Introducing first foods to your baby can be an overwhelming experience, especially when it comes to choosing how they will be eating their food and what are the best ways are to include key nutrients in their diet. Baby led weaning has become popular in the last few years, challenging the convention of purees only.
When you first introduce solids, most babies will eat small amounts so understanding how to pack their food full of nourishing ingredients is a must. After 6 months babies need higher amounts of iron, omega 3 and zinc than can be found in milk or formula. Offering nutrient dense foods will make nourishing your child a lot easier.
Most first-time parents are bombarded with an overwhelming amount of information on when to start, how to feed and how much to feed.
We’re going to narrow it down for you and help you make the right choices for both you and your baby, after all its about what you are comfortable with as well as what will suit your baby.
There is conflicting evidence on when to start your baby on solids. Instead of focusing solely on how old your baby is, there are a few developmental milestones that you can look for to help determine if your baby is ready. Keeping in mind these signs, most babies will start solids around 5-6 months of age.
- Showing interest! If your baby is grabbing your food or following your food with their eyes this is a great indication that they are ready to explore solids.
- To start solids a child needs to be able to sit unassisted. Their digestive system is made up of muscles. If these muscles cannot support your baby in the seated position, then they will not be strong enough to digest food.
- Your baby needs to have lost the tongue thrust reflex. This reflex pushes food and objects out of their mouths to prevent choking, if your baby is still doing this then they are not considered ready to start solids.
Puree or Baby Lead Weaning (BLW)?
We’re going to give you a little bit of information on ways to introduce first foods, you can choose to do one or the other or a mix of both. As a feeding therapist, I recommend a mix of both, for normally developing children..
Baby led weaning
This type of feeding is more of a self-feeding approach.
You cut safe size (finger) pieces of food for your child and give it to them to feed themselves. You have to make sure that they can squish the food between their tongue and roof of their mouth as this is how they start off eating.
The general rule is that if you can’t mush the food between your fingers then it’s not soft enough for them to safely eat.
This is a great way of feeding as they get to explore colour, taste and texture of different types of food.
They also develop their gag reflex quicker as they will learn that food that isn’t chewed properly will have to be brought back up as a protective measure against choking.
On the downside, it is hard to determine how much food your baby is actually getting, this method also instigates a lot of gagging (which is normal) and a lot of parents find this very distressing.
Puree feeding is spoon feeding your child with liquidised foods, either made fresh at home or store bought.
This type of feeding is great as you know exactly how much food your baby is getting.
If the puree is made at home then you know that your baby is getting a great amount of nutrients, especially if the produce is organically sourced.
On the other hand, this can teach babies to overindulge in food and not understand when they are full.
As they are not holding the cutlery themselves, parents have a tendency to give them ‘one last spoonful’ when some of the time they are most definitely full.
Puree bought from the store can also have very little nutrient value so making them at home is recommended.
This can be a time consuming task but if it suits your style of parenting then homemade puree is great! Thermomixes make this really easy.
The bottom line
A mixture of baby led weaning and purees is a great way to introduce solids to your baby. This way your baby can explore the food’s taste, texture and colour while also learning how to use utensils and understanding when they are full. Parents know how much food their baby is having, and they can also give their baby some independence in feeding themselves as this is a huge area for developing the pincer grasp (thumb and forefinger grip).
If you would like some one on one support to guide you on your solids journey, reach out today for an appointment!