Video URL
Tue 29 September 2020

Rebecca, a Maternal and Child Health Nurse from the Boroondara, presents a mini session on introducing solid food to babies. Find out when, how and why solids are important as your baby enters a new and exciting time of their development.

Audio description

Hi and welcome to a mini session on introducing solids to your baby.

My name is Rebecca and I’m a Maternal Child Health Nurse.

Today’s session will briefly discuss the introduction of solids. If you’d like more information or a more detailed explanation you can contact your Maternal Child Health Nurse, or if you are a resident of Boroondara you can book into one of our workshops on Introducing Solids to your baby which can be found through the website.

Introducing solids is an important part of your baby’s first 12 months of life. Introducing solids help to keep them happy, healthy and also meets their increasing nutritional needs as they continue to grow. Most babies by the time they have reached 12 months will have tripled their birth weight.

We know that breast milk is the perfect food for your baby. The World Health Organisation recommends exclusively breastfeeding your baby until they are 6 months of age. From 6 months, iron levels start to reduce in breast milk and so this is when it is important to start increasing and introducing solid food for your baby.

From around 6 months but not before 4 months of age and when you see signs of readiness in your baby, they should be offered a range of foods of appropriate textures and consistency according to their developmental age.

Delaying the introduction of solids for your baby may cause their growth to slow down. It can also cause a nutrient deficiency as well as delay fine and gross motor skills as well as speech development. It can also increase their chances of developing a food allergy it they are not offered the right foods within the right amount of time.

Signs that your baby might be ready for food are that they can sit with support and have good head control. When watching you eat they may lean forwards and closely observe your mouth chewing. They will start to open their mouths when food is offered as well as reaching out to grab food or a spoon that may be within reach.

The first foods to start introducing to your baby should be iron rich foods such as infant cereals fortified with iron, pureed meat, including lamb, beef, chicken and fish. You can also introduce legumes and tofu as well as a variety of pureed fruits and vegetables. You can also offer yoghurts or cheese and custards as a way of introducing dairy to their diet.

Examples of foods to offer may be stewed fruit mixed in infant cereal, mashed avocado and puree chicken, lentil soup or stew with some meat and a variety of vegetables. Foods can be offered in any order and at a rate that suits your baby.

Babies can sometimes refuse a new food when it is first offered, this doesn’t mean your baby doesn’t like this food as it may take several attempts before they get used to the taste and the texture of what you are offering them.

Different cultures will offer different foods and this is fine as long as they are iron rich and nutritious. Different textures are also important to give as this will help to meet your child’s nutritional and developmental needs.

It is important that you continue to offer breast milk or infant formula to your baby before their solids as this is still the main source of nutrition.

About 30-60 minutes after a breastfeed you can give them some cereal and fruits or you can offer them some vegetables with some meat. It should only be 1-2 teaspoons in the beginning slowly increasing to 1-2 tablespoons as they’re offered a wider variety of fruits and vegetables and food. Between 9-10 months of age you can start to offer food before breast milk or infant formula. Over the next few months your baby will start to reduce the amount of milk they are taking and increase the amount of solids. By 12 months they should be predominantly food focused. Infant formula is no longer required beyond 12 months of age however you can continue to breastfeed for as long as you and your baby want well beyond 12 months. 

There are some foods that should not be offered to your baby.

Items such as raw apple, raw carrot, whole nuts or raw egg are not safe to give.

Food with added salt or sugar should also be avoided.

We know that salt and sugar is addictive and although the food tastes bland to us, your baby doesn’t know any different. If you are going to use a pasta sauce or a stock bought from the store try to use the salt reduced option.

Honey should also not be given as it can cause botulism (a bacteria that can be harmful to babies).

This should be avoided until 12 months of age.

Drinks such a fruit juices, including freshly squeezed, cordial and soft drinks have no nutritional value, are high in salt and sugar and should not be offered to your baby. Teas or coffee or any drink with caffeine should also not be offered as these are unsafe to give and are not an appropriate drink for your baby.

