Introducing Solid Foods: A Guide for First-Time Parents
29 May 2023
Introducing solid food to your baby can be daunting, but it is a special milestone that can be enjoyable for yourself and your baby if you’re prepared. Before introducing solid food as a first-time parent, it would be helpful to read up on when the appropriate time to introduce solid food is, how you should go about it, and what you should include in your meals.
Although this a process you will figure out along the way, we’ve created this guide with a good starting point of some of the most important information for starting solids. It is important to remember all babies will be different, so go in with no expectations, have fun, and refer back to this guide when you run into any hurdles along the way!
Signs of Readiness
In general, it is recommended babies should be introduced to solid food around the age of 6 months, however all babies are different. Some may show signs earlier and some may not show signs of readiness until later. It is entirely up to the parent to make these decisions based on their baby’s behaviour.
Some indicators that your baby may be ready to try solid foods include:
- They become noticeably hungrier and have a bigger appetite after a full day of consuming milk or infant formula.
- They can sit upright with support; for example, in a high chair. This is crucial so your baby is able to swallow and digest food properly.
- They become curious and interested in the food you are eating yourself.
- They start to lose their natural reflex to push all elements put into their mouth, back out of their mouth.
- They have developed decent hand-eye coordination and can see food, pick it up and put it in their mouth.
Although these are all general readiness indicators, like mentioned before, every baby is different. Not all babies will show all these readiness signs, they may only show one. If you suspect your baby is ready for solid food and they are between the age of 4-8 months, it does not hurt to try. If they repel the food or lose their appetite, they may not be ready.
How To Introduce Solids
The two most important words to remember and apply to everything during this stage are:
These two words are key and apply to all processes. To begin with, it is wise to start with mashed food and purees. This eliminates all possibility of choking and also eases the transition from breastmilk/formulas to solids.
Make the transition as gradual as possible. Every feeding time does not need to be a solid food straight away. You could begin with one meal a day being a puree or mash vegetable or fruit for example. There is no immediate hurry, making it as seamless as possible is the trick.
Ensure you either blend or very thoroughly mash up the solid foods, to make an incredibly smooth consistency. As your baby gets used to the purees and thoroughly mashed foods, you can begin to gradually decrease the amount of blending or mashing. Of course, still ensure the pieces are small enough to not be a choking hazard whilst the baby can still not bite and chew food properly.
Puree Ingredient Ideas
Ready to start feeding your baby some purees? Here are some ideas to get you started! These are only suggestions, so don’t discourage yourself from being creative and exposing your baby to a wider variety of food.
- This is the best option for when your baby is initially getting exposed to solid foods.
- You can include soft fruits such as: bananas, apples, pears and peaches.
- Start with one fruit per puree to begin, then start combining a couple together.
- Similarly to fruit purees, veggie purees are also a great first food for babies.
- This puree can include soft vegetables such as: sweet potatoes, carrots, zucchini and broccoli.
- A creamier alternative is oat porridge.
- It includes oat porridge, millet, quinoa and milk or water.
- Note: it is not recommended to add porridge to your baby’s diet until 6 months.
How to Prepare Purees
Preparing purees for your baby is easy. Just follow the simple steps below to create a healthy and safe puree:
- Choose the puree ingredients. You can refer to the section above for this part. Ensure the vegetables or fruits you pick are rinsed thoroughly and peeled. Babies have weaker immune systems, so it is crucial they don’t catch any diseases from the food not being rinsed.
- If any of the food needs to be cooked, cook it until it is super soft. For example, steam the carrots until they can be easily mushed with a fork. You can boil, steam, microwave and roast the foods, completely up to you and the type of food you choose.
- Puree all the ingredients together. Using either a blender, food processor or immersion blender, puree the ingredients until they become an extremely smooth consistency. Ensure there are absolutely no bumps in the puree to prevent choking. Initially, avoid adding any spices, salt, pepper or sugar to the purees. Let the food cool to at least room temperature before serving to your baby.
- Store in the fridge for up to 3 days or in the freezer in small portions for up to 3 months. Both methods of storage should be in airtight containers. Storing your baby’s purees in the freezer in sealed ice cube trays allows you to just pop out a pre-portioned serving, each time you need to feed your little one.
Tips for Introducing Solids
Introduce one food at a time
Puree each vegetable separately and let your baby eat the same, singular food for multiple days in a row. This will ensure your baby has no allergies, and if they do have some type of allergic reaction, you will be able to easily identify which food it was. Introducing your baby to too many different flavors at once can also overload their senses and cause them to repel the food.
Take it slowly and be patient
This will be a very slow and gradual process that requires patience, consistency and planning. Planning in regards to which different fruits or vegetables you will have for your baby to try is important, but as you learn in parenthood, plans are very rarely followed. Remember, if they aren’t interested in the food, don’t force it – just pack it up and try again later!
Keep a record
Keep a journal of what your baby liked, what made them full, what foods didn’t fill them up and what foods caused them to be gassier etc. Knowing what effects different foods have on your baby will help you in the long term.
Know the difference between choking and gagging
One of the biggest concerns parents have when introducing your baby to solids is choking. But knowing the difference between choking and gagging can ease your anxiety. If they’re gagging, you’ll hear noises as they try to move the food to the front of their mouth – there’s no need to intervene at this stage. If they are choking, they’ll be silent and their skin colour will change – this is when you do need to intervene. We recommend all parents take a baby CPR course to know how to act if this occurs.
Remember- you do not know everything before the journey begins. You will learn along the way and if you ever have any insecurities or queries, you should seek professional help from a pediatrician. But in summary, don’t forget to cherish this major milestone in your baby’s development stage, because ultimately, it is special!