There is so much to know when it comes to starting solids! This little article very lightly skims the surface of answering the questions you might have (FYI - joining the solids society gives you 6 months access to ask me any questions you may have along the journey) but I hope its helpful to get you started!
When to Start
First things first. You are probably thinking about when to start! 4 months, or 6 months, it seems everyone has a different opinion! Thankfully all Australian guidelines recommend "around 6 months of age" as the ideal time to start solids. This wording is very particular as there is no one age that all babies will be ready. It is a developmental milestone, and the following signs of readiness will indicate it’s time to start.
- Sitting with minimal support (able to sit in highchair)
- Strong head and neck control
- Showing interest in foods and willingly opens mouth for foods
- Able to pick up objects and bring to mouth
- Losing tongue extrusion reflex
In the Solids Society you can send me a video of your little one and I can help you decide if the time is right if you are unsure of when to start.
How to Start
One of the biggest decisions parents think they have to make when feeding is how they will feed (psst you don't actually have to choose one method) There are 2 popular methods people usually choose between when starting solids. Baby Led Weaning (BLW) is where babies are offered family meals and safely prepared finger foods from the very beginning. Traditional or puree feeding focuses on offering babies blended or pureed foods and slowly increasing the thickness and texture before moving to small bite size pieces. Most feeding professionals will recommend a combination of the two methods where babies are offered both finger foods and traditional foods alongside each other. This provides the greatest benefits for nutrition and sensory exploration of foods and is easily adaptable to all babies.
When to offer Solids
Initially solids are recommended to be offered around 30 minutes to 1 hr after a milk feed. This is a time when babies are usually calm and content and therefore open to exploring new foods. This timing allows foods to fill the gap in the early days rather than displacing milk feeds. Around 9-10 months babies are generally consuming enough nutrition from solids that the timing can be adjusted, and some milk feeds removed.
What to start with:
There is no one perfect first food. Rather than focusing on one food focus on offering a wide variety of foods from all 5 food groups. It’s recommended to avoid honey before 12 months due to risk of infant botulism and ideally limit sources of added sugar and excess sodium (remember this is important for adults too). Offering different textures and flavours is crucial in this developmental period so be adventurous. It is common for parents to focus on introducing just fruits and vegetables and whilst these are wonderful foods, they are not generally rich sources of iron, protein, or fats. Iron is of particular importance during the 7–12-month period and offering an iron source at each meal is ideal.
Good sources of iron include:
- Lentils & Legumes (Kidney beans, chickpeas)
- Cashews & Pistachios
- Whole grains
- Fortified foods and cereals (Weet-Bix)
What about allergens?
There are 9 foods that are responsible for most childhood food allergies. These are: fish, shellfish, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, egg, cow’s milk, and sesame. You may have heard that in the past it was recommended to wait to introduce allergens! This is no longer the case. The most up to date research has shown that introducing all allergens and continuing to offer them frequently (> 2x a week for eggs and peanuts) before 12 months has been shown to reduce the chances of allergies developing. For more information on introducing allergens please refer to the Nip Allergies in the Bub website.