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Your Baby’s First Foods
When your baby is 4-6 months old it’s time to start introducing solids. This can be daunting for many first-time parents. What do you feed them? How much should you give and when should you start?
when to start 4 months… 6 months… or in between? The jury is still out on this one, so the answer is… when you and your baby are ready. By the time your baby is 6 months old, breast milk or formula alone does not provide enough iron, zinc, or calories to meet your baby’s needs. Your baby is not ready yet if:
* Is less than 4 months old (ie: before 17 weeks).
* They cannot sit in a semi-reclined high chair without falling to one side.
* Your doctor has advised you to delay solids due to medical conditions.
* Premature babies may be advised to delay solids based on their expected due date, check with your doctor.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends exclusive breastfeeding up to 6 months. The reason for this recommendation was to reduce the number of child deaths in developing countries. When introducing solids or even formula in unsanitary conditions, there is a high risk of gastroenteritis and infection: the older a baby, the better the chance of survival. However, in developed countries studies have shown no difference in gastroenteritis rates when solids are introduced at 4 months. The WHO also mentions that exclusive breastfeeding up to six months could lead to growth, iron and other micronutrient deficiencies in some babies.
So why would you wait until 6 months if you live in a developed country? All babies develop at different rates and your baby may not be ready. Alternatively, you, as a parent, may not be ready: you may be away on holiday, nervous about starting solids or simply enjoying the simplicity of exclusive breastfeeding. Don’t stress waiting until 6 months is totally fine. You’ll just have to go through the early stages of solids a little faster than if you started at 4 months to make sure your baby gets meat into their diet sooner.
If you start at 4 months you can take it little by little, there is no rush, nutritionally breast milk or formula is fine until 6 months, so food is an advantage. By the time your baby reaches 6 months, he will have tried a variety of fruits, vegetables and grains so you can easily add the meat he needs to give him the iron and zinc he needs. You’ll also have more time in the puree before going to the lumpy texture.
Before you begin you will need:
* A good high chair – This is an item worth investing in as it will be used every day for the next two years. Look for one with a removable tray, adjustable seat tilt, vinyl for easy cleaning, wheels to bring it closer to you, height adjustable so you can switch from bench to dining table, harness straps for safety, a color and design that you like best: it will be in your kitchen for a while and eventually it should fit your budget.
There are reviews of many high chairs on YouTube, so before you buy, do a quick search for the ones you’re considering.
* bowls – look for bowls with suction bottoms so that when your little one starts self-feeding there are fewer accidents.
* spoons – the first spoons should be soft and the head of the spoon smaller than a teaspoon.
* bibs – I like the plastic spoon ones that are dishwasher safe but if they are too big use cloth ones to start with – the pumpkin will stain so don’t choose white.
* Food: You can make your own and freeze it or buy ready-made baby food at the age-appropriate store.
* Make sure everything is clean and wash your hands before preparing or feeding your baby.
Frequently asked questions
When do I add another meal to the day? Once your baby is happily eating 2-3 spoonfuls, it’s time to add another meal.
When do I start lumpy foods instead of puree? at 6-9 months babies start to chew even if they don’t have teeth, that’s when they can start to have small soft lumps in their food. Chewing helps develop the jaw muscles, which is important for speech. At 9-12 months you can start eating with your fingers. (Note that if you start solids at 6 months start puree first).
When can my baby drink water from a cup? From about 6 months you can offer water from a soft glass to drink (water is best, not juice).
When do I switch and offer breastfeeding after solids instead of before? By 9 months solid meals should be quite substantial and you can start offering breastfeeding second at mealtimes. The amount taken in these foods will gradually decrease.
Why do people say different things about when to start foods that can cause allergies? Several years ago it was speculated that delaying the introduction of allergy-risk foods such as egg, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, cow’s milk and fish could help prevent allergies food Studies since then have shown that this has no benefit. In fact, new studies seem to indicate the opposite may be true with one showing that introducing wheat before 6 months reduced the risk of celiac disease and wheat allergy. Further studies are still needed in this area. For more information on this, see the Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy fact sheet. If you have a family history of food allergies, you know they can be life-threatening, so check with your doctor or dietitian about the best time to introduce these foods.
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