You and your baby have spent the past few months settled in a routine of breast or bottle feeding

, or maybe a mixture of the two. You both probably feel quite comfortable with this now, but there comes a time in every baby’s life when she is ready to take her first few mouthfuls of solid food. This is a big landmark in her development and one about which most parents are proud and apprehensive in equal measure. Many questions arise about what, when and how to feed the baby from this point on. The first question is when. With regards to solids, as with everything else, each baby is unique and the exact timing of the first solid meal varies greatly. The WHO recommends that babies should be started on their first solids from about 6 months of age, but that may be too early or too late in some cases. Beware of introducing them before 5 months of age because her digestive system is still undeveloped and it could increase the likelihood of her suffering from allergies. Signs that indicate your child is ready to start eating An interest in solid food she sees you and other people eating. The ability to sit up, either on her own or supported, and to hold up her own head. Loosing the Extrusion Reflex; in order to be able to keep food in the mouth and swallow it, she must stop pushing it out of her mouth with her tongue. Starting to develop chewing ability and the ability to control food in her mouth as well as swallow. This is an indication that her digestive system is also becoming ready for solids. She may begin teething at around the same time. Increased appetite; she may still seem hungry after feeding. General guidelines for the introduction of solid foods: Introduce new foods gradually, only one per day Introduce new foods early in the day so that you can see any bad reactions Introduce new foods only one or two at a time, which makes it easier to identify the cause of any allergies or reactions. Signs can include diarrhea, a rash, bloated tummy or gas. Give small amounts, but give as much as baby will eat Expect certain meals to be eaten and others rejected Be prepared to introduce new foods take up to 10 times before they are accepted Feed solids and follow the meal with usual breast milk or formula Introduce raisins and other small items after she can pick them up herself as by then she should be able to eat them without choking Keep salt levels to a minimum (see below) Don’t provide too many sweet foods Never add solids such as cereals to her bottle, this may cause her to choke

Use a soft edged rubber spoon, being careful not to injure her gums Look for signs that she is full, such as becoming bored and interested in other things, refusing to open her mouth How much to offer Offer as much food as your baby will eat, starting with only a teaspoonful at first and gradually increasing the portions. Babies that have been exclusively breastfed are used to controlling their nutritional intake and are less likely to over feed than bottle-fed babies. Begin feeding once a day at any time that is convenient for you Offer 2 meals a day from about 7 or 8 months and 3 meals a day from about 9 months Gradually increase the amount and thicken the consistency Until one year of age, breast milk or formula still forms the main bulk of her nutrition. Breast milk or formula must continue until at least one year old. Cow’s milk can be drunk after that. This should be full fat milk until 2 years old. Early Menus Fruit and vegetable purees; such as banana, sweet potato, apple, pumpkin, broccoli and carrot; baby rice, oatmeal, bread and rice crackers are excellent first foods At the beginning they should be very mushy as the baby can only squash them with her tongue before swallowing. Gradually introduce more fruits and vegetables, bread and other carbohydrates, as well as proteins such as tofu, cheese, egg, fish and finally meat.

Foods to Avoid Egg white is more likely to provoke allergies than egg yolk, so it is best to wait until a year old before using egg whites or whole eggs. Oranges and other citrus fruit can cause diarrhea and nappy rash in some babies, especially girls. Try to avoid processed food where possible. Honey should be avoided for the first year as it may contain spores that can cause the Infant Botulism Shellfish, peanuts and peanut butter can be likely to cause allergies if given before one year old Cow’s milk should not be given before one year old It is recommended that the salt intake of babies and young children should be kept to a

minimum. The British Food Standards Agency has issued salt intake targets for children:
• • • • • •

0-6 months, less than 1 gram/day 7-12 months, 1 gram/day 1-3 years, 2 grams/day 4-6 years, 3 grams/day 7-10 years, 5 grams/day 11-14 years, 6 grams/day

If feeding your child or baby the same food as you are to adults, remove her portion before adding salt and other seasonings.

Prepare fruit and vegetable purees, soft rice and other dishes in quantities larger than you need and freeze them. Ice cube trays are useful for freezing small amounts that can be individually defrosted for single meals. If you use ready prepared baby food from a jar, put some in a separate dish and heat it. If you put the baby’s spoon directly into the jar you will have to throw away any uneaten food. Expect to see changes in your baby’s poo as you introduce solids. They will change in colour, odor and consistency. If she becomes constipated or gassy, try changing to different fruits and vegetables. Baby-Led Weaning Many people advocate ‘Baby-Led Weaning’, which is a system of giving babies food that they can eat by themselves, rather than spoon feeding. Foods that are cut into easily graspable shapes, such as bread strips and softly cooked carrot sticks and broccoli florets are presented to the baby so that she can suck and chew on them herself. The idea is that the baby will eat only what she is ready for and able to eat and will, at the same time, learn about foods in their natural forms rather than having everything pureed. It can also help parents to identify any foods that she won’t eat, because foods are presented individually rather than mixed up together. At the beginning, many babies find it difficult to take in a significant amount of nutrition by this method, but as they are still drinking breast milk or formula, this is not a problem.

What equipment do I need? Plastic bowl Soft plastic spoon Bib Cloth for wiping up spills High chair or low chair Where and when should I feed my baby? Habits established early on are hard to break so it is best to start as you mean to continue. Feed your baby in her chair (high or otherwise) and not in front of the television or while she is running around the room. As far as possible eat together as a family so that she can see and learn correct eating habits by watching everyone else. Do not make meals into a battleground, if she doesn’t want to eat a certain food or a great deal, don’t push it. Don’t over feed her. Look for signs that she is full. Keep her diet well balanced with a mixture of vegetables, carbohydrate and protein. Avoid fast food for as long as possible and minimise sweet foods Minimise salt and use fat in moderation Don’t use food as a bribe or reward

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