First Solids: Advice and Tips
Maternity & parenting expert and popular author Kathy Fray shares her advice on the best solids for your baby
6 min read
Starting your six-month-old on his first solid foods can be a tremendously exciting time – even though the mush is generally far from “solid” looking! Some babies take to solids so rapidly that they’ll quickly make it known to you what your new role should be: constantly shoveling bowels of mash into their gaping mouth.
Fussy babies can be quite the opposite and instead can live their whole life with a petite and picky appetite. They’re all unique! Two realities are: Firstly, making homemade baby-food can be incredibly simple. Secondly, making homemade baby-food can be incredibly tricky!
It all seems to come down to the information that you refer to. But there are perhaps six fundamental basics that are fairly unanimously agreed upon:
Only milk for the first 6 months
Exclusive breastfeeding or infant formula is best for babies for their first six months. The two possible exceptions to that rule, from 4-5 months of age, could be for extraordinarily large babies – say the top ten percentile on the Plunket growth charts (that is, at the top of the coloured-in bands on your WellChild health-book graphs). The other possible exception is for babies suffering from severe Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux, as solid foods may stay down more easily than liquids.
Organic food is best for you baby
Organic food is best. That applies for all of us of course, but feeding organic food is especially important for infants because their brains and bodies are still developing. Organic food is simply the type of food human beings have always eaten – until 50-60 years ago – and is now fashionably named organic or biodynamic food – meaning it is grown without synthetic fertilizers, insecticides, herbicides, fungicides or growth promoters.
Processed organic food also contains no artificial colourings, flavour enhancers, synthetic preserving additives, and contains no genetically modified or irradiated ingredients. Organic food is simply 100% real food – and it is also the panacea to the escalating levels of obesity, diabetes and many other diseases rampant in children who are over-fed yet under-nourished. The human being never develops in their lifetime as quickly as they do as a baby – so it is in infanthood, more than any other time, that great nutrition can pay great dividends.
Fruit & veggies should take priority when feeding your baby
Fruit and Vegetables are incredibly important, with veggies being the big priority, such as pumpkin, avocado, carrot, courgettes (zucchini), beans, squash, beets, parsnip, cauliflower and broccoli. One of the very simplest things to do is to steam the veggies using no salt, pepper or spices. Then puree them in a food processor and freeze in ice-cube or muffin trays. Once frozen, you can store the lumps in old ice-cream containers.
At six months of age, one brunch or early dinner of veggies plus 4-6 milk-feeds per day is normal. At seven months of age, Bubs could enjoy a couple of pureed meals a day, plus 4-5 milk-feeds. Such as pureed veggies for dinner, and pureed fruit for lunch, including apricot, apple, peach, pear, mango, papaya, watermelon, honeydew melon and ripe banana. Fruit canned in juice (not syrup) can be particularly easy to puree.
By 8 months of age, Bubs is probably consuming three textured meals a day for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Plus 3-4 milk-feeds for say early morning, morning tea, afternoon tea and supper. At this age you can also add in spinach, Brussel sprouts, asparagus, grapes, cherries, dates, figs, prunes, raisins, skinless plums and well-cooked egg-yolk. At this time dietary iron also becomes more important as the iron stores a baby is born with are depleting. So it is good to start including some iron-rich foods such as minced beef, lamb, port, veal, liver or kidney.
Try starch in moderation
Historic research has well documented that infant’s saliva does not begin to produce substantial amounts of the starch-digesting ptyalin enzyme until their molar teeth arrive. So I recommend in the early days of feeding solids to your baby, that you use in moderation the starchy foods such as wheat, potatoes, kumara, cereals, rice, crackers, bread, pasta, porridge, noodles and couscous and tapioca.
Variety is key
Variety is important not just from the point of view of introducing your baby to the experiences of many flavours, but also from the nutritional aspect of ensuring a great variety of minerals, vitamins and micro-nutrients. However it is also recommended to add just one new food item every few days to enable you to recognise if Bubs is experiencing any kind of allergic food reaction, such as mouth rash, nappy rash, itchy skin, hives, runny nose, colic, diarrhoea, constipation, eczema, coughing, sneezing or wheezing.
Sugar isn’t required in a healthy diet
Finally, as some globesity researchers are nicknaming it “Kiddy Cocaine” (sugar) is a very occassional treat. Our body converts sugars into energy – however, the body really doesn’t need the sugar-cane type of sugar for cellular energy. The body is very efficient at utilising the fructose in fruit and lactose in milk for energy.
The problem with cane sugar is that its rapid absorption causes the body a sugar-high and subsequent sugar-low, with the long-term medical repercussions being potentially serious. So do treat cane-sugar as a treat, such as at birthday parties – not something to be used every day sprinkled on cereals, drunk in soft drinks and eaten in lollies.
As a general rule, if the word “sugar” is contained within the first five ingredients on the back of the packaging, then you can think of that food as a treat to be severely limited.
How many feeds does baby need?
Regarding volume of feeds: the first meals usually start out as a few messy teaspoons, but soon progress up to say an eighth of a cup, then within weeks can go up to say half a cup. By Bub’s first birthday, he could consume 1-1½ cups of food at mealtimes. And remember, always include a sipper-cup of plain water on the highchair tray, for Bubs to wash it all down with – not undiluted juice, and definitely not cordial.
Like all baby-related topics, there can be loads of slightly conflicting opinions as to what are the best recommendations – so, in reality, it is likely you will develop your own customized system that best suits your baby, your family, your lifestyle and your philosophies.