Starting solids is an exciting experience for both baby and parents. Children who have early experiences of eating well, will grow up to become adults who enjoy all kinds food with enthusiasm. So, do take time to make your little one’s first experience with food not only healthy and safe but also fun, easy and memorable!
Here are some tips and suggested tools for starting solids successfully.
1. Timing is everything
The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that babies be breastfed exclusively for the first 6 months. Jennifer Hor of Jenlia Maternal Services who is a midwife, parent educator and author of Asian Parenting Today advises those who want to start weaning before 6 months to discuss it first with their paediatrician.
Letting baby consume solids before his system matures could lead to long-term digestive problems or allergies. It is also helpful to read up on these issues and to observe your child and know him well.
2. Do Not Delay
WHO and UNICEF note that around the age of 6 months an infant’s need for energy and nutrients start to exceed that which is provided by breast milk. Minerals like iron and zinc are also lacking. Whilst breast milk or formula will still be baby’s main source of nutrition till the age of one, complementary foods necessary to meet those needs should be offered through a process known as weaning.
If you leave the introduction of solids too late, you may also encounter other problems. An older baby could be more resistant to new foods and textures. He may also stubbornly cling on to the breast or bottle, and may get so accustomed to his liquid diet that he loses interest in learning to chew and swallow solid foods. This can lead to speech delay and other related issues.
3. Look for Signs
Some signs that your baby is ready: he can sit up in a high chair and hold his head up on his own. Additionally, he shows interest in your food (e.g. he loves watching you eat, reaches out to grab things on your plate and opens his mouth when food is offered). Baby should also have lost the “tongue thrust reflex” that makes him automatically push any food out of his mouth with his tongue. If he is doing all the above, your baby is ready for starting solids.
Get ready, because things may get a little messy. But you can prepare to make things a little easier by prepping yourselves with baby wipes, a baby high chair, and definitely a good bib! One to check out would be OXO Tot Roll Up Bibs, with fabric that rolls up into the pocket for portability.
4. No Cereal in the Bottle Please
This is for babies who are bottle fed. Contrary to any advice an older relative may offer you, baby does not really need the extra calories that cereal adds to formula milk. Thickened formula can lead to overeating and cause gagging. Babies may also accidentally inhale the liquid into their lungs.
5. You don’t have to begin with rice cereal or porridge
Rice cereal or porridge is neutral, risk-free and unlikely to trigger an allergic reaction. However there are other points to consider. For instance, cereal may not be as wholesome as we think it is. Baby may also get so used to this soft diet and become resistant to moving on to more textured foods important to build up his oral motor muscles for speech. Instead, there is a whole movement towards introducing more real foods for babies like vegetable and fruit puree as well as other grains and proteins. Read also about baby led weaning here.
For parents who are going to use fruit purees, it will help to plan meals quick and efficiently. Consider all-in-one containers that can portion, store, freeze, heat and serve home-cooked baby meals. Containers such as OXO Tots’ Glass Baby Blocks, for example, can go directly from the freezer to the oven or microwave. No need to wait until your little one’s meal is fully defrosted before heating it up – a definite timesaver for busy parents. For parents who are always on the go or travelling with baby, tools that can help with pureeing fruit and vegetables with ease like the OXO Tots’ Baby Food Mill, are a godsend.
6. Introduce One New Food at a Time
Wait two to three days when introducing each type of new food, as it’s easier to spot and isolate foods that cause allergic reactions like diarrhoea, vomiting, rashes or breathing problems. Common allergens include egg white, fish and shellfish, wheat, cow’s milk, soy, citrus, and berries. Paediatricians used to recommend delaying the introduction of egg whites, fish, and peanuts. However the American Academy of Paediatrics is now giving these a green light at 6 months. In fact, they believe delaying the introduction of these foods may increase the chances of your child developing an allergy to them.
That said, if there is a family history of food allergies, it is best to discuss with your paediatrician the right timing to introduce high allergy foods. All babies should avoid honey until the first birthday. Honey can be contaminated with botulism spores, and the risk of botulism is greatest in infants.
7. Try and Try Again
Baby may actually need to try a food 10 times before accepting it. Don’t confuse initial rejection with permanent dislike. If baby rejects a food initially, take a break and offer it again another day. You could also opt to mix it in with something you know he already likes.
There is a window of opportunity to introduce children to novel foods that supposedly closes after they are weaned and before they turn two. So, do make the best of this period. Offer different types of tastes and cuisines to develop your child’s palate. Don’t just offer chicken nuggets, macaroni and cheese or spaghetti bolognese. Try Indian dhal and chapathi, Chinese-style steamed fish, or Japanese soba.
You can also try serving food up in a fun and creative way. OXO Tots’ plain feeding plates and bowls, for example, may seem boring and bland at first but these give you more leeway in terms of how you serve the food. With their divided feeding dishes, you can opt to mix different foods up or keep them separate.
8. Replace sugar and salt with herbs and spices
Processed sugar and salt should be avoided during baby weaning, It should also be minimised for older children. A preference for salty foods may predispose your child to high blood pressure, osteoporosis, respiratory illnesses such as asthma, stomach cancer and obesity when they become adults.
Take a page from award-winning chefs who feed their children lots of fresh vegetables and simple foods, regarding these as “the building blocks of flavour”. These chefs believe that “babies have palates that are pure and uncontaminated; and so need to be given clean and fresh foods first.” Baby food does not have to be bland. Try natural spices, herbs and flavour enhancers like pepper, cumin, cilantro, cinnamon, nutmeg, basil, rosemary, lemongrass, tamarind, garlic, lemon zest, chilli or even curry powder!
9. Let Baby Dictate the Pace
Whether you start with fresh purees or finger foods or a combination, your baby should dictate how fast and how much food to eat. When baby eats finger foods or transitions into solids via baby led weaning, this comes naturally.
But if you are spoon-feeding, be mindful of baby’s cues before pushing more food into his mouth. Let him lean forward and open his mouth to show you that he’s ready to have more. You are teaching him to listen to his body and honour his own cues of hunger and fullness. This skill will serve him well throughout life.
As they get older, encouraging them to help themselves will also pave the way for greater independence. Encouraging them to use their own utensils or drink cups themselves will help the process. Using cups like OXO Tots’ Grow Soft Sprout Cup and then continuing to Straw Cups and then Training Cups will help tots (and parents!) transition from their first post-bottle sippy to their first big kid cup in a systematic way.
10. Model Healthy Eating Habits in Your Household
Your child will eventually want to eat exactly what is on your plate. If there are always deep fried foods or sugary treats on your table, that’s what he will see as the norm. It is also important to be honest with kids, and not to trick them into trying something. Children will call out hypocrisy or double standards when they see it.
As a parent, try not to emphasise your own dislike for certain foods, as it will influence your children and cause them to prematurely reject those foods before giving them a chance. Finally, make mealtimes memorable and pleasant.
We hope these tips and tools will help you to triumph at mealtime! Remember that all babies are different and progress at different rates. Some will eat like a pro with no fuss from day one, others will not. Just trust that all babies will get it eventually and do the best you can.
Experienced makchics, please share your own tips, tricks and tools relating to your child’s first solids encounter with us!
By Li-Hsian Choo
OXO Tot is available at Happikiddo and other retailers near you.
This is a sponsored post presented by Bloom and Grow Asia.