EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW BEFORE YOUR BABY STARTS SOLIDS
Preparing for when your child starts solids can be an exciting yet daunting time especially if it’s your first child. There is so much information and advice available out there as well as a variety of tableware options that you wouldn’t even know where to begin! We’re here to help provide a number of things to consider and think about before starting your baby on solids.Let’s start with when your child should start solids and the signs to look out for. Australia’s infant feeding guidelines recommend exclusive breastfeeding your little one to around six months of age, when solid foods are introduced, however, we also advocate for mothers to feed their child however it suits them whether it be breastmilk and/or formula.
MHere is the list of topics that we will be covering in this article:
1. Signs of readiness for your child to start solids
2. What can happen from starting solids too early?
3. What can happen from starting solids too late?
4. Purée or Baby-Led Weaning?
5. TIPS ON FINGER FOODS
6. Allergies & Food Intolerances
7. Common allergy symptoms
8. Examples of common allergens
9. Food Preparation safety-Cooking, Preparing and Storing
10. Food Intolerances
11. What kitchen tools do I need?
Signs of readiness for your child to start solids:
a) Shows a strong interest when you’re eating by watching you or appears interested in your food. Your child may lean closer or even try to reach out to grab the food.
b) Your child is able to sit with minimal assistance and can control their head.
c) Your child opens their mouth to accept the food that you offer.
d) Your child’s tongue thrust reflex has decreased eg. their tongue didn’t thrust out as much as it used to when you previously offered them food.
What can happen from starting solids too early:
A baby’s gut has to be developed enough in order to process food and if their swallowing reflex is not ready for food, this could potentially lead to food aversions and choking. This can also cause them to drink less milk than the recommended amount. According to studies, there is an increased risk of allergies, obesity and diseases such as diabetes if your little one is exposed to food too early on. Early introduction of solids is considered to be when introduction starts before the age of 17 weeks.
What can happen from starting solids too late:
As your little one gets older, milk no longer becomes enough to support their developing body. If solids are introduced too late, they can be at risk of eg. iron deficiency which can lead to poor growth. Studies have shown that it is recommended that allergen foods such as nuts, dairy, eggs etc. are introduced (individually) from the age of 6 months as delaying or avoiding the introduction of these foods can potentially risk your child developing allergies or food aversions. Late introduction of solids is considered to be when introduction starts after the age of 26 weeks.
Purée or Baby-Led Weaning?
Whether you decide to start your little one off by feeding them purée food, cut-up finger foods or combination of both, it’s totally up to you. Find out what works for you and your little one. Years ago when I was working as an early childhood educator, I looked after a little girl who refused to be spoon fed. Barely a year old, her mum was baffled and stressed, and would spend over an hour each day trying to feed her during pickup time. Together, the management team and I advised Mum that we could try the baby-led weaning method. We partnered up and worked alongside Mum to share information regarding eating tips and children nutrition. In the end, we had a happy Mum and a thriving & confident little bub!
We also cared for little ones whose parents were happy for them to be fed with puréed food. To encourage their independence and confidence, we encouraged these little ones to hold onto the spoon with us to learn how to bring the spoon to their mouths. As they became more capable and interested, we started offering finger foods for them to explore.
If you do go for finger foods, in order to avoid choking hazards, ensure that each piece of food is soft, and are long 2-3 inches strips of easily mashed pieces. Hard foods eg. carrot sticks must be boiled/steamed first. To aid to little one learning how to get a good grip on the food, you can try hacks such as covering the bottom half of the food in powdered cheerios or perhaps leave the peel on the bottom half of a banana strip.
TIPS ON FINGER FOODS
Wash your hands thoroughly before handling food.
When preparing and offering finger foods to your little one, ensure that they do not have any stones (e.g. plum) and pips (e.g. apple). Also remove rough/tough skin off foods such as kiwi fruit etc. or stringy bits from foods such as spinach and long green beans.
To start with, offer soft or cooked vegetables and fruit.
Soften, cook or mash hard foods such as apples and carrots before offering these to your little one.
Your baby’s windpipe is roughly the size of a pinky finger. We recommend offering foods that are HALF the thickness of a pinky finger.
Anything with a round shape can act as a plug that covers the opening of your child’s throat e.g. banana, so ensure that it’s in a long and suitable thin strip for your little one.
As a rule, do not offer whole grapes and chunks of hard nuts and popcorn. Always stay and supervise with babies when they are eating.
Allergies & Food Intolerances
The thought of offering allergen foods to a baby can be very daunting for most parents and can be very scary trying these foods with your child for the first time when waiting to see if there may or may not be a reaction. However, do note that by delaying introduction of these foods, it can potentially increase the risk of your child developing a food allergy.
It is usually recommended that allergen foods are introduced to your baby at around 6 months (and not before 4 months) when commencing solids and all common allergens are included by 12 months. Furthermore, it is recommended that the common allergens such as peanut and egg should be given twice a week once they have been introduced.
