Healthy Living in the North

Feeding our babies: at what age can we start offering solid foods?

The question

As a mom, I know it can be hard to get straight answers to parenting questions. Websites and discussion boards offer so many conflicting opinions (right?). Even professional recommendations sometime vary. This can be confusing… and frustrating!

baby eating solid foods in high chair

At six months, my daughter let us know she was ready for solids. Here she is eating little bits of soft stew meat as her first food!

As a dietitian, I also know people have a LOT of questions about feeding their babies. Here’s an important one: “When is the ‘right’ time to start offering solid food?”

The recommendation

Northern Health supports the following recommendations from World Health Organization, Health Canada, Canadian Pediatric Society, Dietitians of Canada, Breastfeeding Committee for Canada, and Perinatal Services BC:

  • Infants are exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life
  • With continued breastfeeding, complementary solid foods and other fluids are introduced around the age of six months of life
  • Continued breastfeeding is recommended for up to two years and beyond

Well, now that’s a mouthful! Let’s simplify that:

“Breastmilk is the only food a baby needs for the first six months. After that, keep breastfeeding and offer nutritious foods, too.”

The details

Since there are some variations in when babies are ready to eat food, we see the language of starting foods at about six months of age. Some babies will be ready for food a few weeks earlier than six months, some a few weeks later. Your baby will give you signs, not just that they are interested in food, but also that they are developmentally ready. Your baby may be ready for solids if they can:

  • Sit up, unsupported
  • Open their mouth for food
  • Turn their head when they are full

Our daughter let us know when she was ready, which, for her, was just before six months (I have proud mama pictures of her eating little bits of soft stew meat as her first food. So cute!).

More questions

“Don’t some people say, ‘Food before one is just for fun’?”

Red flag! This phrase is concerning because we know how important food is for babies, starting at about six months. One big reason is the increased need for iron at this age. Other reasons include involving babies in family meals and supporting the development of their eating and food acceptance skills.

“What about children at risk for food allergies?”

You may have seen some media stories about the prevention of peanut allergy, where “four-to-six months” is sometimes mentioned. To clarify, the majority of families (98-99%) can introduce peanuts, at home, when baby is about six months old (for more information about safely introducing peanuts and other common food allergens, see Reducing Risk of Food Allergy in your Baby). For a baby with egg allergy or severe eczema (this is not common), their doctor can help make an individualized plan that may involve testing for peanut allergy before introducing peanut-containing foods.

Want up-to-date information on first foods for babies? Check out the following resources:

Lise Luppens

About Lise Luppens

Lise is a registered dietitian with Northern Health's regional Population Health team, where her work focuses on nutrition in the early years. She is passionate about supporting children's innate eating capabilities and the development of lifelong eating competence. Her passion for food extends beyond her work, and her young family enjoys cooking, local foods, and lazy gardening. In her free time, you might also find her exploring beautiful northwest BC by foot, ski, kayak or kite.

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Making your own baby food

Solid foods for babies on a plate.

At about six months old, your baby may be ready for solid foods. Some easy prep will give your baby lots of textures and options to explore! Trying new foods with your baby is a time of exploration and fun. Enjoy the experience!

Many parents are interested in making their own baby food. Why? Primarily, it’s cheaper than buying prepared baby foods and is easy to do. You also have full control over what your baby is eating and you can introduce them to the foods your family eats. At about six months old, your baby will be ready for solid foods.

When offering your baby food:

  • Start by offering food a couple times a day. By the time your baby is close to nine months, they should be eating 2-3 meals a day with 1-2 snacks.
  • To begin, your baby will only eat about a teaspoon of food at a time, so don’t make too much baby food at once.
  • Offer your baby a variety of textures including ground, mashed, soft foods and finger foods.
  • Offer an iron rich food (meat and alternatives or infant cereal) daily.
  • Whenever possible, eat with your baby. They learn from modelling your behaviour.

