What are the signs my baby might be ready for solids?
If your baby seems to be hungrier than usual and no longer settles well after a feed, or he starts waking during the night, he may be ready for solids. He may also start to show an interest when he sees you eating, perhaps reaching out for your food! In order to begin this new process, however, he needs to be able to sit up well when supported or in a highchair, and be capable of holding up his head.
How do I begin?
Remember, your baby has to learn how to eat; it won’t necessarily come naturally to him, so be prepared to take your time. For your first try, offer him the breast or a little formula milk first, to take the edge off his hunger. Then offer some bland baby rice cereal mixed with breast or formula milk to the recommended consistency (as a rule, go with one teaspoon of cereal to four to five teaspoons of milk). Your baby may not actually eat anything at all, but just getting him to feel the sensation of the spoon on his lips and the food on the tip of his tongue will be an accomplishment. If he loses interest or turns his head away from the spoon, don’t persist – for the first few solid feeds, one to two spoonfuls is all you should really try to have him take anyway. Aim to give him solids twice a day.
Be prepared for a big difference in your baby’s nappies once he starts having solids – especially if you’ve been exclusively breastfeeding. Even tiny amounts of solids will increase the odour and make the contents of his nappy firmer!
What should I give him?
For the first few days, stick with baby rice cereal mixed with breast or formula milk (don’t use cows’ milk as your baby’s digestive system can’t yet cope with it). If your baby seems happy to take the food off the spoon and is swallowing it fairly easily you can start to vary what you offer him, but don’t inundate him. Try one new food every three or four days, as this will make it easier to pinpoint a possible food allergy if there is any reaction (be on the lookout for unexplained rashes, excess gas, vomiting or diarrhoea). Move on to puréed or finely mashed fruit and vegetables: apples, and pears, and naturally sweet root vegetables such as carrots, parsnip and sweet potato. Mashed banana and avocadoes are also a good option, especially if you’re too rushed to purée. Jarred foods are fine if you’re too busy to make your baby’s food – but don’t feed him directly from the jar, as the spoon could transfer bacteria back into the leftovers.
What about drinks?
You should keep giving your baby breast or formula milk for his first year, since it supplies nutrients he won’t yet get from solid food (bear in mind that the World Health Organisation recommends breastfeeding, alongside solids, until your baby is two or older). You can give your baby water from six months but limit him to an ounce or so after meals so he doesn’t fill up on it.
Fruit juice can be a healthy part of your baby’s diet, but it is recommended you hold off until your baby is at least six months and then give juice only at mealtimes. Dilute it so it’s one part juice to ten parts water, and give it in a cup to reduce the length of time it comes into contact with your baby’s gums and developing teeth. Don’t give your baby cows’ milk until he’s over one – once he passes that age give him full-fat milk until he’s over two, when you can switch to half-fat.