Introducing Babies to Solid Foods

Paediatricians recommend breast milk as the primary source of nutrition for the first six months of a baby’s life. By the time your infant is 4 to 6 months old, you've probably mastered the art of breastfeeding or formula feeding. But once your baby is six months old, breast milk is still healthy and beneficial, and it should be your child's primary source of nutrition. But your baby needs additional nutrients from food, especially iron, protein, and zinc. At this point, your baby is ready for baby food or solid foods. Your baby's paediatrician will advise you when it's time to begin introducing your baby to solids. Though it is recommended that you should start your child on solids between 4 and 6 months, but the answer depends on your baby. Remember, there's no need to rush this milestone. But how do you know if your baby is ready for foods other than breast milk or infant formula? You can look for these signs that your child is developmentally ready:

  • Your baby can sit up with little or no support
  • Your baby has good head control
  • Your baby opens his or her mouth and leans forward when food is offered
  • Your baby can turn his or her head away to let you know he or she is full

The ideal way to make eating solids for the first time easier is to give your baby a little breast milk, formula, or both first; then switch to very small half-spoonfuls of food, and finish with more breast milk or formula. At first, some babies refuse solids or have trouble eating new foods. Don’t panic, it is a general phenomenon, keep trying. By tradition, single-grain cereals are usually introduced first. Many pediatricians will recommend starting vegetables before fruits and would also tell you that babies are born with a preference for sweets. While introducing your baby to solid foods, use these tips as they would come in handy:

    • Veggies and fruits in their raw form would be quite hard to chew and swallow for the baby, so they should only be boiled, steamed, and mashed as a smoothie. It’s easier for your child to eat foods that are mashed, pureed, or strained and very smooth in texture. Offer foods one at a time and wait a few days between starting new foods so you can tell if your child reacts to something new.

    • Try and keep the texture of the food as smooth as milk. Till now the baby is familiar with that texture only and understands it quite well, so acceptability of the new diet would not be a problem. Mix cereals and mashed cooked grains with breast milk, formula, or water to make it smooth and easy for your baby to swallow.

    • The baby’s appetite would not be big enough for them to start gorging on food right from day one. It would be minuscule initially and would increase gradually. Therefore, start with a single serving in a day of this new meal initially. At the beginning of this new diet plan, serve food in small quantities. As the baby shows signs of an increases appetite over a period of time, add one more meal in daily intake, and gradually increase the quantity of each serving.

    • Burping is an important part of the baby’s feeding process for their wellness and comfort. When babies are feeding, they take in air, due to which they tend to sit up and feel uncomfortable, making them fussy and cranky. Burping helps to get rid of some of the air that babies tend to swallow during feeding.