Tuesday, January 17, 2012

When should I start my baby on solids?

[Remember to enter the draw to win a copy of Smart Sweets if you haven't already.]

Sophie is seven months old already. Can you believe it? I can't quite.

I was going to write a post about introducing solids last month, when Sophie turned six months, but she wasn't ready for solids then so I've waited until now when she's eating them a little more regularly.

When I first tried introducing food to Sophie, she seemed to react to everything right away (it gave her an upset tummy). She also really didn't like eating. She quickly worked out that if she just left her mouth open, the food would fall back out and she wouldn't have to swallow it.
Sophie feeding herself roast kumara.
For those reasons and because Sophie couldn't yet sit up by herself yet, I decided to give her a break for a couple of weeks.

After that I started to test her with solids every few days, but it wasn't until she was seven months old that she seemed interested in eating a couple of bites and able to keep it down. Other problems she'd been having with reflux also showed improvement around the seven month mark, which has been a huge relief.
Happy eating girl.
My tips for starting a baby on solids
(Note: I'm not a dietitian, these are just the tips that have worked for me.)
  • When your baby is about six months old, start watching them for signs of readiness. Are they able to sit up unsupported? Have they lost their tongue-thrust reflex? Do they show an interest in food? If the answer to all the questions above is yes, your baby could be ready to start eating solid food. 
  • Until baby is at least nine months old, always offer breast milk / formula first.
  • Don't go overboard on the solids to start out with - a taste here and there will suffice. The initial stage is about introducing baby to new tastes and the texture of food. It's not to fill their tummy - that's still the job of breast milk / formula until baby is about one.  Modern Alternative Mama has written a wonderful post about introducing solids. In it she says that "enzyme production (like amylase) doesn't even really start until 8 - 9 months of age, so there's no reason to begin solids much earlier than this, even with babies that seem interested and especially with babies prone to allergies."
  • Try one new food a week and watch for any signs of intolerance or allergic reaction (read more about these signs below). If your baby shows a reaction, hold off on that food for another couple of months and test again. By then their digestive system will be more developed and better able to handle that food, if it's not a true allergy.
  • Feed baby new foods in the morning so that if they do have a reaction, you've got the day to deal with it and don't have to try settling an upset baby overnight.
  • Experiment with both pureed foods (like mashed banana, mashed cooked pumpkin, boiled egg yolk, steamed and pureed pear/apple) and soft but solid food that your baby can hold to feed themselves (like avocado wedges, boiled or roast kumara wedges, roast chicken or beef chunks). I have more success with foods that Sophie can hold, and it's actually less work too. You could try cooking veges in chicken stock instead of water to give them an even greater nutritional boost.
  • Every now and then add a splash of butter and a tiny sprinkle of real salt (like Celtic Sea Salt, Himalayan Rock Salt) to your baby's food. This is a winning combo that contains lots of fats, vitamins and minerals your baby needs to develop and be healthy.
  • Avoid all grains until your baby is at least nine months old (including sweet corn and boxed rice cereal) as these are difficult for babies to digest.
Common symptoms of allergic reactions (from  Well Adjusted Babies , by Dr Jennifer Barham-Floreani)
  • Flushing
  • Rashes
  • Itching
  • Vomiting
  • Swelling of lips, tongue, throat
  • Difficulty breathing, asthma
  • The allergic face:
    • Runny congested nose
    • Dark rings under eyes
    • Red ears
    • Eczema
Common symptoms of food intolerance (also from  Well Adjusted Babies , by Dr Jennifer Barham-Floreani)
  • Congestion with coughing, sniffing and runny nose
  • Eczema
  • Rash around the mouth
  • Severe nappy rash
  • Asthma
  • Glue Ear
  • Headaches or Migraines
  • Aching muscles and joints
  • Infantile insomnia
  • Poor appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Stomach aches, colic (in babies)
  • Persistent diarrhoea
  • Behavioural disorders, including hyperactivity

What are your tips for introducing babies to solids? I'd love to hear from you.

Linked to Monday Mania at The Healthy Home Economist and The Patchwork Living Blogging Bee at Frugal Kiwi.


  1. Thanks, Emma! Have you done much reading on baby-led weaning?

    1. I looked into baby-led feeding with Lily and like lots of things about it - babies are less likely to choke if they feed themselves, they won't overfeed themselves, they're learning about the shape and feel of food as it actually is, it's helping them understand their world better, and more. There's lots to recommend it.

      However, some foods just don't lend themselves to it, which is why I go with a combo of purees and hand-held foods.

  2. Hey what should we be doing to oppose the food bill? What have you done? It is a shocker and needs some serious noise to at least amend if not get rid of it.

    1. It's already passed the submission stage Kim, but you can sign the petition against it: http://www.petitiononline.co.nz/petition/oppose-the-new-zealand-government-food-bill-160-2/1301

      I did a post about it end of last year:

      You can also approach your local MP and suggest the amendments you think it needs.

      Apparently it's already being amended so that the seeds covered are only those for eating like pumpkin and sunflower seeds from the bulk bins at the supermarket, not seeds for planting. Other things are still dodgy though. It's a mare to read through though. Almost 400 pages of legal document.

  3. Unrelated question if that is okay? I have a four month old who has not been vaccinated. She is breaking out in eczema on her back, chest, and folds of skin. Only breastfed. I am attributing this to the sudden change in our weather over the last 4 days. Would this indicate possibly being more susceptible to food allergies? Sarah

    1. It could be heat rash, or it could be something you're eating. Try cutting out dairy and gluten for a while and see if anything improves. If it does, you could try introducing one back into your diet to see if that's the one she's reacting to or not. Otherwise, if things keep getting worse, you could get an allergy test. Try your doctor or you can pay for them privately through Healthy Alternatives: http://healthyalternatives.co.nz/

      Good luck

  4. I gave up on making pureed baby food and we went with table food for my last 3 babies. I found they were not really that keen on food until 7-8 months and didn't really begin to consume a decent quantity until 12 months at least. I would just feed them food off my plate, whatever I was eating. Sometimes I would do a bit of a puree (usually if we were having a roast) and freeze a few portions for days when we ate not-so-suitable baby food (eg. salad or fish and chips!)

  5. Hi Emma, welcome back from your computer vacation! I bet it was relaxing :) Larissa wasn't interested in solids other than watermelon(!) until well after 9 months. I had the hardest time getting her interested in food. But she got there eventually, and I wasn't in a rush, and now she's quite an adventurous eater! Although I'm sure she'll go through a picky stage at some point :)


Thank you for visiting Craving Fresh, and for taking the time to comment. Your feedback is so important to me.