Last Thursday, I was live on Instagram on the Shredder Gang page, sharing about the 10 things I think parents should know, before they start introducing solid foods to their infant.
I call these points, the ten commandments of introducing solid foods. This process is also called complementary feeding or weaning.
The replay of the live video was not made available after I logged off, but… I promised to write out notes and that’s what I’ve done below.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from the live, but as I saw familiar account names pop up on the screen, followed by questions – I felt a bit more assured. Thank you to everyone who came online. I think it went well, minus technical glitches at the beginning (volume was initially too low), if I do say so myself. Haha.
Alright, lets get into it:
1. Only breastmilk or formula milk for the first four months
The advice from the medical community is to only offer baby breastmilk or formula milk in the first four months. Apart from any medication prescribed by your Doctor, of course.
A few weeks back, I saw a mum talk about offering an aloe vera drink to her 6 week old to help with colic symptoms, on an instagram account. I immediately let her know it was not a good idea and could even be dangerous.
There is one exception to this rule – water. Exclusively Breastfed babies do not need water, even when it’s hot. Instead, the advice is to offer breastmilk more often, if your baby is interested. A formula fed baby from 2 months old, may need water when the weather is very hot. Again, act as directed by your Doctor, only. Water for formula fed babies should only be offered from when baby is 2 months old.
From 6 months old you can start giving baby sips of water with their solid foods or if you start solid foods between 4 to 6 months – introduce those sips of water. The general rule is give water during baby’s solid meals and if you’re drinking water and baby requests it – you can also give baby then.
2. You never have to use the sippy cup and you should phase out your baby feeding bottles by their first birthday.
The advice is to give baby a normal cup from when you introduce sips of water at that point when they start solid foods. There’s a popular baby cup – the Munchkin Miracle cup. You can use this cup. Avoid using a sippy cup if you can – this helps the fight against tooth decay.
Similarly, after your child’s first birthday, avoid giving them liquids to drink in a feeding bottle, including their milk. If your child still takes milk, they should drink from a cup.
3. You have two options when you start weaning – puree and baby led weaning.
The more popular option seems to be mummy led weaning, offering your baby a puree. Here Mum leads and she spoons cereals, pap or puree into baby’s mouth.
The other option is Baby-led weaning. Baby feeds themselves in this case. Usually it’s pices of actual food that has been cut up to make it easier for baby to suck or chew on. It can also be baby feeding themselves their puree or semi-liquid food.
Basically, as soon as your child is showing the signs of weaning readiness – sitting upright etc, you can start baby led weaning and that means you can give them normal food chopped up in specific ways – this part is important to avoid choking. You do not have to puree or blend all their food. It is not compulsory.
I personally took the baby led weaning route and I give it some credit for helping develop my daughters fine motor skills, keeping her interested in foods and exploring different textures and tastes. It is said that these children are typically less likely to be picky eaters in the future, but of course there might be exceptions.
Finally, you can actually offer a mix of baby led and puree. The benefit of puree is that mummy can see how much food baby is eating. With baby led, a lot of food will end up on the floor, on their clothes since they are feeding themselves and only in the process of learning how. It means more waste, but the benefits are as I described in the paragraph above. So if you can offer a mix of the two styles, you might consider that the best of both worlds. Mind you some, babies who experience baby led lose interest in pureed food.
The foods you can offer for baby led can be: cucumber sticks, boiled carrot sticks, stick of toast with butter, apple cut into a wedge with skin off, etc.
If you are taking baby led please ensure you watch the choking video. And always cut length wise. For example grapes.
>>>The video to watch to ensure you know what to do if baby is choking is here: first aid choking.
>>>The signs to look for to know when baby is ready for weaning are listed here: weaning when to begin.
4. Food till your child’s first birthday is for exploring different tastes and textures.
Baby’s main meal in this time continues to be their breastmilk or formula milk. What this means is, it is better if you do not have a personal agenda or objective with feeding, beyond this objective to let your baby explore the different tastes and textures, in this time.
Let me give an example of a mum agenda. I have heard a mum say my 7 month old is a picky eater. When I ask why, Mum explains it’s because I want to give my child pap three times a day but she refuses. Why Pap? Mu explains that Because it fills her up and then I can wean her off the breast quicker. No ma’am. You are pushing your agenda on your child and getting frustrated that you are not seeing results while ignoring that your child has her own ideas too.
For the first few months babies need time to learn hw food works – sucking, chewing and swallowing a stodgier texture. We need to give them a chance to do this by not trying to fill them up with the food. Of course some babies may love food and want more which does fill them up – no problem, then you may consider reducing milk slowly over time, though they still need to be taking a certain quantity of milk, so you don’t remove it completely.
