Among many questions that new parents might have about infanthood, when to introduce solid foods is an important one. It’s completely normal for you as a parent to be cautious about what food to introduce, and when. After all, your little one deserves the best!
Generally, solids can be introduced between 4 and 6 months of age, although most commonly closer to 6 months. Breast milk or formula will provide all their nutritional requirements during the 4-6 months. At around 6 months, the iron stores that your baby gained while in mummy’s tummy begin to run low, which is one of the reasons why we start solids around this time.
Below are a few concerns that new parents have, as well as tips for introducing solids!
1. Too early or too late?
Introducing solids too early can be a burden to an underdeveloped digestive system (most babies' digestive systems remain inadequate up to about 6 months of age), as well as impairing maternal milk supply.
- Other concerns include increasing the risk of food allergies and exposure to bugs that may lead to diarrhea and other gastric problems.
- Sooner or later, most parents will realise how convenient breastfeeding/ giving formula is (especially if it is your second time around). Sure, the tendency to want to delay introducing solids creeps into the minds of many parents, however according to research, your little one will not benefit from having solids before 6 months.
- However, if you leave the introduction of solids too late, you risk undermining your baby's nutritional status. Iron and zinc levels, in particular, decrease in breast milk as your baby's demand increases. It’s a delicate transition that must be done at the right time for your child.
- Other problems of delayed/ early introduction of solids can include immune challenges and reduced motor development, for example, the skill of chewing.
2. How much quantity should you start with?
- It generally takes about a month from the time of the first introduced food for babies to work up to taking more than 10 ml a day (just over 2 teaspoons), and a month and half to be able to consume more than 100 ml a day.
- However, babies who were started on solids at a younger age seem to take longer to get to these amounts; hence introducing solids at 6 months appears to shorten the time.
3. Tips on starting foods
- The food you provide should be a fine, runny puree and smooth in consistency.
- It is very important to introduce foods one at a time and ensure they don't include salt, sugar or flavouring of any sort. Maintaining baby's milk source helps to ensure that any reactions can be attributed to the single food.
- Rotate the foods you introduce so that you give the same meal only once in a 3-5-day period. Even parents can agree there's nothing worse than eating the same thing over and over again. This will also help reduce the risk of food reaction or allergy, and in the unlikely event of a reaction, it may become evident before the end of the day.
- Once a variety of foods has been introduced successfully, make sure you vary them frequently so that your baby gains a balanced diet. Variety at this early stage may also help you get through that fussy stage in the toddler years.
- Be persistent. Many studies show that it may take up to 10 opportunities to try a new food before your baby accepts it.
- Avocado (it’s not as easily available as other vegetables, but you could give it a try) can turn into a favourite starter because its fatty acid makeup is similar to breast milk! Once you've diluted it into a runny paste with breast milk or formula, it can be an option that your little one will learn to enjoy early on.