There are no rules for introducing solids but your baby’s body mass, feeding and sleeping patterns should be your guide. By Sr Ann Richardson
For the first few months, your baby only needs to drink breast milk to meet her nutritional needs. This should satisfy her hunger and ensure growth.
From around five to six months, milk may not be enough to keep her full, so you’ll have to consider supplementing with solid food. Recent research shows that introducing solids appropriately from four months of age doesn’t contribute to allergies.
Is my baby ready for solids?
If your baby is healthy, growing and sleeping for six to eight hours at night, leave things as they are. But if any of the following signs manifest, she may need solid food:
- Older than 17 weeks
- Weighs 7kg or more
- Breaks from normal routine and wakes at night
- Wakes earlier during the day
- Needs a feed to settle again.
Can I introduce solids earlier?
If your baby is exclusively breast-fed, waiting to introduce solids until six months can be beneficial as it can help ensure that your little one gets the full health benefits of breastfeeding.
Why is four to six months the magic age? According to Mayoclinic.org babies typically stop using their tongues to push food out of their mouths between four to six months and begin to develop the coordination to move solid food from the front of the mouth to the back for swallowing. Before this age they also have low levels of the enzymes that help with the digestion of starch.
6 steps to introducing solids successfully:
- Take one heaped teaspoon of dry single grain (rice or maize) cereal and mix with either expressed breast milk, formula or cooled, boiled water to make a pastey mixture. Offer it to your baby between 4 and 5pm, gradually increasing the amount and consistency of the cereal according to her needs.
- If your baby is unsettled during her morning feeds, introduce the same amount of cereal at around 8am. If she’s older than five months, introduce solids regardless of her mood.
- After a few days, replace the evening cereal with steamed and puréed vegetables. Choose from butternut, pumpkin, squash, carrots, sweet potato, parsnips or marrow. Give the same quantity as the cereal. Later you can introduce green vegetables such as peas, spinach, broccoli and beans. Once you know what she likes, mix them together.
- When your baby gets hungry around lunchtime, introduce some puréed fresh fruit such as banana, melon, peach, nectarine, mango and avocado. Apples will have to be steamed as they don’t soften on ripening. Give the same quantity for lunch as you do for breakfast and supper. If your baby isn’t hungry at lunch time, introduce fruit into her diet anyway. Either mix the fruit into the cereal or give as an extra
taste after supper. At this point, your baby should be on three meals a day. Continue these meals
for another week.
- Introduce one tablespoon of plain, full-cream yoghurt to one meal. Mix into porridge, add to fruit or give after vegetables.
- Introduce protein into your baby’s diet from six months. Choose from dairy, ground nuts, seeds, nut butters, cooked and puréed meat, poultry, eggs, beans and pulses. Use as much in a meal as your baby likes. If your baby has atopic eczema, avoid dairy in her diet until she’s a year. Add expressed breastmilk or formula to food rather than cows milk.
What about food allergies?
Current research indicates that babies should be exposed to all foodstuffs by age seven months to prevent food allergies developing.
Xanet is an award-winning journalist and Living and Loving’s digital editor. She has won numerous awards for her health and wellness articles and was a finalist for the Discovery Journalist of the Year in 2009 and again in 2011 for the Discovery Best Health Consumer Reporting and Feature Writing category. She is responsible for our online presence across social media channels and makes sure our moms have fresh and interesting articles to read every day. Learn more about Xanet Scheepers.