Starting baby on solids can be exciting, fun, and messy. It can also be confusing. But when should you start? How much should you offer? Which foods are best to begin with? The good news is it doesn’t need to be a challenge, and by following a few simple guidelines you can ensure your baby is well-fed with healthy and nutritious food that’s good to grow on.
Is My Child Ready for Solid Food?
The Canadian Paediatric Society says you should start your child on solid foods at six months of age. Developmental milestones that let you know your child is ready to begin eating solids include:
- Your baby seems hungry earlier than usual.
- You baby can sit up without support, and has good control of their neck muscles.
- You baby holds food in their mouth without pushing it out on their tongue right away.
- Your baby shows an interest in food when others are eating.
- Your baby opens their mouth when they see food coming their way.
- Your baby can let you know they don’t want food by leaning back or turning their head away.
Remember that all babies are different and some may start solids just before or just after the six-month mark. However, waiting too long can put your baby at risk for iron-deficiency.
Tips for Introducing Solids
Help your baby develop a lifetime of good eating habits by getting off to the right start. Here are four tips for introducing solid foods:
- Introduce one food at a time and wait 24-48 hours before starting a new food.
- Offer new foods at breakfast or lunch. If your baby has an allergy to a food you will know early in the day instead of close to bedtime.
- Start by feeding your baby 1-2 times a day, and then increase to 3 times a day.
- It can take 15-20 times of offering your baby the same food before they decide if they like it or not. Be patient and don’t give up!
What Food Should I Introduce First?
Health Canada recommends beginning with iron-rich foods, which babies need for many different aspects of their developments. This includes: cooked whole eggs, meat, poultry, and well-cooked legumes. Previously, eggs were held back until 12 months of age as a way to prevent babies from developing an allergy. New guidelines from Health Canada, the Canadian Paediatric Society, Dietitians of Canada, and the Breastfeeding Committee for Canada now recommend introducing whole eggs as soon as your child starts eating solids. Research shows that introducing eggs early can help to lower your baby’s chance of developing egg allergies.
Eggs are a great source of nutrition for your baby. They have six grams of the highest-quality protein and fourteen essential vitamins and nutrients. Eggs are a simple and practical way to add an iron-rich, wholesome food to your baby’s diet. They are also a natural source of choline, which plays an important role in brain development.
When your child is ready for iron-rich foods try offering any and all of the following:
- Mashed yet lumpy fruits and vegetables (the lumps get babies used to the different textures in food).
- Safe finger foods such as pieces of tender, soft-cooked fruits and vegetables, soft, ripe fruit like bananas, grated cheese, grains like quinoa or oatmeal, bread crust and/or toast, yogurt and cottage cheese.
What Foods Should Baby Avoid?
- Honey: It can cause infant botulism if consumed before 12 months of age.
- Milk: Sheep, goat and cow milk is low in iron and doesn’t meet the nutritional needs of babies under 12 months. Offer formula or breastmilk instead.
- Common Choking Hazards: Foods like chunks of raw apples and carrots (grate them instead); fish with bones; popcorn, candy, nuts, raisins and other dried fruit.
- Low-Fat Dairy Products: Babies need the calories from full-fat dairy.
- Sugar and Salt: Use these very sparingly, if at all.
Portion Sizes for Babies
Here’s a sample of what to feed your baby between 6-12 months of age:
- A serving of dairy is equal to ½ cup yogurt, cottage cheese, or grated hard cheese. Liquid milk should be delayed until 12 months.
- A serving of grain is equal to ½ cup cooked grains, ½ cup o-shaped cereal, ½ slice of bread, or 3 crackers.
For more information on the new guidelines and ideas on how to incorporate eggs into your baby’s diet, please click here.