Introducing Solids: When, Why and How

Introducing solids is a major milestone in your baby’s development and often the cause of much excitement, quickly followed by confusion in parents. Many parents can feel a little overwhelmed by where and how to start and find the thought of providing three meals a day daunting. Just ease yourself into it, following the simple and practical Food Babies Love approach and before you know it you will be confidently feeding your baby three meals a day and watching your newborn grow and develop into a bouncy, bonny babe.

I am a firm believer that what you feed your baby now is setting the foundations of healthy and happy life. It is so important to set your child on the right path from a young age.

When to start

While guidelines state you should start your baby on solids around 6 months of age, there is also a need for mother’s intuition. Your baby will give you signs that he or she is ready such as:

  • Watching you when you eat and following your food with their eyes
  • Reaching out for your food
  • Finding it harder to last between milk feeds, and
  • Waking in the night looking for an extra feed.

Research tells us that starting too early can mean your baby’s stomach lining is too immature, and its important to start by 6 months as this is when their natural iron stores, inherited from their mother, start to deplete. If your baby shows little interest in their first meals, you may need to wait a few days and try again. Remember, all babies come to things in their own time.

As a tip, make sure both Mum and Dad and any excited siblings are home for the first taste. Saturday lunchtime is a great time to get started – chances are you can all be home and if you structure it after a milk feed (when they’re not too hungry) and an hour before sleep (so they’re not too tired) then conditions are looking promising. Remember to have your camera charged and ready! 

How to start

You will start your baby on a teaspoon of rice cereal mixed with a little of their regular milk (breast or formula). As they have been using the sucking reflex it may take a few goes for them to adapt their behavior and learn the skills of eating. Don’t be surprised if they play around with it getting used to the feel of it in their mouth. As your baby gets used to solids, gradually increase the quantity of rice cereal and then start to introduce single vegie purees such as carrot or pumpkin.

Start with one solid meal a day and gradually increase to three, over a two or three week period. Remember their milk, breast or formula, must remain their primary source of nutrition for the first 12 months.

If your baby appears to love their solids, but is dropping back on their milk, less than 500mls per day, you need to reduce the amount of solids you are offering.

Protein needs to be introduced around 6 months to help boost their iron levels, which are important for brain development. Early protein blends can be introduced once your baby has the hang of rice cereal and veggies.

From basic purees you will move onto more interesting meals such as Chicken, Apple and Pumpkin puree. Be sure to offer a variety of tastes and colours each week. I recommend preparing four different meals each week for your baby, freezing them in ice cube trays and then rotating them around to provide the variety baby needs to keep enjoying meal time.

Equipment and handy hints

Here’s a list of things you’ll need to make life that little bit easier.

Preparation and storage

Stick blender From early purees to soups and delicious fruit smoothies, your stick blender will be out every day.
A good peeler You will be peeling more than ever and a good peeler will save you time.
Grater Treat yourself to a new one that’s not rusty and works well.
A small saucepan and frying pan You will be cooking much smaller portions than usual and the right sized pot or pan will not only reduce washing up, but will also help avoid your baby’s food taking on a burnt flavour.
Microwave steam jug, with lid For steaming veggies and stewing fruits.
Ice cube trays A freezer full of baby food cubes is super handy.
Storage containers As your baby’s appetite increases, good food tubs with sturdy lids will come in handy.
Food processor/chopper There are many types available. Get one that suits your budget and your kitchen storage.

Sitting down to eat

High chair Choose one that fits in the space you have available and is easy to clean. Beware of lots of padding!
Bibs Find a good quality dishwasher-safe plastic bib with an open food catcher tray.
Bowls The design of the bowl does make a difference to your baby’s ability to master self-feeding. Look for those with an internal edge that allows your baby to get some leverage.
Spoons Always use plastic spoons and never metal. Watch the scoop size.
Face washers Choose lightweight face washers that are soft on baby’s face and don’t hold food in their fibres.
Drop sheet A simple calico drop sheet spread out under the high chair will save you countless hours of vacuuming and mopping.
Smocks I cannot recommend these highly enough.

About the Author:

Emily Dupuche is a Melbourne mum of three and author of the best selling Food Babies Love; a guide to introducing solids to your baby. She loves cooking for her family and believes that what we feed our babies and toddlers is setting their health and dietary patterns into adulthood. Her book is packed with simple tips and advice and delicious recipes that all the family can enjoy.