Going onto solids is one of the first big feeding milestones in the life of your child. It is very important that food is introduced the right way, as this is very often the beginning of feeding problems in later life.
There is a lot of controversy on exactly when the right time is to start with solids, and the only consensus that has been reached is that the ideal time is between 4 and 6 months. Therefore it is not recommended to start before 4 months, as this might lead to digestive problems, and not after 6 months, as this leads to tactile feeding problems.
So if your baby is between 4 and 6 months and is gaining weight well, showing interest in food and is able to push himself up on his arms, and you are ready to take on this new challenge, you can start feeding.
Before you start it is important to realise a couple of things. It is normal for babies to gag and spit and vomit their food, especially if it is a new taste. They do not like variety, and they usually do not take to something the very first time it is offered. Feeding children during the first year has nothing to do with getting something into their tummies – milk is doing that – but everything to do with getting used to all the different tastes and textures and learning how to eat.
I normally suggest you start with a cereal at night, usually a rice based cereal that you add milk to. Use breastmilk or the formula your baby is on. The reason for the night feeding is so that your baby will be able to go to sleep on a full tummy. It does not matter whether your baby spits or gags or vomits, just keep on feeding every night a spoon of cereal until baby loves the taste and enjoys the meal. Once he is used to the cereal you can give him as much as he likes and feels like eating.
Once the night time cereal is going well – add breakfast cereal as well. 2 Times a day cereal then. One week after he is well established on meals twice a day, swap the evening cereal with a vegetable.
Any vegetable will do. And again slowly make your child used to this one taste before another new taste is introduced. If he does not like something immediately, keep on giving the same thing until he loves it. Sometimes a child needs to taste something 21 times before he takes to it.
And then introduce a new veggie about every week. After 2 months of feeding you can introduce a lunch meal as well, and start with fruits.
Stay away from puddings as this only leads to the development of a sweet tooth in your child.
It is very important to start with a very thin smooth consistency of food choices but to increase the consistency to more lumpy at 8 months so that baby can start chewing. At one year your child must be able to eat finger feed size chunks. Children need to learn to use their chewing muscles, as the late introduction of chunky pieces will lead to refusal to eat texturized food later.
Proteins like fish, or meat or chicken can be added at around 9-10 months. You can also add little pieces of pasta etc. at this age.
There is a lot of controversy on the introduction of egg, but it seems that the best time to introduce egg is before 8 months of age.
The best way to prepare baby food is using fresh vegetables and fruits. You can steam, with no addition of sugar, butter or salt, and then puree the veg or fruit. In order to keep it for later and make preparing meals one less thing to worry about, freeze the food in ice cube trays. This is nice portions, that can be mixed and matched as is necessary and it reduces the work load tremendously by not having to cook everyday a small portion of a particular veg.
Slowly integrate your child’s feeding pattern with the family’s meals, so that by one year he can eat whatever the rest of the family is having.
Make meal times fun times. Do not work so hard at feeding your baby that feeding becomes a battle time. Enjoy this special discovery of the world of food with your baby.