When to Introduce Solids

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Your baby relies on your breast milk or formula for all their nutritional needs until they reach six months of age. Once they reach this milestone, you can gradually introduce various solid foods (sometimes called complementary feeding or weaning).

To ensure your baby's smooth transition, it's best to introduce new foods one at a time, in small portions.

 

What to feed your child between 3 to 6 months?

Breast milk or formula is like a superhero for your baby's growth and development during the first six months.

 

Around the three-month mark, you may notice your pēpi drooling more than usual or munching on their tiny fists and toys. They may even hit a growth spurt and demand more food. These are typical baby milestones, not signals that they're ready for solids just yet.

 

Remember to take your time with the solid foods party. Babies are only partially built or developed for it in those early months. Stick with our milk superhero for now!

Some of the reasons are:

  • Their kidneys and digestion may need better development to process solid foods.
  • Sticking to breast milk exclusively until around six months can be like giving your pēpi a protective shield against illnesses and infections.
  • It gives your pēpi time to spruce up their skills. It gives them time to get better at self-feeding and handling different tastes and textures, like mashed, lumpy and even finger foods. Go, pēpi, go!
  • Breast milk provides all the essential energy and nutrients your pēpi needs to grow well.

 

What age to start solid foods

At around six months, you might observe your baby becoming curious about your meals or attempting to reach for your food. These actions signal that your baby is ready to begin exploring solid foods.

 

In the beginning, don't stress too much about how much your pēpi is eating. What matters is getting them used to the idea of eating solid food. They'll still get most of their energy and nutrients from breastfeeding or that trusty first infant formula.

 

Introducing a mix of different foods alongside breast milk or formula sets the stage for your child to grow up with better eating habits.

 

As time passes, you can gradually give them more types of food and more significant portions until they can eventually partake in the same family meals in smaller portions.

 

Signs of readiness for solid foods

You may notice your baby is ready to dive into solid foods if they:

  • Act like they're still hungry after their breast or formula mealtime.
  • Become fascinated with your eating rituals, reaching out, opening their little mouth. And giving their hands and toys a taste test.
  • Start making chewing-like motions as if they're rehearsing for the real deal.
  • Can rock that head and sit up with some help, showing reasonable neck control
  • Easily accept a spoon or food near their mouth without pushing it out with their tongue.
  • Master moving food to the back of their mouth and being able to swallow

 

How to introduce solids

When introducing food to your pēpi, pick a moment when you both feel relaxed, like around lunchtime or early afternoon.

 

When those little tummies are empty and growling, they usually want the comfort of that familiar breast milk or formula. So, it's a good idea to kick things off with breast or bottle-feeding sessions. Once they've sorted out that hunger, there's still plenty of room for exciting new food adventures.

 

In the early stages, your baby only needs a small amount of food before/after their regular milk feed.

 

Try not to stress over how much they eat. The key is to introduce them to new flavours and textures while they figure out how to handle solid foods in their mouths and swallow them. The primary source of their energy and nutrients will be coming from breast milk or formula.

 

Here are some tips to help your baby kick-start their solid food journey:

  • Keep offering a variety of foods, even if they seem picky. It might take ten tries or more for them to get used to new foods, flavours and textures. They will have days when they eat more, eat less and days when they refuse everything. It's all part of the journey.
  • Let your baby take the lead. Watch for hunger cues. If they aren't interested this time, wait for the next meal. Don't force them to eat.
  • Eating is a whole new skill. Some babies get the hang of it quicker than others. Keep up the praise and encouragement.
  • Keep mealtime distractions to a minimum.
  • Show them the way by eating together. You are your baby's role model. Babies love to mimic their parents and other kids whenever they can sit down as a family for meals. It's a great bonding experience.

 

Stage one of solids (around the six-month mark)

There is no doubt that breast milk or infant formula takes the crown as the main event. Always offer your baby breast milk or formula before diving into solid foods.

 

Your pēpi's beverage menu is straightforward between six and twelve months: breast milk, infant formula, or water. They've got all the hydration they need from these.

