It’s important to avoid steaming the vegetable “to death” in order to preserve some of the vitamins and minerals. How do you know the right degree of steaming? When the vegetable softens and it’s possible to mash it with some water. On the other hand, a sign for over steaming is a vegetable soft enough to mash easily with a fork.
Afterwards, it’s recommended to mash the vegetable into a smooth puree using an immersion blender appropriate for small amounts with some of the cooking water (specialized devices for steaming baby food also mash the food).
How do you prepare fruit for the baby?
With a fruit, you must abide by the following rules:
A fruit with a hard skin must be peeled (like an apple or a pear).
A soft fruit (banana, avocado) may be mashed using a fork.
A hard fruit must be softened or grated.
Citrus fruit must be peeled of the peel and the white pith and then be cut or given in a baby feeding mesh.
How do you proceed after the first try?
It’s important to give new food at least two-three days to make sure no allergic reaction develops. After that, you may proceed to the next fruit or vegetable or move on to a mixture. For example, if a baby has already tried zucchini, you may now mix it with sweet potato and then carrot and so on, or use a different food separately every time.
What about seasoning?
During the solid introduction phase, it’s not recommended to add salt to vegetables. This is due to the fact that salt consumption worldwide is excessive and there’s a desire to gradually reduce the amount of salt in products. Hence, it’s recommended that babies get used to less salty flavours. If you are searching for “seasoning” or more complex flavours you may add herbs such as parsley, basil etc. that may be cooked with the vegetables.
What time of the day is recommended for solid introduction?
It’s recommended to keep a fixed time in order to keep a routine.
A morning/noon timing is preferable and easier on the digestive tract. These are usually waking hours that are easier for digestion with less gas and stomach aches. In addition, it’s easier to observe for development of an allergic reaction.
It’s not recommended to introduce foods when the baby is very tired. It’s also inadvisable just before sleep at night.
How many times a day should solids be given?
At the beginning, it is better to start with once a day, but later (and for those of you who wants to, in the beginning too), you may try twice a day. At this stage there’s a learning curve, and therefore it is good to accelerate this process, that’s supposed to be so positive, and get the baby used to 2 meals a day. This is indeed a very important experience.
How do you feed the baby?
Most importantly, with a lot of patience, love and enjoyment…
Practically – feed the solids to the baby using a spoon suited for babies, it’s also possible to feed using the parents’ fingers, after thoroughly washing your hands and cutting your fingernails.
It’s not recommended to use a bottle for feeding with solids.
It’s important to give the baby time to get used to the change and observe whether they are enjoying eating and are interested in it. At the beginning, amounts are small, about 2-3 spoons a day. Later this can naturally be increased.
Explain to the baby what they are eating, emphasize the name and color of the food. It is even advised that you eat similar food in front of them at the same time. Explain about the flavour of the food and ask whether they are hungry and interested in more food. According to their response, decide to either continue or stop. A baby that’s interested in food will open his mouth and be prepared for the next portion.
At the introduction phase, you may prepare the puree and freeze some of it to prevent waste. A nice trick is freezing it in an ice cube tray and unfreeze one cube every day (and later two, and so on). You must remember to take it out of the freezer in time and not use the microwave to heat it.
When the amounts increase, you may give fresh food that may be kept in the fridge for up to 48 hours. Therefore, you may mash an amount of fruits and vegetables enough for two days and keep it in the fridge.
Note that fresh food is the most nutritious, but not everyone has the availability for every-day preparation.
How should the child sit at this age?
A 4-month-old baby is not ready to sit in a feeding chair and it’s better to feed them on a bean bag, baby bouncer or a stroller with a slightly raised head. Around the age of 6 months, the baby is ready to sit in a chair and may move on to the feeding chair.
How do you proceed with food introduction between the ages of 4 and 6 months?
During this period, the progress is mainly in variety i.e., introduction of additional fruits and vegetables that are eaten at home. Later on, progress is also made with gradually rising amounts. Further on, at this age, it’s also possible to integrate additional complementary foods.
When can additional complementary foods be introduced, including those with high allergic potential?
One of the most important questions of this chapter!
With the establishment of feeding, integration of foods with high allergic potential is possible and even desired. This includes cooked eggs (for example, scrambled egg or hard-boiled egg mixed with avocado), peanuts (there’s nothing better than a good peanut-butter-flavored snack), sesame (practically, an addition of tahini to vegetables) and even fish. According to the rate of progress of introductions, you may add either semolina or oat porridge to the breast milk/formula or as an addition to the fruit and give the baby a few spoons of the mixture.
How do you proceed with solid food introduction beyond 6 months?
After the age of 6 months, it’s recommended to proceed in several directions:
Familiarization with less soft textures. For example, fruits and vegetables mashed with a fork and not to a smooth puree.
Expansion of variety and amount of food in a meal as written here.
Encouragement of self-feeding habits – at this age it’s appropriate to encourage the baby to take the food off the plate using their hands (finger food). The food must be at a texture that allows the baby to grip it in their hand and yet is not a choking hazard. Remember, feeding must always take place under adult supervision. Always be calm, don’t force feed the baby and enjoy every moment of this beautiful moments of pleasure.
We wish you all good luck with food introduction…