As your baby approaches four months of age you will start to be asked ‘Have you started solids yet?’ Most mums are just finding their fit with some sort of routine with feeds and sleeps at this stage, and then you have to think about introducing meal times as well!
When do I introduce solids?
Depending which year you have your baby (and what the current guidelines state!), it is recommended by most health bodies that between 4-6 months of age. Most recently the World Health Organisation (WHO) and National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) recommend around 6 months. However the Australian Society for Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA) has recommended between 4-6 months of age, for allergy prevention in babies and children. CONFUSING!!
What we all know as mums is that there is no perfect age, every child won’t be ready for solids at 4 months exactly! Likewise, waiting until 6 months can see some babies grabbing at foods around them in an attempt to try foods!
My general advice to mums (as a dietitian and a mum), is to follow you instinct. NOT before 4 months of age, and generally not after 6 months of age (read below ‘Why do I need to introduce solids?’). By watching your baby around food you will see the signs of readiness. A checklist for when your baby is ready are:
- Good head control (they need to be able to sit up, not lying flat for solids!)
- Watching others eat with interest
- Reaching out for food around them (perhaps while sitting on mums lap while she eats her breakfast)
- Opens their mouth when you offer them food on a spoon.
- Potentially a very settled baby will suddenly become unsettled, and waking for feeds previously missed.
When these occur for your baby will vary, we all know that our babies won’t sit, crawl or walk at the same age. Likewise they won’t all be ready for solids at exactly the same age. So it’s watching your baby for when they are ready, and starting when it’s appropriate for you.
Why do I need to introduce solids?
Breastfeeding or bottle feeding initially provides 100% of the nutrition and hydration that your baby needs. Up until 4-6 months of age your baby has relied on iron stored in their body from the time spent in the uterus combined with the small amounts of iron provided by breastmilk and/or infant formula. However, around this point in time the stored iron in the body reduces. This means that your baby needs to find iron from an additional source of nutrition – FOOD!
As the months progress, it’s not only iron that your baby benefits from the addition of foods. Thus it is important to introduce a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, followed by meats, fish and chicken (or meat alternatives should you choose to follow a vegetarian diet for your baby) to ensure adequate nutrition for your growing baby.
How to introduce solids?
Initially when you introduce solids to your baby, it is best to choose a time of days that suits you both! Try a time when your baby is alert, and you are both relaxed. Not a time when they are obviously unsettled, and you are trying to rush out the door!
Initially it is best to trial solids after your baby has had a breastfeed or bottle. This is a great routine to set up in the initial period, as it ensures that your baby receives adequate nutrition and hydration from breastmilk/infant formula prior to tiring of solids (and not receiving adequate nutrition).
Overtime you will start to notice your baby communicating with you about food. Some of the signs to look out for include:
Signs of hunger:
- getting excited when your baby sees you preparing their meal or being put in their highchair
- leaning towards you when they are sitting in their highchair
- opening their mouth as you’re about to feed them in anticipation
Signs your baby has had adequate or is no longer interested:
- turning their head away
- losing interest or getting distracted easily
- pushing the spoon away
- closing their mouth shut
- waving their hands in front of them (in a movement to say – ‘No more!’)