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Introducing Solid Foods 101

Introducing Solid Foods 101

The process of weaning may vary from one household to the next, and very likely from one child to the next, as some babies are more accepting than others.

Whatever the process however, this transition usually happens at around 6 months old (or even as young as 4 months old in parts of Europe), and is believed to be vital to establishing healthy eating habits and limiting fussy eating. Though some parents may be on the fence about this statement, we can however, all agree that weaning is crucial to any child’s growth and development, both physically, emotionally and mentally.

The first question to consider when beginning the weaning process is the when.

When is a good time to start switching one’s baby from milk to solid foods?

Though I have read that the French actually start introducing solid foods from as early as 4 months, most paediatricians recommend starting at 6 months old.  At this age, babies are slightly more active and growing at a rapid rate. As a result, their bodies start to require nutrients such as iron and zinc that are not present in milk.

This brings us to the how. How does one start the weaning process?

Despite what some parents may say, or rather, insist on, there is really no ONE correct way to start your child on solids.  Also, your approach may vary from one child to the other.

These approaches include ‘baby-led weaning’ and the more common ‘traditional weaning’.

In recent years, it has not gone amiss that more and more parents are leaning towards the former, which involves placing the meal in front of the child and encouraging them to feed themselves.  Assuming that you have a generally curious child who is able to sit up and reach for things, this approach works well and is less work for the parents, as it encourages your child to be an independent eater, and perhaps even more likely to decide on their own when they are full. It is also a more relaxed approach, which makes for a more relaxed baby.

If however, your baby is less curious, and anything you place in their hands mostly ends up on the floor as opposed to in their mouths, then maybe the more traditional method would work better for you; feeding your child yourself.  This method is also less messy and the biggest pro is that you can actually gauge how much your child has eaten.

Alternatively, you can do a combo, whereby you place a few finger-food type items in front of your child, encouraging them to help themselves, but while also feeding them yourself.

Ultimately, no one knows your child better than you, so whichever method you choose, go for the one that is more suited to you and your little one, and that would make for a more pleasant and less stressful meal time. One solid advice however, when opting for the traditional method is to pay attention to your child; if they’ve had more than a few mouthfuls, and start rejecting the food, accept that they’re full and move on from there.

Finally, we move on to the what. What should you start with when introducing your child to solid foods?

It is generally advised to start off with vegetables rather than fruits.  Babies are typically more accepting of sweet than savoury flavours and starting them off with fruits will likely make them less likely to accept anything if it is not sweet enough.

Foods to start with:

      • Soft cooked vegetables
      • Softened fruits
      • Grains such as oatmeal and rice, cooked and pureed

If it helps, consider adding some milk to the meal (whatever milk your child is used to), as this might be useful if your child is proving to be too fussy or not accepting of the weaning process.

Start slow, with a few spoonfuls and work your way up from there. Remember, it is important to be patient, and not introduce too much too fast.  Your child is a little person too, and like most people, perhaps not too welcoming of any major lifestyle changes. As they grow accustomed to these changes, are more accepting and even enjoying them, then you can start offering a wider variety of flavours and textures, such as animal proteins, dairy, pulses and healthy snacks.

By 1 year old, most babies can eat the same foods as the rest of the family and ideally should be consuming 3 solid meals a day, as well as at least 2 snacks. Do bear in the mind however, that each child is different. This brings me back to the earlier statement that correct weaning will encourage better eating habits and limit picky eating in the long term. Sadly, this is not always the case, as many parents do everything correctly, yet still have children who are picky eaters. Just to put your mind at ease, this is okay too; simply do your best, and go through the motions.  Remind yourself that this is all a part of growing up, and studies have shown that things do balance out as your child grows up.

To read up some more on this, check out our previous blog posts on: How to Deal With Picky Eaters (Part 1) & How To Deal With Picky Eaters (Part 2).

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