How Often Should I Give My Baby Solids?

How Often Should I Give My Baby Solids?

Starting solid foods with your baby can be an exciting time, and yet another developmental milestone your baby conquers.

Leading health organisations recommend babies be introduced to solid foods from the time they are around 6 months and developmentally ready to do so.

Read here for more information about how to know when your baby might be ready for solids.

Introducing your baby to solids can also be a daunting time and you may have many questions such as:

What foods should I give my baby?

How much and how often should I give my baby solids?

This article will help you work out answers to these questions and help you feel more confident about giving solid food to your baby.

Introduce Solids At A Rate That Suits Your Baby

If you are breastfeeding, once you begin introducing solids to your baby, continue to breastfeed as often as your baby wants to. This helps avoid your baby’s breastmilk intake being displaced by solid foods, and hence maximises his intake of the important nutritional and immunological properties from breastmilk, especially during his first year.

Breastmilk, or formula, continues to be a baby’s main source of nutrition for the first 12 months.

There is no particular rate for the introduction of solids you have to follow. All babies are different and solids can be introduced at a rate that suits your baby.

Eating Is A Social Event Too

Eating in many societies is a social event. It’s important for your baby to learn about and be involved in this. Have your baby sit with you and your family during meal times as often as possible. Even if he doesn’t eat anything or much, it’s still good for him to be ‘involved’ and observe. To begin with, he may just play with the food, so be prepared for mess! This is part of him learning a new skill. But before you know it, he’ll be an active participant in your family meal times.

Some babies are accepting of being fed with a spoon. While other babies want to explore and only want finger foods.

So, what are appropriate food options?

Iron Rich Foods Should Be First Foods Introduced

There’s no particular order for the introduction of solids foods, other than the first foods should be rich in iron (e.g. pureed meat, poultry and fish, or vegetarian alternatives such as legumes). Vegetables, fruits, and dairy products such as full-fat yoghurt (low fat are higher in sugar) and cheese can then be added. Slow introduction of solid foods is not necessary.

Foods you introduce to your baby should be of high nutrient density and include a variety of foods from each of the five food groups – fruit, vegetables, grains, milk, yoghurt and cheese products and lean meats (or alternatives).

Food offered should be an appropriate texture and consistency for your baby’s stage of development. For example around:

  • 6 months, babies can be offered purees (these should only be ‘required’ for the first couple of weeks or so for most babies), then mashed foods, progressing to minced and chopped foods. Increasing and varying the texture of food offered is important for your baby’s oral motor development. A baby can quickly learn to manage foods of different textures and accept mashed or minced food. Babies who are not given ‘lumpy’ textured food until after 10 months of age tend to have more feeding difficulties at 15 months compared to those introduced to lumpy food between 6 and 9 months.
  • 8 months, most babies can manage ‘finger foods’ (see below for examples).
  • 12 months, solid foods should provide an increasing proportion of your toddler’s energy intake. He should be eating a wide variety of foods. Special ‘toddler milks’ are not required for healthy children.
  • Some parents choose to follow Baby-Led Weaning, which skips purees. You can read more about that here.

The most ideal food for your baby to eat is food you make for the rest of your family (modified as necessary).

First Food Ideas

Here are some great food ideas:

Vegetables

  • Cooked broccoli or cauliflower floret
  • Fingers of cooked veges (e.g. potato, sweet potato, pumpkin, carrot)
  • Grated vegetable (e.g. carrot)

Fruit

  • Grated fruit (e.g. apple, pear),
  • Piece of banana, seedless melon or pawpaw, ripe avocado

Grains

  • Wholemeal toast fingers
  • Sandwiches with avocado spread
  • Cooked and cooled pasta pieces (perhaps mixed with a meat and vegetable casserole)
  • Rice (rice cereal is not necessary, see here)

Meat or Alternative

  • Homemade meatballs
  • Fingers of cooked liver or kidney
  • Lamp chop
  • Meat from a family casserole
  • Grilled meat cut up finely (or blended)
  • Homemade fish fingers or fish cakes
  • Finger of firm tofu
  • Piece of hard-boiled egg
  • Omelette strips

Dairy

  • Cheese fingers
  • Grated cheese
  • Full-fat yoghurt

For more great ideas read here.

