Introducing solids is exciting but can be daunting.
Many parents find the idea of starting solids a little daunting. What about preparing baby food? What about the mess? Here are some tips to help you navigate this exciting time in your family's life.
Prepare baby’s eating place... and your head space!
To eat safely, your baby needs to be sitting upright - in a highchair or on your lap.
Be prepared for mess at the start. It's all part of your baby exploring and learning a new skill.
Try feeding your baby in a nappy only.
Use a bib with a catcher to manage mess.
Have a plastic mat on the floor under the highchair.
Accepting that mess is going to happen may make it easier to cope with.
Try to stay relaxed about introducing solids. Many parents get anxious about how much or how little their baby is eating.
Respect your baby’s tastes. Some days they may love a particular food, other days they may not touch it.
If your baby isn't very interested in starting solids, that's okay. They can still sit with the family.
Breastmilk is still their most important food from 6 to 12 months. You are just introducing them to your family's food during this time. Keep offering and they will eventually join in the eating.
Let baby join the family
Your baby can sit up with the family when they are ready. The family meal table is where baby learns that eating is not just about the food! When your baby sees you eating, they will copy you. You may decide to offer your baby food from your own plate, until it seems worthwhile to serve food on their own plate. To start with they may feel that eating food from your plate is 'safer' and be more willing to try it.
Many babies like to be in control right from the start:
Finger foods are a good option until they can manage a spoon. Let your baby play with some suitable foods. They will try to copy you and will soon learn what to do.
Some babies are quite happy to be spoon-fed, although soon they will want to try a spoon of their own.
Let your baby play and explore foods. This might mean yoghurt becomes artwork and ends up all over their hands and face!
What foods should I introduce first?
Some parents begin with purees, but if your baby is about 6 months, these will only be needed for a very short time. Babies can begin to chew soft foods from around 7 months.
You can start foods in any order and there is no need to offer them one at a time. However, early solids should include iron-rich foods such as meat, chicken, fish or iron-enriched baby cereal.
Offering your baby some of what you are eating is often the simplest. It’s your family diet that you want your baby to learn to enjoy and you know exactly what you've put into the food.
Making special baby food can be time-consuming. It’s also very disheartening if your baby decides they don't want to eat it. Offering your baby easy-to-manage versions of your family's meals can be simpler and less stressful.
Gagging is not the same as choking, isn't dangerous and doesn't seem to bother babies. If they gag on a piece of finger food, they simply spit it out and try again. It becomes more dangerous if an adult panics. This may make the baby also panic and so increase the risk of choking on the food.
Enjoy the introduction!
Be relaxed and flexible in your approach to starting solids. Your baby is just being introduced to your family diet. Think of your baby as the youngest member of the family, who will gradually join in all the mealtime activities. This way you shouldn’t have any problems with baby learning to share what the rest of the family eats. It is just a natural part of growing up!