Cow’s milk is also safe to give as a way of introducing solids however it should not be replacing any breast feeds or infant formula before 12 months of age. Beyond 12 months you can offer cow’s milk as part of their dairy intake. Water, cooled and boiled within a cup is safe to give from 6 months of age and should be offered in a ‘sippy’ cup.

Allergen foods should also be offered between 6 and 12 months of age. These foods may include well cooked egg, all variety of nuts in the form of a paste, shellfish, soy, wheat and dairy. Delaying the introduction of allergen foods may increase your child's risks of developing an allergy.

When giving allergen foods, start with only one allergen food at a time and always in the morning to monitor for any reaction. The allergen food should be given for 3 days in a row, increasing the amount being offered each day. If there is no reaction then the allergen food should be offered twice a week as part of a varied diet to maintain tolerance.

Trying a food and then not giving regularly may result in the food allergy developing.

When giving allergen foods if you notice any swelling, colour changes or breathing issues or any behavioural changes after giving the solids you should stop giving the allergen food and seek medical advice.

Food is a learning experience for babies and it is important that they are offered a variety of different textures as well as finger food. With the increase in different textures there can sometimes be gagging. Gagging is different to choking and it is important not to panic. Your baby’s gag reflex will start to reduce around 6 months of age so it is normal if they vomit or cough up bits of food that might have gotten slightly stuck. It is important that they are offered a variety of textures as this is a learning experience and helps them to develop their ability to chew. Not offering a variety of textures has shown through research that children can have feeding issues beyond 15 months of age.

Choking is often silent and will often be associated with a colour change around your babies' mouth, lips or nose. It is important that you never leave your baby unattended while they are eating so you can detect if they are choking or gagging.

Starting with purees and moving onto mashed, minced or chopped foods is part of the learning process.

At 6 months of age this might include: pureed fruits, vegetables, meat and yoghurt.

From around 8 months of age most infants can manage lumpier foods or finger foods such as rice, steamed carrot or broccoli, a piece of toast, pieces of fish or grated cheese.

By 12 months of age your baby should be having a wide range of nutritious foods eaten by the rest of the family. Foods such as pasta with Bolognaise sauce, roast chicken with baked potato and vegetables or sandwiches should be part of their daily meals. What you cook for dinner, they can eat for dinner.

An object the size of a 20 cent piece is all it takes for a child under the age of 3 to choke on. Other food items that are hard such a raw apple, raw carrot, whole nuts, cubes of cheese or whole grapes should not be offered to your baby as they do pose a choking hazard.

If you are worried about choking, booking into an infant's first aid course may be beneficial. You can talk to your Maternal and Child Health Nurse about how to go about this.

When starting solids it’s also important that you have the right equipment. A high chair with a 5-point harness is important and making sure that your baby is buckled into it at all times and at all ages. Remembering that meal times can also be messy. Try not to wipe your baby’s face or hands every time they get dirty and allow them to touch the different foods and experience the different textures.  Messy meal times are fun and should be involving the whole family. Try to avoid having electronic devices or toys and books around as these can be distracting to both the baby and to the caregiver offering the solids.

So here are some key points to remember:

Food should be started around 6 months of age but not before 4 months. Breast milk or infant formula are recommended until 12 months of age. You can continue to breastfeed beyond 12 months but all infant formula should be stopped at 12 months of age. Offer food at a time that your baby is happy and alert. Avoid foods with salt or sugar - home cooked and fresh is best. Allergenic foods should not be delayed and should be offered between 6 to 12 months of age.

More information on Starting Solids can be found on the Raising Children’s website or the Better Health Channel. You can also speak to your local Maternal Child health Nurse or contact the Maternal and Health line which is 24 hours. Enjoy this time of giving food to your baby. It’s a fun and exciting time to see them developing and learning and growing in the first 12 months of their life.

Thank you.