Starting on Solids
By the fifth or sixth month, your baby will be beginning another new exciting phase in life- eating! Unless you have had a baby before, you will never quite know how challenging it is to feed a baby. Some babies seem to enjoy eating, and are happy to take in mouthful after mouthful of baby food. Other babies resist being fed, twisting and turning in their high chair to the frustration of their mums. So if you have ever thought eating would come naturally to baby, think again.
Before you start, it helps to be ready - mentally, emotionally and psychologically. You need to know it is not your fault if baby refuses the special fish and carrot porridge you so painstakingly took the trouble to make.
Be prepared for:
- Food splatters: Baby may find food is more fun to play with than to be eaten.
- Long feeding times: There are days when baby just has less appetite than usual. Be patient and decide whether you want to stop feeding, and continue later when baby gets really hungry.
- Rejections: Don’t take it personally when baby spits out the food you prepared; eating solid foods is, after all, a transition and baby needs time to get adjusted.
- Adverse reactions to certain foods: Watch out for tell-tale signs of allergies or food intolerance such as rashes and wheezing.
- Inconsistent behaviour: Something that is baby’s favourite this week may be totally snubbed the next week.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that the right time to start baby on solids is when he is around six months old. Avoid introducing solids before that, as his kidneys and digestive system are not fully developed until he turns one. Milk should still be given as baby needs the calcium, protein, vitamins and minerals to build strong teeth, bone mass and muscles.
The best way to start is to instill the message that eating is fun! To do this, get baby to sit at the dining-table together with the rest of the family table during meal times. It does not matter if he is not eating at the same time. He just needs to see the rest of the family members pick up food, chew, swallow and enjoy the social interaction associated with eating.
For the first few months, baby’s food needs to be mashed into a smooth puree to aid digestion. Start small, with just a teaspoon or two. The rest can be refrigerated in ice cube trays for later use. Later, as baby starts teething, larger pieces of food and baby biscuits can be included for him to munch on.
As he reaches the age of one, he can participate by sharing some food from the family table that is suitable for babies such as white rice and small pieces of fish, vegetables or chicken.
Provide baby with a small plastic spoon to practise feeding himself. Never leave baby to eat alone to avoid choking dangers. Supervise older siblings during meal-times in case they attempt to share their food.
When baby won’t eat
Meal times can be turned into battlefields, with a wriggling baby who refuses to eat battling against a mum determined to feed. When that happens, it’s better to step back and cool down. Force-feeding has been proven to be counter-productive, and can even create a permanent dislike for eating.
It helps to find out why your baby is refusing feeds. Possible reasons include:
- Still full: Did baby just have his milk? Was the earlier feed timed too close together? Most babies will eat when hungry, so it is important to time his feeds right.
- Too sleepy or tired: Baby can get cranky when he lacks rest. Best to let him nap first and feed him when he wakes up fresh-faced.
- Stress: Pressurising baby to eat can backfire. Feeding times should be kept relaxed and happy.
- Over-stimulation: Is the television showing a high speed chase or action? Baby can get too engrossed to pay attention to his food.
- Distraction: Are there other children playing near by? Did he just get a new toy? He will be more interested in playing than eating. Remove the distraction to get him eating.
- Fill just the tip of a plastic spoon with a small amount of baby food.
- Avoid adding salt, sugar and spices to baby’s food.
- Never feed leftover food as there’s the risk of food poisoning.
- Leave nuts out of baby’s diet until he is at least five years old.
- Be wary of food for which you have an allergy to, as baby may possibly have inherited it.
- Avoid low fat, high fibre foods as baby needs the calories to grow.
- Feed one type of food at one time so that you can keep track of the food that is causing an allergy or adverse reactions.