SOLIDS! The when, what, how of solid food.
Starting solids can feel really daunting for some parents, with conflicting information on the internet and then differing opinions from family and friends it can become very overwhelming.
Here at Little Ones we want to take the confusion out of starting solids and to help you to find what works best for you and your little one. Our Sleep & Nutrition Program can direct you to the most current evidence-based nutrition recommendations for your baby.
Get your little one’s sleep back on track.
Try our app, free for 7 days! Get guidance, advice & exclusive support through the sleep regressions, nap transitions and big sleep changes to come.Start free trial
When to start solids
The recommendations around what is the perfect age to start solids can differ from country to country but the general consensus (and recommendation from the World Health Organization) is to start introducing solids at around 6 months but not before 4 months. At this time your little one will likely be starting some signs of readiness for you to look out for.
Signs of readiness might include:
- Can sit upright on their own or with minimal support and control their neck and head well -this sign of readiness is very important as having good head and neck control is important to reduce the risk of choking.
- Is interested in the people around them eating and opens up their mouth when food is offered.
- Tries to grasp objects (like toys, food etc) and tries to bring them to their mouth.
- Opens their mouth when they are offered food and brings the food from the front of their mouth to the back of their mouth and swallows the food rather than letting it dribble back out of their mouth.
Any food that contains proteins has the potential to cause an allergic reaction, however, there are 9 foods that are most likely to elicit a reaction, these are cow's milk (dairy), egg, peanut, tree nuts, sesame, soy, fish, shellfish and wheat.
I often get asked “should I avoid foods that might cause an allergic reaction in my little one until after they are 12 months?” and the answer is no. The research suggests that offering these common allergen foods earlier, at around 6 months (and not before 4 months) can actually help to reduce a little one’s risk of developing food allergies. Note: if someone in your little one’s immediate family (sibling or parent) has a food allergy then I would suggest speaking to your doctor before your little one starts solids to determine the best plan for introduction (this is often to proceed with introduction as usual but sometimes doctors will recommend introducing the common allergens earlier than 6 months depending on the individual situation).
First foods to introduce to your baby’s diet
There are no set rules around what a first food should be, but I like to offer my clients suggestions around what might make up a great first meal and this includes 3 groups of new foods to make things a bit more simple
- 1. An iron-rich food like meat, eggs, fish, nuts, seeds, green leafy vegetables, tofu or an iron-fortified infant cereal (make sure all foods are given in a way that is texturally appropriate for this age, for more information on this check out our Nutrition Program
- 2. An energy-dense food, for example, meats, eggs, oily, avocado, sweet potato, white potato, full-fat dairy products, banana, little ones at this age are growing very quickly and will often not eat very much as they have very small tummies, so energy-dense offer them bang for their buck in terms of energy per gram.
- 3. For vegetables or fruit, there is a critical window between 6 and 9 months for introducing the textures and flavours of vegetables and fruit so we want to capitalize on this time that little ones will readily accept these foods.
How much solid food should you start with?
Start low and slow! I would usually suggest starting with a smaller amount so as not to overwhelm your little one for the first few mealtimes. There is no specific amount that a little one ‘should’ be eating, just like adults they will need different amounts depending on how they are feeling, the food itself, how much they have eaten, or how much milk they have consumed in the previous 48 hours etc. What’s most important is to try to tune into our little one’s individual hunger and fullness cues so that we offer them exactly what they are needing at each meal.
What textures should you introduce?
There is a lot of debate about whether to adopt a baby-led weaning or traditional approach to weaning (the World Health Organization and many government recommendations are currently to offer a traditional weaning approach with gradual introduction of new textures), at the end of the day what is most important is that your little one starts their solids journey within a positive eating environment. It’s up to you and your doctor as to what will make you feel most confident when introducing solids, whether you want to start with purees and progress through the textures to finger foods or to start with finger foods or even to use a mixed approach.
Milk feeds or solids first?
Milk is still the priority nutrition until 12 months old, but food is still an important part of the diet from 6 months as it provides nutrients, in particular, iron which is important to meet the needs of the growing infant. It’s important to find the right balance between the two, where milk feeds are prioritised, but your little one is also eating solids.
It can be tricky to balance all of the above, so take the guesswork out with our Sleep & Nutrition Program, which has been created to provide lots of suggestions around food and meal planning and include access to our nutrition village where you can ask a qualified Dietitian any of your burning questions.
Disclaimer: The advice and information provided in this post is general in nature and based primarily around the Australian guidelines so might not be appropriate for all circumstances. It is important to understand that the advice is intended as a guide only and is not intended to replace an individualized consultation with a medical doctor or qualified health professional.
*This blog is not intended to be used in place of medical advice by your healthcare professional. Please always seek medical advice if you are concerned about your baby's feeding.