If your baby is approaching 6 months old, then get ready to pack your bags for a wondrous food journey. It’s going to be a wild ride! Take a deep breath, keep it simple and read on to find out what you need to know and what you can filter to the wind…
Is baby ready?
Your baby is developmentally ready to start solid foods when:
Baby has lost the tongue thrust reflex (a protective reflex in babies to prevent choking)
Baby has good head and neck control
Baby can sit upright with minimal support
Baby shows an interest in food, including what others are eating
Baby opens his mouth when food is offered on a spoon
Baby puts fingers in her mouth and/or has an increased appetite for breastfeeds or formula
Your baby is unique
Your baby is one-of-a-kind and no other baby will develop in quite the same way. They may take to eating solids like a duck to water or it may take time and plenty of opportunities for them to master the skills of eating. One thing you can count on is that your baby will do it THEIR unique way.
Your baby is driving on L plates
The time between 6-12 months is a time when babies are learning the skills to eat. They won’t be perfect at it or be eating a whole lot consistently in those first few months, though they’ll have a whole lot of fun trying! They will get progressively better at it by 12 months and beyond.
FYI – Each new food is a new taste sensation! Screwed up faces and whole-body shudders are to be expected when trying new foods and this does not necessarily mean your child doesn’t like it. Continue to offer foods your child rejects again in a few days or next week. Taste-buds are always changing their minds and it can take countless exposures to a food for your baby to learn about it. Maybe one day they will enjoy eating it. Curious exploration is more important than eating.
Few foods are “off limits”
Feeding guidelines from the National Health & Medical Research Council of Australia recommend offering as much variety in foods as you can from all food groups when solids are introduced. There is no need to introduce foods one at a time or in a particular order. Offer high iron foods from the start such as iron-fortified baby cereal, pureed meats (all kinds, including chicken and fish), tofu and legumes.
If you have a family history of allergy, there is no benefit to delaying the introduction of those foods. See this information from the Australian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy of the latest advice.
Foods to avoid till after 12 months: milk as a drink (milk added to foods is fine), honey, raw egg (cooked is fine). Don’t give baby added sugar, salt, sugar-sweetened drinks, tea & coffee.
What is NORMAL?
This is how normal, healthy, growing children eat (and still grow):
I sometimes eat a little, sometimes a lot and sometimes nothing at all
I put food in my mouth, and take it out again, and put it in, and take it out. It’s how I learn about food
I sometimes throw food on the floor or drop it to the dog
I eat food because it smells, looks & tastes good to me and because it is familiar
I make a mess with food. I like to squish it in my fingers, my hair, on my body. It’s also how I learn.
I will eat a food one day and not the next. This doesn’t necessarily mean I don’t like it anymore.
Unfamiliar foods may be scary to me & I need time to learn to like them
Be guided by your little one with feeding. Your child has much more to teach you about how to feed than you will glean from any textbook or blog article. Through your feeding relationship, your baby will teach you more about himself, and you, than you ever imagined. They will teach you their own way of exploring and creeping up on new foods. Feeding goes well when we support our kids by providing structure for what, when and where children eat and let them decide the how much and whether to eat from what we provide them. Feeding kids well is a lot about letting go.
Enjoy your food journey together and eat happy!
Accredited Practising Dietitian & Director
Post edited: 22 June 2020