Why do we introduce solids to the diet?
About half way thought the first year of life, babies being to outgrow their liquid diet of human milk or formula which, because of their increasing demands, may no longer supply them with enough nutrients to support their rate of growth. Soft foods are introduced at 4 -6 months of age – for both breastfed and bottlefed babies.
This phase of childhood nutrition is a time of transition from milk to soft foods, finger foods and finally to family foods.
The Adult’s Role
It’s the adults role to provide nutritious foods for their children. Adults are responsible for what their children are given and when it is given.
Children are responsible for deciding how much to eat. This means that the parent controls the kind of foods served for meals and snacks. You should not force children to eat. Children’s appetites and the amounts they eat change from day to day. As busy mom’s this can be a frustrating stage as we often want our learning eater to fit into our program. Be patient and let your little one taste and touch and learn from their new food experiences. Keep things calm, fun and encouraging, these are big experiences for little people.
3 Stages of Introduction
Introducing solid food to your infant’s diet can be divided into three stages. These stages correspond with physical and feeding milestones taking place as your baby matures. Stage 1 – smooth purées, Stage 2 the soft lumps of mashed foods and Stage 3 – chunky foods that encourage chewing.
Stage 1 – smooth purées
Since milk feeds are still your most important feeds in stage 1 offer the milk feed first and the smooth purees as a top up and introduction to new tastes and textures.
Making your baby’s first foods can be easy as most are fresh fruit and vegetables you’ll have in the house for your own meals. First foods are smooth purées that are runny and free from lumps. This consistency can be achieved using a kitchen blender, one of those hand held whizz stick blenders or by pressing the food through a sieve. This stage is about learning more than adding nutrition.
Some first foods need cooking, while others are ready to go with no cooking required. A ripe banana or avocado can be finely mashed with a fork or pushed through a sieve to make an instant purée. If necessary thin to the consistency you want with breastmilk or cooled boiled water. Examples of Stage 1 first foods include:
- baby rice cereal
- ripe banana, avocado or paw paw
- cooked apple, pear, peach or apricots
- cooked pumpkin, carrot, or potato.
When you’re cooking vegetables for yourself, put in extra for your baby and make sure you don’t add salt. For example cooked carrots, potatoes, butternut squash and pumpkin can all be first baby foods. You can either serve them on their own or mixed together, like carrot and potato. Although Stage 1 foods may seem bland to adult tastes, do not add salt or sugar as this may create an early preference for sweetened and salty foods.
Fruit purées, like apple, peach, nectarine and pear, are quick to make. Simply cover the peeled and cored fruit with water and simmer until soft. Purée and if necessary thin to the consistency you want with some of the cooking water or cooled boiled water. These fruits are tasty mixed with carrot, pumpkin or banana.
Stage 2 – soft lumps of mashed foods
Milk is still important in your baby’s diet. Around eight to nine months old you can change to giving your baby solids before their milk at mealtimes, as solid food becomes more important in their diet.
By around eight to nine months of age they will have mastered smooth purées (Stage 1), the soft lumps of mashed foods (Stage 2) and are now ready to move onto chunkier textures. The muscles essential for eating and speech are developed and strengthened by chewing chunkier foods. Amazingly most babies can chew pretty efficiently by eight months, even without teeth!
Stage 3 – chunky foods see toddler feeding