Breastfeeding will continue to provide your baby with important nutrients up until 12 months and beyond. However, as they grow bigger, they will need solid foods in addition to breast milk in order to meet additional energy and some specific nutrient needs such as iron which your milk will not provide, which is where baby formula comes in. Introducing solids is also important for helping babies learn to eat, giving them experience of new tastes and textures from a range of foods. It develops their teeth and jaws, and it builds other skills that they’ll need later for language development.

Stage 1: Introduce Purees

This step usually begins with iron-fortified smooth baby cereals (mixed with cooled-boiled water or breast milk), or cooked and puréed vegetables, fruits and meats made into a smooth consistency using a baby food processor, hand held food processor or blender. Start with a few mouthfuls once or twice a day after breastfeeds. Slowly increase the portion to about a quarter to a half of a cup as your baby tolerates and shows signs they want more.

Follow the Right Process

There is much debate on what to feed your child and in what order. Recommendations suggest starting with iron containing foods, including iron-fortified infant cereals, cooked & puréed meats, poultry and fish (all sources of haem iron), or cooked & puréed vegetarian alternatives (e.g. legumes). Keep in mind that the order in which you introduce different fruit and vegetable purees doesn’t really matter. What is important is that you give only single ingredient healthy foods first and wait between each new food to make sure your baby doesn’t have a bad reaction to the food.

Monitor for Signs of Intolerance and Allergy

Overseas evidence shows that food allergies occur in about 4 in 10 infants and young children under the age of 3 years, and there is much debate as to why this is happening. The current recommendation is not to delay the introduction of any highly allergenic solids, however to introduce foods one at a time to help monitor reactions to foods. If your baby develops a rash, swelling, diarrhoea or vomiting after an introduction of a food, they may be intolerant or allergic to that food. Reactions can be mild or severe and may happen within minutes or take hours after a food has been eaten. If you suspect your baby has reacted to a food, seek medical advice as it must be investigated properly.

Stage 2: Introduce lumps

A month or so after the introduction of purees, you can start experimenting with soft lumpy foods. Add well cooked barley or beans to their meals; use a potato masher to mash fruit and vegetables instead of a blender or food processor. As most babies don’t have teeth yet it is important to keep the lumps soft. The lumps help your baby to develop chewing skills and develop tongue strength which adds to the development of speech. Soft fruit like avocado and banana are instant baby foods that only require a little mashing.

Stage 3: Finger foods

By ages 8 to 10 months, most babies can handle small portions of finely chopped finger foods, such as soft fruits, pieces of steamed vegetables, egg, cheese, soft meats and fish. As your baby approaches their first birthday, mashed or chopped versions of whatever the rest of the family is eating will become your baby’s main fare. Continue to offer breast milk or infant formula with and between meals.

So, there you have it. A simple three stage guide to helping you introduce solid foods to your baby. For more information and help with your baby, visit Me and My Child here.