At one of our recent Thursday morning Bub Hub gatherings we had a great question about introducing babies to solids. So, we thought we would share some of the information that we gathered with you. The information is general in nature, and we would always recommend seeking medical or specific dietary advice from a Dietician if your bub has specific needs.
Big tips for starting solids:
Make it fun! This is the start of a long food journey; we want to start off with a positive and fun experience. At 6 months it’s not about how much they eat, as they are still getting the majority of their nutritional needs from breast milk / formula. The focus should be on fun, gradual exposure to different tastes, smells, colours, shapes and textures.
Learning to eat takes time! It’s common for parents to think that eating is something that happens easily /quickly. Like lots of other skills, it takes time and practice. Learning to coordinate hands to mouth and manipulation / finger skills is tricky! Embrace the mess! In the warmer weather have food outside in the garden or with their highchair on an easy to clean floor or mat. When my kids were babies I would often let them eat with just a nappy on for that easy wipe down or bath after!
Sitting at the table. Eating together is the best way for young babies to learn. Position your little one so that you are at a similar eye level to avoid parents bending down or babies having to look up. Remember to check your posture, avoid twisting and repetitive strain as this activity happens at a minimum 3 times a day for a couple of years. Make sure that your baby is safely secured in their seat but easy to get out quickly in the event of a choking incident. Have a tray or position the baby’s chair close to the table so that they can select and choose food that they want to try. A little foot support is also helpful in providing more stability and control.
Gagging and choking – there is a difference! Gagging is a good thing. It is a protective reflex! Often parents aren’t prepared for gagging, and this can be scary. So, it is helpful to know that this is actually meant to happen when babies are first learning to eat. We found a helpful and clearly explained article by Annabel Karmel that helps to know the difference between gagging and choking: here.
Be guided by the child as much as possible. Hot tip – have two spoons on the go at once, preload one of them so that’s the baby can pick it up themselves and mouth around with it at their leisure. Find a spoon that is easy to hold and even one that has a slight bend to increase the success of the spoon entering the mouth. A shallower bowl shape can help with lip closure to take food off the spoon.
Offer finger food and more mess. Babies delight in squishing, smearing and playing with their food. More food will be spread about before it gets into their mouths.
Eat together – babies love to watch and copy. When you are eating, they may open and close their mouth to mimic you. This may be an opportunity to try out your food, have a taste, or hold the spoon.
Right from the start get used to describing food tastes and textures. Avoid naming likes or dislikes. If you see your baby grimace rather than saying “oh is that yucky” or saying things like “yummy” describe the food experience to the child – “Oh was that a strong taste?”, or “Did that taste a bit bitter?” or “That was sweet?”.
Keep offering different foods as your baby grows. Our palates change as we mature. Just because a baby/ child doesn’t eat something once doesn’t mean they don’t like it – we are all LEARNING about new foods.
One of our OT’s Cerie Jamieson (who has just gone on maternity leave with her second beautiful bub) suggested Dr Kyla – Baby Mealtimes. Cerie said she was guided a lot by Dr Kyla who is a paediatric dietician and a credible source. Dr Kyla – Baby Mealtimes contains blogs and helpful info for new parents and professionals so may be another useful source.
ROS PULLMAN (Allied Health Assistant).