Starting solid foods
Are you introducing food to your baby for the first time? Are you excited? Or do you think it's messy and difficult? Here's everything you need to know! Hopefully, you'll soon see that it's not so difficult and that it can't go wrong, but there's a lot you can do to lay a good foundation for the future.
5 min read
Written by Sara Ask
When can I start?
If your baby eagerly watches every bite you take and is curious about food, you can take advantage of their interest and start giving them small tastes from the age of 4 months. Just not in large quantities – food shouldn't compete with breastfeeding/formula, so just give your baby a taste.
If your baby prefers the breast or bottle there's no rush: Breast milk or formula, in combination with vitamin D, provides all the nutrition with a baby needs during the first 6 months. After that, you should start introducing food, to make sure your baby gets enough iron.
What should I give my baby?
Soft foods are good, for example, vegetables boiled until they are soft, salmon, chicken, potatoes, cooked red lentils, porridge, fruit and berries. The more tastes and consistencies your baby experiences during the first year of life, the better. Tasting repeatedly helps children learn to enjoy new foods. In general, the younger the child, the fewer tastings they need to enjoy a new food, but this can vary from child to child.
In the beginning, most of the food will come back out of your baby's mouth again, sometimes when they're making faces – but this does not necessarily mean that the baby dislikes the food. Your baby needs to learn to move their tongue in a new way to move the food backwards, down into the stomach. It takes different lengths of time for different babies to learn to eat, just like it takes different lengths of time for children to learn to crawl, walk and talk. Swedish research shows that some babies go from eating a spoonful of food to eating a cupful in just a few days, while others need six months to make the same journey – and this is completely normal.
The vomiting reflex – what you need to know
The vomiting reflex is one of the baby's reflexes that stop food from sticking in their throat. It is easy to misinterpret the vomiting reflex and think that the baby has something stuck in their throat, but try to wait and see how the baby handles the situation, because often it's something the baby can deal with on their own. The vomiting reflex is part of learning to eat.
Some babies' vomiting reflex is so far forward in their mouths that they vomit if there's just a little lump in their food. This usually improves over time, but if it's severe, ask your district nurse if you can see a speech therapist with expertise in children's eating, who can guide you.
Is there anything I should avoid?
Avoid honey and foods that can get stuck in the baby's throat, such as whole nuts, pieces of sausage, grapes and cherry tomatoes. Be careful with salt, as it's difficult for babies to regulate a high salt intake themselves. Wait to introduce beetroot juice and green leafy vegetables until the baby is one year old, but don't panic if the baby happens to get a little taste. Avoid green potatoes, unpasteurised milk, rice milk and rice cakes, as these can contain substances that are dangerous for babies and toddlers. Be careful with ice cream, biscuits, sweet things and anything else that tastes nice but doesn't contain any nutrients. Wait to introduce cow's milk as a drink. Milk is very nutritious but doesn't contain any iron, which is one of the most important nutrients for babies. Water is the best drink to offer at mealtimes.
If you suspect that your baby is experiencing food-related discomfort, such as eczema, stomach pain, diarrhoea, constipation or vomiting, consult a doctor to find out if it's an allergy that needs to be investigated further. The most common allergens are milk and eggs. The symptoms can vary from child to child, and this means that it sometimes takes a while to realise that the child has an allergy.
How should I feed my baby?
Lots of parents give their babies pure, bought or homemade, but not all babies like the concept of being fed. Offering finger food or using the Baby-Led Weaning (BLW) method might work better. This involves giving your baby boiled or oven-baked soft food that the baby can hold in their hands and chew on. It doesn't matter if your baby doesn't have teeth; they can mash the food on their gums.
However you choose to introduce food to your child, it's always important to supervise the child during the meal. Eat at the same time, so your baby understands that eating is important and enjoyable. You're the most important role model for your baby!
Written by Sara Ask
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