Breastfeeding is recommended as a baby’s only food until six months of age. At six months, most infants are ready to start solid foods. Breastmilk continues to be an important part of your baby’s diet for the first two years of life and beyond. Breastmilk provides nutritional benefits ; immune factors are passed on to the baby through mother’s milk as long as the baby nurses.
Why wait until six months to give solid foods?
- Digestion is not ready for solid food before six months.
- Baby cannot take food well from a spoon before six months.
- Breastmilk gives all the nutrition needed.
How can you tell if your baby is ready to start solids?
General guidelines that a baby is ready for solid foods:
- Interest in food when others eat
- Head and neck control
- Sit with support
- Move food around in mouth and swallow
- Close mouth over a spoon
- Turn head away or close mouth when there is no interest in food
It is important to start introducing solids when your baby is ready. Start slowly and gradually add more. Solid foods are important as at six months your baby needs more iron and is developmentally ready to learn to eat.
Tips to help you introduce your baby to solids
Start with foods that are a good source of iron. Offer these types of foods every day:
- Well-cooked legumes such as beans, lentils and chickpeas
- Iron-fortified infant cereals
Try one new food at a time.
- Give your baby only one new food at a time. Wait three to five days before you give another new food.
- Baby shows signs of fullness by losing interest in eating, turning away and not opening the mouth.
- Start with small amounts.
- Give one teaspoon or less of a new food; gradually give more.
- When you get started, breastmilk is still the best source of nutrition, so continue to offer milk first before solids.
- You may mix food with breastmilk, but not in a bottle.
- Give single foods first.
- Choose single foods like carrots instead of mixed vegetables or meat and vegetables first.
- Once you’ve tried each of these foods separately (one at a time), then you can try mixed foods.
- Try, try, and try again:
- Offer new foods when your baby is happy, not tired.
- If your baby refuses to eat a new food, try it again in a week or two.
- Teething may upset your baby’s schedule.
- Try not to be restricted by your own food likes/dislikes.
- Foods to avoid:
- Foods sweetened with corn syrup, molasses or artificial sweeteners (e.g., aspartame).
- Honey can cause food poisoning (botulism) if given to a baby under one year.
Try making your own homemade baby food.
The best way to prevent food allergies is to breastfeed exclusively until six months. At about six months, babies are ready for careful introduction of solid foods. Introduce one new food at a time. Continue to breastfeed to two years and beyond.
Watch for signs of allergy when introducing all new foods. A typical allergic reaction may be a skin rash, redness after eating, vomiting, diarrhea, or trouble breathing. More severe reactions can occur. Talk to your health care provider if you think your baby may be having, or has had, an allergic reaction to any food.
If you, your partner or your baby’s siblings have allergies, your baby may be more likely to develop food allergies. Talk to your health care provider if you have any concerns about introducing certain foods.
When you introduce new foods it will take your baby time to adjust. The consistency and colouring of his/her stool will likely change. Expect some changes in you baby’s bowel habits when you introduce solid foods. Some babies may become constipated. Usually this is because they don’t get enough fibre or fluid. What you can do to help:
- Offer your baby 30 ml to 60 ml (1-2 oz) of water occasionally between feedings.
- Continue breastfeeding. Breastmilk is easily digested and promotes healthy intestinal health.
- Offer more fibre-rich foods. A varied intake (for older babies) of fibre-containing foods such as whole grain breads and cereals, fruits (pureed pears, prunes), vegetables and cooked legumes in the baby’s diet – they help get the system moving! Rice cereal may be constipating for some babies. Oat baby cereal is highest in fibre.
- Try gently moving your baby’s legs in a bicycle motion. Exercise helps loosen stools.
Do not give your baby or child laxatives, enemas, suppositories, or any medications without talking to your health care provider first. These may make constipation worse in the long term.
If you have a question please call us at 519.482.3416 or toll-free at 1.877.837.6143. Ask to speak to a public health nurse on the Family Health team.