Written by Nicola Jaffrey accredited practising dietitian
Starting solids with your baby can be a mixed bag of emotions. A part of you will feel excitement, while another part may also feel nervous and overwhelmed by this milestone and it’s no wonder. There is so much information available about the best way to feed your baby and I know firsthand just how confusing this can become!
So, let’s break it down and start right from the beginning with some need-to-know information that is simple to follow and will get you started on the wonderful journey that is feeding your kids.
“Find a method of feeding
that works well for both you & your baby.”
1. How do I know it’s time to start solids?
The current recommendation in Australia is to start introducing food at around 6 months of age and not before 17 weeks. Although this can seem a little vague, there are also some key signs to look out for and know if your baby is ready to start solids.
At around this six-month mark, you will notice your baby will start to show the following signs that they are ready for food:
They can sit up well with support.
They have good head and neck control.
They are interested in others eating, watching, reaching for food and opening their mouth.
They have lost the extrusion reflex (where they push everything out with their tongue).
Once your baby is showing these signs (even if it is a little earlier than six months), you can start to introduce solid food.
2. What foods do I introduce first?
There is actually no particular order that you need to introduce foods to your baby. It is really important that foods containing iron are introduced as some of your baby’s first foods. Some of these include iron-fortified cereals, meat and fish, tofu and legumes. As long as iron-rich foods are included, foods can be introduced in any order and at a rate that suits your baby.
Even the common allergenic foods including eggs, seafood and peanuts (peanut butter instead of whole nuts due to the choking hazard) can be introduced as early as six months when your baby starts solids.
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3. Do I need to start with pureed food?
The traditional approach to introducing food involves spoon feeding your baby pureed food when they are ready to commence solids. The texture of the food progresses quickly from puree to mash to lumpy and then to finger foods which are introduced at around seven to eight months of age.
Another feeding approach called ‘baby led weaning’ has grown in popularity over the last few years, as more research has been done proving its efficacy and safety when starting solids. In baby led weaning, the traditional approach is skipped altogether and babies feed themselves texture appropriate finger foods from the time they are ready to commence solids.
In this style of feeding where babies are encouraged to self-feed from the very beginning there can be some advantages. These include:
Stimulating your baby with new textures, shapes and tastes.
Helping to develop fine motor skills and dexterity.
Encouraging your baby to eat family foods sooner.
4. How do I avoid my baby choking?
Some of the biggest concerns from parents with starting solids (in particular with baby led weaning) are around safety and choking. There are some precautions that will help to minimise the risk to your baby including:
Waiting until around six months of age when your baby is showing the signs of readiness.
Always testing the texture of any finger food to make sure it is soft and squishy.
Avoiding choking hazards like small, round food that could block the airway such as hard fruit and vegetables, nuts and soft bread as it can form a ball in the mouth.
Always supervising your baby when he or she is eating.