Introducing Solid Foods to Your Little One

Get your food processors ready as yummy solid foods await your baby in his first year.

WORDS NURULHUDA SUHAIMI

 

Introducing your baby’s taste buds to the delicious world of solid foods is an exciting journey for your little one. There is a wide variety of foods available to your baby once he is ready for solids, and his first year is the perfect time to train his palate so he can enjoy different tastes and textures.

 

When Should I Start My Baby on Solids?

You can introduce solid foods to your baby from four to six months of age. Starting your baby on solids before he is four months old is not recommended as breast milk or formula provides sufficient

nutrients your baby needs. It may also cause overfeeding, and consequently, obesity when your baby is older.

You should not delay introducing your baby to solids either (i.e. after six months old). At a later age, your baby may be more resistant to trying new foods, in addition to having to learn new methods to eat like chewing and swallowing solids.

 

How Do I Know My Baby is Ready for Solids?

Dr Rajeev Ramachandran, consultant, Division of General Ambulatory Paediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, NUH, suggests looking out for these signs that show your baby is ready for solids:

 

  • He still seems hungry after his usual milk feed
  • Demands more frequent feeds
  • A previously settled baby waking up in the night again for a feed

 

Other signs that indicate your baby can start on solids, according to the American Academy of Paediatrics, are:

 

  • He is able to hold his head up when sitting
  • Shows an interest in what you are eating or tries to reach for your food
  • Opens his mouth when being given food
  • Able to swallow food from a spoon

 

(Not sure if your baby can do this? Try this out: feed him some baby-friendly food from a spoon or the tip of your finger. If the food comes back out, it means your baby may be unable to move it to the back of his mouth to swallow. Don’t worry if this happens; it is completely normal. Just give it a few more tries, or have a go again in one or two weeks.)

 

Texture is Just as Important

Since it is the first time your baby is eating solid foods, the texture of the foods is important to ensure it is easy for him to eat and swallow. Your baby’s first foods should be really smooth and runny. As he grows older and is increasingly able to bite and chew, you can thicken up the texture of his foods.

Senior lactation consultant at Raffles Hospital, Helen Cruz, recommends this guide when it comes to varying the texture of your baby’s foods according to his age:

 

  • Six months old: texture should be smooth, soft and fine; mash and sieve through, purée or scrape the food with a spoon.
  • Seven to nine months old: texture should be thicker and coarser; scrape or mash the food.
  • Ten to 12 months old: food should be mashed, chopped or cut into small pieces.

 

What Exactly Should I Feed My Baby?

There really isn’t any definite order to follow when it comes to introducing your baby to solids. But if you are a little overwhelmed with the wide variety of foods you want to introduce to your baby, we’ve got some general ideas to make it a bit easier.

 

Single-grain Cereals

Most parents typically start their baby off into the world of solid foods with single-grain cereals. You may give your baby rice cereals as rice is the least likely to cause a negative reaction in your baby. “These cereals are usually fortified with iron to help meet the baby’s increased need for dietary iron at this time,” says Cruz. Hold off on adding any sweeteners to the cereal, like mashed fruits or juice.

 

 

When introducing your baby to solid foods, it is best to start him off with one new food at a time so you can monitor for any allergic reactions.

 

 

Vegetables

It doesn’t really matter whether you start with dark, leafy greens before moving on to yellow and orange vegetables for your baby. Some may say it is better to introduce your baby to green vegetables first because they have a stronger flavour, but there isn’t actually any evidence for this. Just be sure to mash or purée the vegetables so your baby can eat them easily.

A great vegetable to introduce your child to is sweet potato because of its high beta-carotene content. The body converts beta-carotene into vitamin A, which is beneficial for your baby’s eyesight as well as his skin. Plus, when mashed or puréed, sweet potatoes have a pudding-like texture that babies tend to favour.

“You can also give [your baby] porridge blended with mashed or puréed vegetables like pumpkin, sweet potato and carrot,” says Cruz.

 

Fruits

Again, just like it doesn’t matter which colour vegetable you start your baby off with, it is not a must for you to introduce your baby to vegetables before fruits. Babies naturally prefer sweet foods, so whichever you choose to give your baby first will not change his preference. For some quick baby food preparation, mash fruits like bananas or avocados.

Bananas are rich in potassium, which promotes healthy muscle function in your baby. Plus, bananas are easy to digest, so your baby will less likely experience an upset stomach when he eats them. Avocados make good first foods too because of their healthy fat content, which will help your baby’s brain development.

 

Protein-rich Foods

Until your baby is four to six months old, breast milk or formula provides enough protein his body needs for healthy growth. However, after six months, your baby will need foods high in protein in addition to breast milk or formula.

               

 

Foods high in protein include fish, tofu, and meats like chicken and beef. You may want to feed your baby the softer options first such as fish and tofu. As he learns to bite and chew, you may introduce chicken and beef in your baby’s diet.

 

 

You can start off with basic meat recipes like chicken or beef purée. As your baby grows older, you can be more adventurous with his protein-rich foods. Make a yummy breakfast omelette with added puréed or chopped vegetables, or a nutritious fish meal by adding finely shredded fish to mashed potatoes and finely grated carrots. 

 

Healthy Eating Habits

Your little one’s early experiences with food are important in ensuring he adopts healthy eating habits as he grows older. When you are feeding your baby, make sure he is sitting upright and resting between bites. If your baby is already full, don’t force him to finish his food.

Avoid limiting the types of food you feed your baby. “We should make sure that there is a wide variety of food in children’s diet. There is evidence that exposing them to a wide range of tastes at an early stage will lead to healthier eating later in life,” says Dr Ramachandran.

Try to only feed your baby in the same place during his meal times such as the dining room. You should also keep distractions to a minimum such as keeping your baby’s toys away and switching off the television.

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