There is a point when your baby is going to start eating solids. When you choose to introduce your child to solid food is totally your choice and of course your child's as he or she will give you indications that they are ready to eat solids or not.
It is best to wait until your child is around six months old before introducing foods other than breast milk (or formula if you're not breastfeeding) into her diet. This is because breastfeeding does help reduce allergies to foods, respiratory problems and gastrointestinal problems also. Some mums will start their babies off with a puréed food from about five months, once a week to test what their baby likes to eat, what you choose to do is entirely up to you.
The first foods that your child will be able to eat will be pureed foods as babies don't have teeth or the digestive system to process whole foods. Starting with puréed fruits such as apples and pears is a good start. See our sweet recipes and savoury recipes sections for some great baby food ideas.
How do I know my baby is ready for solids?
Baby will start showing signs that she is ready for solids from around four months of age.
Here are some signs of what to look for:
• She still seems hungry after you have fed her.
• She watches you closely when you are eating food and may reach out for your food or drink and open her mouth when you're eating or put her hands in her mouth (or anything else she can get her hands on).
• She is able to control her tongue and mouth and will open her mouth as a spoon approaches. Her mouth will close with the food in it and after some playing with the food will swallow it. If she is not ready she will push the food out with her tongue and won't swallow it.
• She can support her head up and hold it straight.
What foods can I feed my baby?
You will still need to breastfeed your baby when you start on solids as this is their way of staying hydrated as well as getting essential and the best nutrients for them. We recommend feeding baby breastmilk first then offer food after this.
There are some foods you should avoid introducing to your babies diet until they are a little older.
Some foods to start your baby on include:
• Iron fortified baby cereal or baby rice. Always check the labels on these products for the age recommendation on them.
• Cooked/Boiled and puréed fruit and vegetables - apples, pears, peaches, apricots. Veges - potato, carrot, pumpkin, kumara, avocado etc.
• Also prepared baby foods you can get from your supermarket, either canned or frozen. Again, check the labels as they have the recommended age for your baby to eat these foods.
What foods should I avoid?
There are some things that should be avoided in a baby's diet, these include added salt, sugar and artificial sweeteners. Dairy related products should also be avoided until they're at least nine months old (such as butter, yoghurt, cheese, custard), egg and cow's milk should be introduced after about one year when your child's stomach is able to physically process them.
From six months
• You may want to introduce a new food in the morning, this is so if your baby has any reaction to it you're handling the problem during the day rather than at night and loosing sleep.
• Once you know your baby is happy with certain foods it's a good idea to offer them in the evening to fill her tummy up before she goes to bed...so she'll sleep longer (we hope).
• Introduce a new food every 3-5 days.
• If baby doesn't like one food, offer something else instead. But don't give up on the food she's refused, try it again in a few days. It can take a while before baby likes a new food.
Note: Plunket and Ministry of Health recommend starting solids from six months. Some parents do however chose to start a little earlier.
From 6-8 months
• Try a mixture of foods and ranges of tastes.
• Foods to start on now include cooked meats (bub's needs the extra iron now), melon, broccoli, beans, wheat and oatmeal baby cereals, white toast and rusks. See also baby food cans for recommended ages.
• Mix foods they don't like with foods they do like to encourage a good range of foods in her diet.
• Start working towards three meals a day.
From 8-9 months
• Now baby can hold her own food and try and eat (of course making a wonderful and colourful mess!).
• Try pieces of fruit, cooked veges and toast.
• You may also want to try tomatoes, creamed corn, cabbage and rice
• Avoid hard foods that could make baby choke.
From six months to one year
It's best to breastfeed as long as you can - longer than six months if you can. For some mothers this isn't always practical, or possible.
•Your baby will be enthusiastic about eating solid food at this stage so now is a good time to start introducing them.
•You should have introduced solid foods by six months and no earlier than four months.
•Do not forget about milk, it is still important and breast milk is best.
•At this stage iron is an important nutrient. Full term babies are born with an iron supply in their livers to last for the first six months of their lives.
•You should not make the switch to plain cow's milk until one year old.
From one year to two and a half
•By this stage your child can eat most things you do and eat at the same time, with snacks in-between.
•Avoid fatty fried foods - that could go for both child and yourself. It is simply unhealthy.
•Be wary of fast food, canned, frozen or pre-prepared as it may have unknown additives or high salt.
•They say that variety is the spice of life and they are not wrong. Think all foods are important in different ways and combinations, every day.
•If to you it seems that your child is not eating enough, if he / she is energetic and healthy then your child knows best.