Introducing solid foods to your baby is a very exciting milestone. These days we are information rich and this can make the joyful experience of starting food with your baby a little daunting. Here are the 5 things that matter most in my experience. Giving you the best chance of a child in excellent health who is a great eater.
1. Start offering solids between 4-6 months of age. Look for your baby showing good head control for example, when sitting near you at meal times or in the stroller. Another sign that your baby is ready to start solids is when they are interested in your food when it’s around. Babies often tell us they are ready by grabbing at food or staring at a parent who is eating.
2. Using a chair that can be adapted to every age such as the Tripp Trapp® which allows you to include your baby in the rituals of eating as a family from a young age. Smelling family foods as a young baby and seeing family meals as an older infant can make the transition to eating much easier. A chair that height adjusts to any table you have will give your baby an excellent view of their family eating. They will start asking for food by reaching and making sounds that show they are interested. Offering these family foods in a baby-led-weaning style with or without a side of purees gives the child texture and family flavours from very early eating experiences. This helps create great eaters.
3. Recent research is showing the importance of offering individual “bitter” vegetables such a broccoli, spinach, peas and zucchini without adding any sweet component. This gives your baby a better chance of accepting a range of bitter flavours as they get older (veggies!) and reduce picky eating. We can almost program babies by repeating this bitter flavour regularly when they are young to then make it more acceptable to them as they get older.
4. Use supportive seating with a foot rest. This is a very important feature of some high chairs such as the Tripp Trapp® to give the learning eater full body support. This allows them to concentrate on learning the complex task of eating. A child who is comfortable and well supported will find it easier to self-regulate and eat what they need at each meal rather than stopping a meal due to fidgeting or distraction which is often discomfort disguised.
5. Reduce the risk of food allergy by introducing common allergy triggers before 12 months. Once these foods have been offered once it is important to continue to offer them 2-3 times per week. The common allergy triggers to introduce are:
- Dairy; use milk on cereal, yoghurt, cheese,
- Cooked egg; use well-cooked boiled or scrambled egg
- Nuts; nut butter on toast or ground nuts added to cereal
- Fish and seafood; use white fish such as barramundi, salmon and prawns
- Wheat; use WeetBix, bread and pasta
A wide variety of food to meet nutrition requirements and the above 5 pointers will help you focus on the things that matter when it comes to making your child the best eater they can be. Enjoy the journey. Armed with the right equipment and right information it can be a lot of fun!
Author: Lauren Gladman
Accredited practising dietitian (APD) specialising in infant, children and adolescent nutrition for 15 years.
Mum to Isla, 7 years and Finn, 5 years and Ted 20 months.