When starting solids or when introducing new foods, we recommend offering each food unmixed eg. puréed beef or puréed pumpkin on its own and without any sauces, spices or other foods mixed into it. This may seem strange, however, it gives your baby the opportunity to learn to accept the taste of each food. This is because it allows your baby to taste each food for what it is and accept its mouthfeel.
Aside from this, this habit also allows you to track down any allergies and intolerances after introducing an allergen.
If your baby is 6 months old peanuts should be given as smooth peanut paste, with no added sugar, salt, oil or other additives.
A food allergy is a serious and dangerous immune system reaction after a certain food is eaten or an exposure to even the tiniest of food particles.
Common allergy symptoms:
If your child has a confirmed food allergy, DO NOT FEED it or expose it to your child eg. eating a peanut butter sandwich and then kissing your baby’s face afterwards.
If your little one is showing any of the allergy symptoms above, seek medical advice/help immediately.
Examples of common allergens:
Unlike allergens, food intolerances are less serious and causes digestive problems after a particular food has been consumed. Consult a doctor to determine and confirm whether it is an intolerance or life-threatening food allergy, as well as if the reaction is moderate or severe.
Food Preparation safety-Cooking, Preparing and Storing
A baby’s immune system is still developing and isn’t as strong as an adult’s. This means that they have a higher risk of reacting to bacterial contamination. It is crucial that your child’s food is prepared, cooked, stored and reheated properly to ensure that the risk of contamination from harmful bacteria is avoided as much as possible.
•Ensure that you wash your hands correctly and thoroughly before handling your baby’s bottles and before you start the food preparation so that any bacteria or germs from your hands is not transferred onto your baby’s food.
The correct way to wash your hands throughly is to use warm soapy water, interlace your fingers and clean under your nails whilst singing the ABC song in your head (to ensure that you’re washing long enough!). Then, pat dry your hands with paper towel or a clean and dry hand towel.
•Next, wash your baby’s hands before they eat. When you think about it, your baby is busy exploring and they use their hands a lot! From picking up toys, touching the rug/carpet/floors during tummy time, to touching our faces, the family pets etc.
•The next thing to tick off your checklist is your prep station and utensils. Eg. Chopping boards, kitchen bench, cooking utensils should be properly cleaned with hot soapy water and dried properly before being used.
•When using chopping boards, make sure that you have a separate one for your animal products (i.e. dairy products, meats, poultry, fish and eggs) and another for fruits and vegetables to avoid cross contamination
•Wash fresh produce throughly to remove any dirt of waxy coating.
•When preparing and cooking baby food, make it a habit to always check the use by/best before dates. Do not give your child expired or out of date food.
•When offering fish, chicken or meat, check and be thorough to ensure that any bones have been removed as they can pose as a choking risk.
•All cooked food, including food that is being reheated must be heated to 75 degrees (140℉) as this temperature will kill most common foodborne bacteria. Defrost frozen poultry and rolled & stuffed meats thoroughly before cooking. Always follow cooking instructions in packaged foods.
•Be cautious and careful with hot foods around your baby as they are more sensitive to heat than adults. Make sure that you allow food to cool down properly after cooking/reheated before serving it to your baby.
•When testing to see if the food is warm enough, test it with your lips and not your fingers since lips are more sensitive to heat and can assess the temperature more accurately.
•When using a microwave, pause halfway to stir the food around to evenly distribute the heat and ensure that the food is properly cooked.
•If you’re offering meat, poultry and fish to your child, they must be cooked throughly first and all meat juices are clear.
•Ensure that eggs are cooked thoroughly and that egg whites are solid and opaque. The yegg yolk should be fully cooked, unless the eggs have been pasteurised.
“Only reheat food once since any more than that can increase the chances of bacterial contamination and food poisoning. Food also loses its nutrients with each reheating.”
•If there are any leftover food, make sure that they are stored in a clean and dry airtight container and then immediately placed in the fridge or freezer.
•Always check that your fridge temperature is below 5 degrees (40° F) and that your freezer temperature is below - 18° C (0° F).
•If you’ve prepared food to transport outside of your home, we recommend using an insulated bag and ice pack.
•When storing foods in the fridge or refrigerator, it is important to fully cover them properly to avoid any contamination from other food. If you’re defrosting meat, place them on the lowest level of the fridge so that if there are any liquids that drip from it, it won’t do so onto other foods in the fridge.
What kitchen tools do I need?
From my experience of preparing food for for two little ones, these are my favourite kitchen essentials! They’ve made food preparation and feeding easier and more convenient.
An app on your phone to keep track of food recipes, the foods that your little one has tried and the frequency of it. I use the Annabel Karmel app as I am always wondering what foods and meal to offer next.
First foods ideas to get started with:
- Sweet Potato
Overall, starting solid can be quite daunting but we also recognise that this is an exciting time. This is where we see our little ones reach an incredible milestone and embark on a journey of trying new foods. Lion The Label is a platform where mums and dads can come together to support one another, share tips and ideas as well as their own experiences.