I remember when Ava was a baby seven years ago, introducing solids seemed so overwhelming and a bit scary.
Fast forward to more recently and introducing Anthony to solids when he was around six months, I was much more relaxed and have LOVED baby lead weaning.
I’ve loved following Dr Kyla on Instagram at Baby Meal Times for ideas on what to feed little ones, and she provides such wonderful, practical guidance to help you on your introducing solids journey.
I’m so delighted to have her sharing her knowledge with us today.
Correct age to introduce solids? Around six months but DEFINITELY NOT before 4 months. I would say that you need to look for signs in your own child and consider their developmental readiness.
Firstly- think about physical signs. Before your child is ready to eat solid foods they need to be able to:
- hold their own head up
- sit up without too much support
- open their mouth for food
- accept food into their mouth without pushing their tongue out
- reach out for your food
- show an interest in what you’re eating
These are the best indicators of when to introduce foods to your baby.
For most children, these physical signs occur between 5-6 months of age. For some kids, this is slightly earlier, but solid foods should NEVER be offered before 4 months of age.
What you’ll need?
You need a good highchair that supports your baby’s back AND legs. Ideally, you want support behind their back (so they’re sitting upright), knees bent at 90 degrees and feet supported (so they’re not dangling). You also want their elbows to be clearly above the tray. I like this Mocka Original highchair the best.
(In the interests of disclosure, I do get a small commission from this highchair. I originally bought it myself and then loved it so much I became a rep for them.)
You’ll also need some plastic bowls (especially if you’re going to let your baby practice feeding themselves at some point) and some plastic spoons. The best spoons to start with are those with a flat tip or grooves to hold the puree. I like these two from Big W AND these Num Num Dips.
At the start, your baby doesn’t know how to move their lips over and into deep spoons to scrape the food off. A flat spoon helps your baby to easily get to the puree and enjoy their first tastes.
Feeding is definitely messy but this is actually a good thing- mess helps babies to be less fussy! Lots of parents struggle with watching their baby get messy though, so you can help prepare yourself if this sounds like you. Thinking ahead about protecting their clothes makes it easier to embrace the mess. Your options are to purchase a feeding smock to completely cover their clothes (I LOVE these ones by Little Chomps), strip them down to just a nappy (weather depending!), or pop a bib on them.
What age can you start Baby Lead Weaning? You can start with finger foods for eating at about 6 months. Before this age, babies don’t have the skills to manage the chewing required for finger foods. Before 6 months you can give your baby a spoon to suck on to practice getting it to their mouth.
Many parents / people have expressed being scared of choking – can you talk a bit about this?
If you feel really worried about offering your baby food that might cause them to gag or choke, then you are definitely not alone. It’s scary. BUT, if you know what to do and know what your baby is doing when they’re gagging, then you can actually help your baby to learn to bite and chew more effectively.
Let’s start with what you need to know- gagging is NOT choking.
In fact, this is one of the most misunderstood areas of starting babies on food. So, let’s clear this up.
It’s normal for babies to gag and it actually helps them to learn to bite and chew
It is NOT normal for babies to choke and this is something you need to respond to
Your response matters
- If you panic when your baby gags (which is a normal part of learning to eat) then you can cause them to panic too.
- If you jump up and bang them on the back then you teach them that they need adult help with chewing and swallowing (which they don’t!) This affects their confidence with eating.
- If you try to scoop the food out of their mouth then you actually increase the chance that they’ll choke if you accidentally force it further into their throat.
- When your baby gags you need to sit calmly and cough for them to copy you. It’s normal for them to go red in the face, for their eyes to water and for them to cough a lot. These are good signs.
- If your baby is completely silent or turning blue then this is likely to be a choking incident. Other signs might be a very weak cough, blank stare or arm flapping. You NEED to react quickly in this situation. Call an ambulance and perform first aid. I’d suggest taking a paediatric first aid course like those offered by Tiny Hearts.
- The foods most likely to cause a choking incident are those that can’t be mashed on the roof of your baby’s mouth. These are hard foods like grapes, nuts, popcorn, small coin-shaped foods or hard chunks like raw apple/pear or raw vegetables. Avoid giving these foods to your baby.
Why is it important to let babies ‘play’ with food, experiencing different tastes and textures?
Feeding babies is MESSY. Many Mums and Dads cringe at the thought of their baby smearing food into their hair or dropping it all over the floor. That’s a really normal feeling. But, we know that the more mess babies make with food, the more confident they are at mealtimes. When they ‘play’ with food, they’re actually learning about the feel of it, the smell of it, the look of it and maybe the taste of it. The touch component is especially important for babies and their developing sensory systems to be able to manage a variety of textures in the future.
How can I tell if my baby is full / has had enough to eat?
Babies are very good at knowing how much they need. The more we try to get them to eat more or less than they want to, the more we discourage them from listening to their tummy. So, what we need to do is trust our babies to tell us how much they need. If your baby is opening their mouth for the spoon or putting finger food to their mouth happily then they’re telling us that they’re hungry. If your baby is turning their head away, clamping their mouth shut or pushing food away then you can trust them that they’ve had enough. Remember that at some meals babies might eat lots, and at other meals they might eat hardly anything. This is normal and a great sign that your baby is listening to their body, which is exactly what we want them to do!
An example of a balanced meal for a baby – to prevent constipation and to ensure they are getting enough iron etc?
Here’s my top 3 tips!
- Try to offer an iron rich food (like meat, chicken, lentils, legumes, rice cereal, Weet-Bix, chia seeds or ground nuts) at most meals.
- Try to offer a fruit, vegetable, grain and protein at each meal from about 8 months. Before this, your baby might only be eating one or two things at a meal (which is totally ok!)
- Offer water with meals
What food can you pack for on the go?
I’d suggest thinking about whole foods before choosing pre-packaged snack foods. Most ‘baby’ snacks are pretty average at best (I review a kid’s food product every week, and some of the worst performers have been baby foods! E.g. Raffertys Garden Snack Bar).
For young bubs who are having 1 meal a day, you don’t really need to take snacks with you. For older babies, think about real food like bread, bananas, tinned beans, muffins, pasta spirals, hard boiled egg wedges, cucumber sticks and grated cheese.
About Dr Kyla
Dr Kyla is a paediatric dietitian specialising in feeding babies and fussy eating. She runs Baby Mealtimes, a subscription website covering everything you need to know about feeding your baby with confidence and without stress. The Baby Mealtimes private Facebook group and private Instagram page provide daily meal inspiration, Q&A sessions and tips for teaching your baby to enjoy the wide world of food. You can sign up here at Baby Meal Times.2