Baby food prep

  • Some foods like yogurt, rice, and pasta require very little or no prep to make them into baby food. You can cut bread into strips and grate cheese to make them the right size for your baby to hold or pick up.
  • Vegetables: Wash and peel your vegetables, removing any seeds. Chop the vegetable into small pieces and steam over boiling water until soft. Put the cooked vegetable in a bowl with a little water and mash with a fork.
  • Fruit: Pick soft, ripe fruit. Wash and peel the fruit; remove any pits or large seeds. Cut into pieces. Soft fruits like banana and peaches can be mashed with a fork. For firm fruit, before mashing, take the pieces and boil in a small amount of water until soft.
  • Meat & Alternatives: Meats like beef, turkey, wild game, and others should be well cooked and then ground, finely minced, or shredded. Fish can be baked or poached; skin and bones must be removed before mashing with a fork. Soft beans, lentils, and eggs can be mashed with a fork after cooking. A little water might need to be added to moisten.

Trying new foods with your baby is a time of exploration and fun. Enjoy the experience!

For more information visit HealthLink BC.


This article was originally published in the Summer 2016 issue of Healthier You magazine. Read the full issue – all about child health – below!

 

Rebecca Larson

About Rebecca Larson

Rebecca works in Vanderhoof and the surrounding communities as a dietitian. She was born in the north and returned after her schooling. Rebecca loves tobogganing with her daughter in the winter, gardening and camping in the summer and working on her parents cattle ranch in her spare time.

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Pumping iron: First foods for building strong babies

At last, this exciting time has come: your baby is nearing 6 months old and can start to eat solid foods! Their tiny digestive system is now developed enough to handle many of the foods you and your family enjoy! Hooray!

…Now what?!

Giving your baby solid foods for the first time can be both exciting and intimidating. By 6 months, your baby is ready to learn to eat foods with different flavours and textures. He or she needs more nutrients than breast milk or formula can provide. Iron is especially important because your baby only has enough at birth to provide him or her until around 6 months. For this reason, babies’ first foods should be those rich in iron to ensure they have enough of this valuable nutrient for proper growth and development.

Plate of first foods

Babies’ first foods should be those rich in iron. There are lots of options for baby to explore!

Some examples include:

  • Soft, well-cooked meats and poultry (beef, moose, elk, pork, chicken, turkey, lamb)
  • Lumpy-mashed beans, legumes and lentils
  • Tender cooked eggs and tofu
  • Deboned and flaked fish
  • Iron-fortified infant cereal

Meats and poultry can be boiled or poached, and should be ground, minced or mashed. Fish can be poached or baked after removing the skin and bones. Well-cooked beans, lentils, and hard-boiled eggs can be mashed with a fork or potato masher. HealthLink BC has some great recipes for your 6-9 month old baby.

It’s important to make sure your little one is being provided with a variety of soft textures and finger foods. Progressing quickly from puree to soft and lumpy textured foods will encourage your baby to try and enjoy a variety of foods as they get older. Similarly, introducing finger foods early helps your baby get used to different food textures, improves coordination, and encourages self-feeding.

When your baby is eating iron-rich foods two or more times per day, start to offer other foods such as cooked vegetables, soft or cooked fruit, yogurt, pasteurized cheeses and cooked pasta or rice. If you would like to introduce whole cow’s milk, do so when your baby is 9-12 months old and eating a variety of iron-rich foods. This will ensure their digestive system is developed enough to digest cow’s milk and they will not turn down iron-rich foods due to filling up on milk.

Lastly, make mealtimes fun! If he or she is showing interest in feeding him- or herself, let your baby eat with their hands, explore their food and get messy. Allow your little one to eat as much or as little as they want. They will learn to follow their hunger and fullness cues, which will help them build lifelong eating skills and think about food in a positive way.

You can find more information about introducing solid foods and iron-rich first foods from the links below or by contacting HealthLink BC dietitians via email or by dialing 8-1-1.

Resources

Northern Health

HealthLinkBC

Karli Nordman

About Karli Nordman

Karli is a Dietetic Intern completing her internship throughout Northern Health. She has had a growing interest in food and nutrition for as long as she can remember and is a big advocate for a food first approach to overall health and happiness. Her passions are evenly divided between her career path and being outdoors - which makes northern B.C. the perfect place to both learn and explore.

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