Your child before their first birthday CANNOT be a picker eater. Till their first birthday, please ‘expect’ them to eat small here and there and what your job is is to continue to offer a different foods with different textures. So not just pap but potatoes, plantain, rice, fruits and vegetables too. They may exceed or not meet your expectations and from there you adjust, but do try not to have an agenda in this period. You will be a much calmer mummy.
5. Your mind-set is very important.
Be relaxed and let your child see that you are relaxed.
Now this one might involve faking it. That means that you will have to pretend that you really do not care that your child isn’t finishing up their meals, when you really do care, for example.
It means not breathing over their shoulders as they eat. It means not putting pressure on them to eat more if they indicate that they don’t want to at that time. Be relaxed and your baby will pick those vibes up. They really are smarter than we might realize and there’s psychology related to their feeding matters.
6. Starting solid foods with cereal, baby rice or pap is not a must.
It is actually possible and very OK to skip rice cereals and pap and start with fruits and vegetables, if you choose. Either puréed version of the fruits and vegetables or real pieces. It is an option.
If you choose this method, you may choose to start with one fruit, then when your child is happy with that (and no allergic reaction), you try another fruit and if they’re good with the two, you mix it and offer that. And in this way keep offering different kinds of fruits and vegetables and then other types of foods too. For example, apple, pear then apple and pear. Potato, carrot, then potatoe and carrot.
>>>I explain how to begin weaning using the fruits & veg method here: weaning how to begin.
7. Be mindful of allergies
Many of us escaped food allergies growing up. The current generation seems to be experiencing a lot more food allergies than I feel we did in our time.
What do you need to know? Allergies may show as a rash or swollen parts of their body or difficulty breathing.
To avoid it, introduce new foods one at a time and if possible in the morning, that way if there’s a reaction you can spot it during the day and take baby to the Doctor, if need be.
8. Constipation is normal in the first weeks.
What is happening is that your baby’s intestines are getting used to stodgy food compared to liquid food your baby was taking before.
You need to be careful in case a particular food is making it worse. For example, some mums report that banana make’s their babies constipated. As you offer your baby a variety of different kinds of foods, be careful to watch for the signs of constipation.
The best thing to do is offer one new food at a time. So if baby has never had banana and never had avocado, dont give them the two on the same day. Instead give baby banana today and watch that there are no reactions for about 2 days, then if none, in two days you can give baby avocado. Again if after two days no reaction then you can mix banana and avocado and offer baby because there was no allergic reaction. And you continue as such for every new food you offer, just to be on the safe side.
To help baby go, I recommend apple purée or even dates -blend it with water and give baby sips. Not too much though, otherwise you may end up with the opposite problem.
9. Follow your child’s cues.
And do not force baby to eat, when they indicate they are full.
I explained with a simple analogy – a breastfed baby completely regulates how much they eat and they put on weight and grow. Why do we then think that a slightly older baby cannot be the judge of how much they want to eat? It’s that agenda thing again, Mum has her own agenda to encourage child to eat every single drop of the food that was made. This should not be the case.
As long as you’re still treating milk as their main food till their first birthday and simply giving solids alongside, the baby should continue to thrive – that is put on weight.
A Mum asked me about following a meal schedule – whether it’s a good or bad idea. I feel that it may cause you to be following you own agenda rather than baby’s cues.
You can feed baby once or twice a day for the first few weeks and then up it to three times a day over the subsequent weeks, based on how interested baby is. But to make a meal plan and aim for your baby who just started eating solid food to follow it, may put undue pressure on mummy and baby. If you make a plan so that nanny follows it, please remind her of these commandments. It is not by force for baby to eat it all.
Let baby play with food from time to time. Not every meal, but from time to time. Research shows this may help prevent picky eater syndrome. As they play they are coloring the smells, tastes and textures. As much as possible eat while baby is eating so they see that food is a social thing. Some children enjoy eating from Mums plate and that’s another way to show food is fun and a social thing. After all, food is more than just putting something in your mouth.
10. Foods baby cannot eat before age 1
There are some foods that we have to hold off on and not feed baby till they are one year old. An example is honey. Others are below.
Now, from the cover picture you may have seen topic 1. Thats because I intend to cover more topics under introduction to slid foods, so do stay tuned by following mummyfix on Instagram. You can also sign up to the newsletter via the about & contact page (if you’re on your mobil, simply scroll down). If you have questions, please do let me know.