There Are Some Foods To Avoid

Small, hard pieces of food should be avoided because they increase the risk of choking. For example foods such as whole nuts, seeds, raw carrot, celery sticks and chunks of apple should be avoided for the first 3 years. However, nut paste spreads can be offered.

Salt should not be added to food, as a baby’s kidneys are immature.

Honey should not be given to a baby under 12 months due to the risk of botulism.

Frequent consumption of added sugars should be avoided and is associated with increased risk of tooth decay.

What About Drinks?

Breastmilk or formula should be a baby’s main drink in the first 12 months. From around 6 months however, small amounts of cooled boiled water can be given to formula-fed babies and can be (but doesn’t have to be) given to breastfed babies. Other drinks (e.g. cows’ milk, fruit juice etc) should not be given during the first 12 months as they can interfere with your baby’s intake of breastmilk or formula. A small amount of cows’ milk on cereal from 6 months is okay though.

In the second year of life, breastmilk continues to provide toddlers with a valuable source of nutrition. Other drinks such as water and pasteurised full-cream milk are also suitable drinks from this age onwards. Other drinks such as sugar-sweetened drinks and fruit juice are best avoided and tea, coffee and other caffeinated drinks are unsuitable.

How Much Solid Food Should My Baby Have?

In general, babies progressively eat a larger volume and variety of foods between 6-12 months. If your baby is growing and developing normally, this is a good indicator he is eating food at a suitable level for him.

The following has been adapted from the Australian Dietary Guidelines (2013) as a guide as to a daily food pattern for babies between 7-12 months. They stress it’s a “guide only, as individual needs may vary.”

Food For Babies Between 7-12 Months

Vegetables and legumes/beans: 20g serve size, 1 ½ – 2 serves per day, 10-14 serves per week

Fruit: 20g serve size, ½ serves per day, 3-4 serves per week

Grain (cereal) foods: 40g bread equivalent serve size, 1 ½ serves per day, 10 serves a week

Infant cereal (dried): 20g serve size, 1 serve per day, 7 serves per week

Lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, legumes/beans: 30g serve size, 1 serve per day, 7 serves per week

Yogurt/cheese or alternatives: 20 mL yoghurt or 10g cheese serve size, 1/2 serves per day, 3-4 serves per week

Breastmilk or formula: 600mL (but wide range of normal), feed according to your individual baby’s need

According to the Australian Dietary Guidelines “An allowance for unsaturated spreads or oils or nut/seed paste of ½ serve (4-15g) per day is included, however whole nuts and seeds are not recommended at this age because they may cause choking.”

Food For Toddlers Between 13-23 Months

Likewise, the following is an adapted guide from the Australian Dietary Guidelines as to a daily food pattern for toddlers between 13–23 months.

Vegetables and legumes/beans: 75g serving size, 2-3 serves per day

Fruit: 150g serving size, ½ serves per day

Grain (cereal) foods: 40g bread equivalent serving size, 4 serves per day

Lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, legumes/beans: 65g serving size, 1 serves per day

Yogurt/cheese or alternatives: 250mL milk equivalent serving size, 1-1 1/2 serves per day

Breastmilk or formula: 600mL (but wide range of normal), feed according to your individual baby’s need

According to the Australian Dietary Guidelines, “An allowance for unsaturated spreads or oils or nut/seed paste of 1 serve (7–10g) per day is included. Whole nuts and seeds are not recommended for children of this age because of the potential choking risk.”

Hopefully introducing solids to your baby is a little less daunting now. Remember, every baby is different and there is a wide range of normal – some infants take to solids quite well at 6 months, while others continue to prefer breastfeeding and do so frequently. Try not to compare what your baby is doing to what other babies are doing. Above all, have fun! And, try not to worry about the mess! You will be able to laugh at years ahead of now.

You may also like to read the following BellyBelly articles:

 
Last Updated: October 23, 2015

CONTRIBUTOR

Renee Kam is mother to Jessica and Lara, an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), a physiotherapist, author of 'The Newborn Baby Manual' and an Australian Breastfeeding Association Counsellor. In her spare time, Renee enjoys spending time with family and friends, horse riding, running and reading.


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