Prepare for a Solid Start to Eating- Geelong Surf Coast Living Magazine
This article was originally published in the Geelong Surf Coast Living Magazine- Summer Edition 2017-2018 (page 218). Published quarterly in line with the seasons, the Geelong Surf Coast Living Magazine has become the biggest and most sought after coffee table lifestyle publication in the region. Beautifully designed and presented, each edition of Geelong + Surf Coast Living hosts an abundance of stories featuring locals excelling in a range of areas.
“A good feeding relationship with your child starts at day one and makes all the difference between joy or struggle in feeding”
Ellyn Satter (Dietician, Nutritionist, Family Therapist, Researcher and internationally recognise author)
Your baby’s journey to eating solids starts well before their first bite. To prepare your baby for the best start, learning their feeding cues (behaviour and body language) and what they mean is vital. How does your baby tell you they are hungry?When they are drinking, what do they do to tell you that they need a break or have had enough? Do you follow their lead?
Over time, you will get to know what your newborn baby is telling you and tuning into these cues will help you and your baby to bond and build a trusting relationship with food.
Typically, babies are ready to start solids between the ages of 4 to 6 months when they are showing the following signs:
Physical readiness: Your baby can hold their head up without support and can sit up with support. This ensures that your baby can safely swallow food.
Interest in food: Your baby shows interest in your eating and may smack their lips or reach for your food.
To encourage the development of your baby’s physical skills, engage your baby in tummy time to build up their back and neck muscles. Tummy time can begin from day 1 and includes holding your baby to your chest when you are reclined. Make it fun by talking and singing. Tummy time doesn’t have to be long to be beneficial. Practice tummy time a few times per day, for as long as your baby is happy.
To encourage the development of your baby’s interest in food, show your baby what you are eating and how much you enjoy eating. If you are breastfeeding, your baby will experience a range of tastes from what you eat via your breast milk.
Your 4 to 6-month-old:
Babies learn through play. Learning to eat is just the same. The more your baby plays with their food the more they learn about it- how it feels, smells and looks. Let your baby make a mess and try to avoid wiping their face throughout a meal as this can get very irritating for them.
Invest in a supportive high chair. At this stage, your baby is likely to be finding it hard to stay upright without support. If your baby is leaning over in the chair they may be putting a lot of energy into trying to stay upright and may not be able to think about eating. Roll up towels and wedge them into the sides of the chair. A foot bar will also help your baby to keep stable.
It is ok to start solids slowly. When you think the time is right, you may like to present some puree on your fingers or your baby's hands. There are no rules on what types of food to present first but remember no honey or runny egg until 12 months. Give your baby plenty of opportunities to play with a soft spoon both at the table and in play and then, as a general rule, put food in your baby’s mouth only when they open it to receive the spoon.
Very soft finger food (e.g. steamed vegies, soft fruit or soft cheese) can gradually be offered. Your baby will find it easier to feed themselves these foods if they are cut into long strips.
Milk (breast or formula) continues to be the priority for growth and development and should be fed to your baby before solids are offered. Babies at this age, benefit from foods that are high in iron as their stores of this mineral are beginning to decline. Examples of iron rich food are red meat, wholegrain cereals and dark green vegetables.
A baby's appetite will naturally change from day to day and they will signal this in a range of ways. If they are leaning towards you, opening their mouth and bringing food to their mouth it means they are happy eating and would like more. If they are turning their heads away, closing their mouth, pushing the spoon or holding food in their mouth for a long time, they have had enough. It is important to respect these cues. Continually ignoring them can often creates stress, a poor feeding relationship and may increase the likelihood of a pattern of fussy eating.
Mouthing non-food items and hard foods that don’t break off in the mouth is an important part of learning to chew. Long hard items, such as a plastic spoon or stick of celery, encourage sideways tongue movement which is necessary for chewing.
Try to be relaxed when feeding your baby. Your baby can easily pick up your emotions and if you are feeling anxious, your baby will likely feel anxious as well. Understand the difference between gagging and choking. There are excellent paediatric first aid courses now available to parents.
Want to know more? To book a public or private Starting Solids Workshop click here