Feeding your little ones can be a daunting time and with the abundance of conflicting information available, it can also be a confusing process. I hope these questions will help guide you in this exciting journey with your little one.
Question 1 – What time of the day is the best to start introducing solids?
The best time of the day to start offering solids to your baby is when your baby is most alert and awake and in a good happy space. You want to try avoid introducing solids when your baby is too tired or too hungry or too full from a milk feed. During the beginning stages, you do not need to worry too much about introducing at breakfast or at lunch time for example. Choose a time of day that is best on that particular day. The best time would be in between sleep time and in between milk feeds so that you can ensure your baby isn’t too tired, too hungry or too full.
This applies to mom and dad too. In the beginning stages, you do not need to worry too much about routine and if you having a busy day, skip that day and introduce again the following day. You will find that naturally a routine will develop where you offer 1 meal a day, to two meals a day, to 3 meals a day as food will be introduced in accordance with current routine, milk feeds and sleep time.
Question 2 – Must I introduce one food at a time or can I offer a combination?
The commonly recommended first foods are vegetables and fruits which are low allergenic foods. They therefore have a low risk of inducing an allergic reaction. Due to this, some guidelines recommend starting with a vegetable mix such as green veggie mix or orange veggie mix. Although most babies will tolerate the veggie mixes, the disadvantage of this is that if your baby does have a reaction, although unlikely, you will be unable to identify which food was the trigger food. Due to this, some guidelines recommend starting with single vegetable or fruit and increasing from there. Often parents feel conflicted in which way to go. The best recommendation is to choose what you feel more comfortable with. When I started introducing solids to my baby, I started with one vegetable or fruit at a time, and once I had introduced three or four, I combined the vegetables and fruits into mixes. This worked well as also offered a new taste dimension from existing flavours.
For proteins, as these are potentially allergic foods and can induce an allergic reaction, a new protein food should be introduced one at a time every two to three days. Aim to introduce earlier on in the day (i.e. at breakfast or lunch) so that you can monitor your baby for a reaction. Once established on the protein, you can move it to dinner and introduce a new protein at breakfast or lunch. You do not however need to be nervous about introducing foods such as dairy, nut butters, eggs or fish. Previous recommendations advised for potentially allergic foods to be withheld from the diet until later on as to “protect” the body from an allergy. Newer research however contraindicates these previous recommendations and showed that withdrawing these foods could be more detrimental.
If you have a strong family history of allergies and if your baby has an existing allergy, please chat further with your dietician.
Question 3 – Where is the best place to feed my baby?
Traditionally, it was always recommended for babies to be fed in a feeding chair on the counter or table or in a high chair. We do however want to promote sensory stimulation and social aspect at meal times. Meals therefore do not need to limited to the feeding chair. You can feed your baby on your lap or on dad’s lap. Meals do not need to be limited to the kitchen or dining room. When age appropriate, sit on the floor with a blanket or even outside under the trees on a warm day. Aim for family meal times together.
It is important to ensure however that your baby is always well supported and sitting upright when being fed.
Question 4 – Should I encourage messy play?
It is important to always encourage your little ones to interact with food and experience messy play and to explore food. Always offer some food for them to touch, taste and hold when age appropriate. Do not worry regarding mess, the more they touch, smear and play with the food, the better! It will probably end up everywhere, in their hair, up their sleeves or even behind their ears….your baby will love it. Offer different textures such as avocado or banana and steamed broccoli or cauliflower.
If your baby is spoon fed, this can be offered in combination with a meal as to ensure your baby still gets a good nutritional intake.
Question 5 – What milk can my baby progress onto after 1 year of age?
By one year of age, infants can be progressed onto full cream cow’s milk provided your child’s diet is varied and contains foods from all food groups (and your baby does not have an allergy to cow’s milk). By 1 year of age as toddlers are eating a full diet, and due to dairy such a yoghurt and cheese being included in the diet, there is no longer a nutritional demand for milk feeds although by this age, most toddlers will still have a morning feed and bedtime feed. Toddlers who are picky eaters, and those who eat a limited range of foods and or exclude food groups, may require a growing up milk as these are fortified with vitamins and minerals, and provide protein, iron and calcium, which can narrow the gap in the nutritional intake.
If you are unsure whether your toddlers requires a growing milk, be sure to chat further with your dietician.
Wishing you all the best for your journey with your little ones. Remember to always be creative, create a positive environment around meal times, offer variety and keep it fun!