One of the most daunting milestones for me as a new mom has been introducing solids to my son. At first, I was so overwhelmed with all the information out there and the opposing views on when to start one’s baby on solids.
Luckily for me, I go this private baby clinic where the nurse who runs it educates and supports new moms with these types of milestones. Some people and experts will encourage one to wait till 6 months to introduce solids, but much like pregnancy, no two are alike. You could start your little one on solids as young as 4 months IF AND ONLY IF they show any of the following signs that they are ready for solids:
- Has good head and neck control and can sit upright when supported.
- Must be able to push up on their arms when lying on the tummy.
- Shows an interest in food, e.g – looking at what’s on your plate and reaches out for food.
- Opens his /her mouth when you offer food on a spoon.
- Interested in the world around them.
- Demanding to be fed more or waking up more at nights to feeds.
- Losing weight
Esa didn’t display all of these signs mentioned above, he starts out with no1 and watched us like a hawk when we ate, we started feeling bad because he looked like he wanted to taste our food.
How to introduce solids and when
The following information and advice was given to me by the nurses I consulted at the Baby Clinic I attend with Esa and at the Clinic I go to for Esa’s vaccination shots. I was a typical clueless new mom so I researched and spoke to as many experts in the know as possible…
- Offer solids when you and your baby are both happy and relaxed.
- until 6 months, offer breast milk/formula first before giving them solids.
- The closer to 17 weeks (just over 4 months old), the slower the introduction of various foods needs to be. But the closer to six months, the faster you introduce a variety of foods.
- The baby needs to be in the sitting position i.e high chair or slightly reclined.
- Introduce a single food, one at a time and a new food every 2-3 days. Watch for any allergic reactions, like diarrhoea, rash or vomiting. If any of these happen, consult your doctor or clinic immediately.
- I was told to start with all the orange and yellow veggies as these are naturally sweeter.
- I started with butternut, pumpkin, carrots, sweet potato then we eventually did marrows, patty pans, green beans and broccoli.
- DO NOT add sugar or salt to food, this is a very very important point, to your taste buds this may seem bland but for a baby, they won’t miss it because they have never tasted seasoned food before.
- Those first few times introducing food to your baby, don’t give them more than a teaspoon of food, and they will not eat it at first because they won’t know what it is. It takes 8-10 exposures for food acceptance. So don’t give up too soon with new tastes and foods.
- Once you have introduced all the veggies individually, you can start combining them.
- Once baby starts solids, its a good time to offer baby cooled boiled water in small amounts to start with. It may take them a little while to get used to the taste of water. Always offer water after every meal and periodically throughout the day so that they do not become constipated.
- NO JUICES AND TEAS (as tea can delay absorption of iron) until 1 year of age.
- If there is a family history of allergy to specific food, delay introduction to 12 months of age.
- Increase the amount of food as your baby grows, according to his/her needs. I started off with 1 tablespoon, and at 5 months I increased 2 tablespoons. Esa is currently almost 8 months old and every since 6 months old he has been on 4 generous tablespoons of food. You’ll know when to increase if baby complains when food is finished and looks like they want more. You’ll recognise the signs when you see them.
4-6 months of age
I personally was advised NOT to give Esa any cereals or porridge as he was at the time, gaining weight quite rapidly and was big for his age, he is only now stabilising with his weight. The nurse I spoke to, advised I just keep him on veggies only and eventually introduce proteins.
At 4 months Esa was only getting solids at ‘lunch time’. At 5 months I started introducing solids at ‘supper time’ (veggies only). At 5 months I started with protein – I mixed ricotta cheese with his food. At 6 months I started other proteins like butter beans and lentils, and also started mixing the veggies together. I also started Esa on breakfast as well and this is when he started eating fruit.
We experimented with Pawpaw, banana, apple and pear. I also mixed in 2 teaspoons of full cream plain yoghurt into his breakfast, he still has this for breakfast now.
Towards the end of six months I started with chicken thighs, I was advised that this part of the chicken is more tasty and moist. I buy the skinless, boneless thighs at Woolworths.
You baby will show you when they have had enough, they will turn their head away or push the food out of their mouth. Don’t force feed your baby. Up till 6 months, always offer your baby milk first before their food, as most of their nutrients they are still relying on getting from their milk.
This was Esa’s food routine:
6am – milk
8am – Breakfast and water
9-10am – nap
10 am – milk
12pm – Lunch and water
2pm – milk
5pm – supper and water
7pm – milk (this is the one before bed, after his bath)
This should sustain him till at least 2am.
At 7 months I started introducing avocado pear (1/4 piece) to his lunch/dinner. I have also given Esa steamed hake as well as beef mince. Bear in mind, Esa was assessed by a professional and found to be rather advanced for his age so we were given the go ahead to introduce more variety, you need to consult your health professional to see where your baby is at.
I have experimented with finger food as well, Esa started teething at 4 and half months, so by 7 months and was also busy getting another four all at once, so I introduced things he could safely suck and bite on like teething biscuits, strawberries and watermelon. Make sure you are constantly watching them because they can sometimes stuff the whole piece in their mouth and not know then what next to do.
Also get them to drink water after every solids feed, to avoid constipation, if you can, try and let your baby sip on water at various times of the day in addition to their milk.
His current routine is as follows:
6am – milk
7:30 -8am – Breakfast and water
9-11am – nap time (anytime between then he will sleep for about 1-2 hours)
11:30am – Lunch and water
12-3pm – He will have another nap during this time or for the whole time period.
3-4:30pm – awake and playtime and will have some milk here
5pm – dinner and water
6:30pm – milk before bed.
* This is just a guideline of what works for Esa, you don’t have to stick to this exactly. This is the routine my nurse advised for Esa.
My favourite recipes
The ‘Sunday Lunch Combo’
This is my favourite to prep for Esa, and this is the one you see me doing for him most weeks as its the easiest for me and I love that it is so nutritious and all encompassing of everything he needs:
skinless, deboned, Chicken thighs
Grill your chicken thighs either in an airfryer (I love using my Philips Airfryer) or just do it in the oven, no need to use any oil or spices. Steam all the veggies together, try not to use a microwave and if you boil you veggies, don’t boil them to death, they should still be bright and delicious looking, then you know you have preserved the nutrients in the veggies.
Use a hand mixer, Nutribullet or Baby Bullet to blend all your ingredients together, always add some cooled boiled water to thin out the mixture.
Place in your Baby Bullet containers or simply use an ice tray to freeze blocks of the food which you can just pop out once hard and store in a plastic container in the freezer. I use 4 blocks from the ice tray for each feed and put it in the microwave for 1 minute just to thaw it.
I will then add some precooked rice (2tbsp) to add texture, as I was told that at this age it is good to start introducing some texture to prevent your baby from being a fussy eater later.
Breakfast Combo 1 – “Mommy, I made a Paw paw”
1/4 medium sized Paw paw
3 small apples (I use the red crunchy ones)
plain full cream yoghurt
I peel and boil the apples till soft, use the water it cooks in when you blend it together. Combine apples, to pawpaw and banana and blend in your choice of blender. Store the same way you do with savoury food and label your containers so you know what you made. I only add the yoghurt just before I serve a portion to Esa.
I have a few more recipes to share but this post is so long, we’ll end it here and I’ll post again on this topic as Esa progresses.
Happy Healthy Fabulous
Photography: Hemisha Bhana