 

Now, think super smooth and runny when it comes to food textures. You can whip up this mixture using breast milk, water, or infant formula.

 

As for the solid food lineup:

  • Iron-fortified infant cereal, baby rice (prepared as directed), or pureed plain cooked rice.
  • Uncooked mashed banana and avocado.
  • Cooked and pureed fruits like apples, pawpaw, apricots, peaches, mangoes, pears, and plum (remove seeds, skins, or pits).
  • Cooked and pureed veggies without skins, seeds, or pits, such as kumara, potato, carrot, taro, pumpkin, kamokamo, marrow, cassava, parsnip, or yam.
  • Cooked and pureed meats like beef, lamb, pork, chicken, or fish. Your baby needs extra iron at this stage. Lamb's liver is an iron-packed option, but offer it only once a week at most.
  • Cooked and pureed vegetarian alternatives like hummus, baked beans, lentils, or soaked and cooked dried beans and peas.

 

Here are some helpful tips:

  • Begin with one or two teaspoons of slightly warm solid foods.
  • Offer a variety of purees with different flavours, including sweet, savoury, and even a touch of bitterness.
  • As your baby grows, transition to thicker purees, mashed foods, and soft options that can be squashed between your thumb and forefinger or on the roof of your mouth with your tongue.
  • If your baby turns down a particular food, don't fret. Try offering something else, but give the rejected food another shot in a few days. Sometimes, it takes up to ten tastes for your baby to warm up to a new food.
  • Let your baby's appetite be your guide as you gradually increase the amount and frequency of solid foods.
  • You can also gradually increase the thickness and lumpiness of the food.
  • Avoid adding salt, sugar, or butter to your baby's meals.

Stage two of solids (seven to eight months)

Regarding drinks, remember that breast milk or formula is still the start of the show. Always offer milk before you dive into solid foods. If your baby enjoys it, you can introduce water into their routine.

 

Now, about food texture, we're talking about thick purees, small soft lumps, or mashed goodness.

 

As your baby grows and gets used to stage one food, you can venture into these tasty options:

  • Mash fruit, and cook it if needed to make it easier to mash.
  • Mashed and cooked vegetables, mixed colours and removed stalks or stringy bits from leafy greens like spinach and bok choy.
  • Delightful dairy products like cheese, yogurt, cottage cheese, and custard.
  • Bite-sized pieces of wholemeal toast.
  • Cooked and mashed pasta and noodles.
  • Tofu and tempeh for a little plant-based protein.
  • A cooked and mashed egg, a protein powerhouse.

Here are some handy tips:

  • Get creative with food combinations to introduce various flavours. Mixing less popular foods with your baby's favourites might encourage them to explore a broader range of tastes.
  • Gradually work towards three meals a day as your baby gets the hang of eating solids. It's all part of their growing-up adventure.

 

Stage three of solids (eight to nine months)

When it comes to drinks, it's all about flexibility. Your baby can now enjoy solid foods before their breast or formula feeds. In addition to their milk, it's a good idea to introduce water into their daily routine.

 

Water serves several important purposes:

  • Keeps your baby well-hydrated.
  • Softens their stools, preventing constipation.
  • Promotes healthy teeth and gums.

 

As your baby explores the culinary world, they're becoming curious about various foods and textures. Introduce minced, mashed, grated, and finely chopped options into their diet.

Here are some food ideas to consider:

  • Fruits like oranges, kiwifruit, pineapple, and berries can be served as raw finger foods.
  • Experiment with different vegetables, including salad greens.
  • Include meat, shellfish, and kai moana (seafood).
  • Cereals like porridge, iron-fortified wheat biscuits, or infant muesli.
  • Smooth peanut butter is another option to try.

 

Remember, it's best to wait until your baby reaches one year old before introducing cow's milk into their diet. And if you have queries about food-related choking hazards, you can read more about Kindercare’s policy to give you some initial guidance. Keep exploring new flavours and textures with your growing pēpi!