When to start your baby on solid foods
The World Health Organization recommends that solid foods are to be added to a baby’s diet to complement their milk after 6 months of age, increasing amounts until at least 9 months of age. Starting out with small amounts of food and gradually increasing to 2-3 meals a day by the 9th month. Some doctors are recommending solids as early as 4 months of age, but be sure to ask your doctor before introducing foods.
Milk is still very important for the first 9 months and is a perfectly balanced and suited food for your baby. Feeding your baby his milk first and then offering solids 15 to 20 minutes later will ensure that your baby maintains balanced nutrition and that the solid foods remain a complement to milk.
Solids don’t improve Sleep
Many people think that starting solids will help a baby sleep longer in the night. At this young age it’s likely not true. What we do often see is sleep disruptions with babies who are starting solids. This can be attributed to a few factors. Often babies will fill up on solids and get less milk if they are eating too much or having solid foods before their milk. This can upset the balance of nutrients the child is getting and may cause babies to wake in the night hungry. Eating solids too close to bedtime can also disturb sleep if the baby has a full belly or a possible reaction to a new food. Starting solids often causes some changes in digestion and many babies will get a bit constipated or have bowel movements at unusual times. Ensuring the baby maintains adequate milk intake, solids are increased gradually, and that new foods are introduced earlier in the day should help alleviate any sleep issues.
Introducing Solid Foods
There has been a lot of debate on what food is the best to first introduce to your baby and what foods to avoid in an attempt to decrease the risk of allergies. However, the general school of thought now is that there is no “best” order. What is more important is that your baby is exposed to a variety of healthy, nutritious whole foods that are prepared in a way that is safe for her to eat (to prevent choking).
Research has shown that your baby’s iron stores begin to deplete around 6 months, so iron-rich foods are an important part of your baby’s diet. Natural sources of iron are more readily absorbed than iron-enriched or fortified foods. Some examples of iron-rich foods are: beef, pork, lamb, chicken, turkey, fish, tofu, beans and other legumes, eggs, sweet potato, mushrooms, broccoli, and iron fortified infant cereal. Vitamin C helps the absorption of iron and can be found in citrus fruits, berries, green vegetables, peaches, apples, bananas and tomatoes.
Below you will find a sample of foods and how to prepare them based on your baby’s age. This does not encompass all foods and is more about offering ideas rather than hard rules. Overall, never try to force your baby to eat; let her decide how much to eat. It is your job to offer a variety of healthy options and to aid your child in developing healthy eating habits. Sometimes it takes exposing your baby 15 (or more) times to a food before she will consider eating it so be patient and relaxed and wait a few days or weeks before trying it again. Many babies love to experiment and play with their food and may resist being spoon fed. This is all part of her learning about eating and food.