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Your Baby’s First Foods

When your baby is 4-6 months old it is 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 somewhere in between? The jury is still out on that 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 do not provide enough iron, zinc or calories to meet your babies needs. Your baby is not ready yet if:

* He/She is younger than 4 months (ie: before 17 weeks).

* They can not sit up in a semi reclined high chair without falling to one side.

* Your Dr has advised you to delay solids due to medical conditions.

* Preemie 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 until 6 months. The reason for this recommendation was to decrease the number of infant deaths in developing countries. When solids or even formula are introduced in unsanitary conditions there is a high risk of gastroenteritis and infection – the older an infant is the greater the chance of survival. However in developed countries studies have shown no difference in rates of gastroenteritis when solids are introduced at 4 months. WHO also mentions that exclusive breastfeeding to six months could lead to growth faltering, iron and other micro-nutrient deficiencies in some infants.

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 just not be ready. Alternatively you as a parent may not be ready – you might be away on holidays, nervous about starting solids or just enjoying the simplicity of exclusively breastfeeding. Do not stress waiting until 6 months is totally fine. You will just need to move through the first stages of solids a little quicker than if you started at 4 months to ensure that your baby gets meat included in their diet sooner.

If you start at 4 months you can take it slow, there is no rush, nutritionally breast milk or formula is fine until 6 months so food is a bonus. By the time your baby reaches 6 months they will have tried a range of fruits, vegetables and cereals so you can easily add the meat they need to give the needed iron and zinc. You will also have longer on puree before transitioning to the lumpy texture.

Before you start you will need:

* A good high chair – this is an item worth investing in as it will be used everyday for the next couple of years. Look for one with a removable tray, adjustable tilt on the seat, vinyl so it can be easily wiped, wheels so you can pull it closer to you, height adjustable so you can swap from bench to dining table, harness straps for safety, a colour and design that you like – it will be in your kitchen for a while and finally it has to fit your budget.

There are reviews for many of the high chairs on YouTube so before you buy do a quick search for the ones you are considering.

* bowls – look for suction bottomed bowls so when your little one starts self feeding there are less accidents.

* spoons – first spoons should be soft and the head of the spoon smaller than a teaspoon.

* bibs – I like the plastic scoop ones that can go in the dishwasher but if they are too big use fabric ones to start – pumpkin will stain so don’t choose white.

* Food – You can make your own and freeze it or buy age appropriate shop prepared baby food.

* Ensure everything is clean and your hands are washed before preparing or feeding food to your baby.

FAQ

When do I add another meal in the day? Once your baby is happily eating 2-3 Tablespoons it is time to add another meal.

When do I start lumpy foods instead of puree? at 6-9 months babies start to chew even though they have no teeth, this is when you can start to have small soft lumps in the food. Chewing helps develop the jaw muscles which is important for speech. By 9-12 months you can start finger foods. (Note if you are starting solids at 6 months start with puree first).

When can my baby have water from a sippy cup? From about 6 months you can offer water from a soft spouted sippy cup (water not juice is best).

When do I swap and offer breastfeed after the solids instead of before? By 9 months solid meals should be quite substantial and you can start to offer the breast feed second at meal times. The amount taken at these feeds will gradually decrease.

Why do people say different things about when to start foods that can cause allergies? Quite a number of years ago it was speculated that delaying the introduction of allergy risk foods such as egg, peanuts, nuts, wheat, cow’s milk and fish may help prevent food allergies. Studies done since have shown this to be of no benefit In fact new studies seem to indicate that the opposite may be true with one showing that introducing wheat prior to 6 months decreased the risk of coeliac disease and wheat allergy. Other studies are still needed into 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 allergy then you know that they can be life threatening, so please consult with your doctor or dietitian about the best time for you to introduce these foods.

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