The growth rate during infancy is higher than at any other time of life and therefore the nutritional requirements of your baby are high. Growth charts are a vital tool for both parents and health professionals to monitor growth. The centile that your baby is growing on is not important (all babies do not need to be growing on the 50th centile), what is important is that your baby is growing on their own curve and that height and weight centiles are similar.
Here are some things you need to know when introducing solids to a baby:
What are the most important dietary guidelines?
- Build to a variety of foods
- Listen to your baby’s appetite – it is essential to avoid over or under-feeding. The baby’s own appetite is the best measure to determine their own requirements
- Choose healthy foods which are naturally high in fat and cholesterol (Breast milk is 50% fat, and contains substantial amounts of cholesterol)
- Ensure adequate iron intake as babies require more iron (about 2 Tablespoons of an iron fortified baby cereal provided the baby with their daily iron needs)
What does my baby need during the first 6 months?
- Breast milk or formula provides all that your baby needs – calories, fat, protein, minerals, and vitamins – for normal development, with exception of vitamin D which is obtained from sunlight (30min per week with their nappy on is adequate).
- No solids are needed – the intestinal tract is not fully developed the defenses needed to cope with foreign protein (food). There is a risk of developing allergies if solids are introduced before 17 weeks
What does my baby need from 6 months?
- Energy from solid food is necessary
- Iron is essential, if iron is not added to diet at this time, there is a high risk of iron deficiency in later infancy. As mentioned previously, an iron-fortified baby cereal is an easy way to ensure iron requirements are met.
- When starting solids, breast milk or formula should always be offered before food. It is important to remember that up until about 8 months the baby depends on breast milk or formula to meet their nutritional requirements
When is my baby ready for solids?
- not before 17 weeks of age
- has good head control
- is able to sit supported
- shows an interest in food (opening mouth and leaning forward when seeing food)
- has doubled their birth weight
- is drinking about 1 litre of milk per day – this is not essential as some babies do not ever reach 1 litre of milk daily
What order should I introduce foods to my baby in?
Order of introduction is not important, but many parents enjoy order, so here goes:
From 17 weeks:
- Iron-fortified baby cereal
- Pureed vegetables – you could add cereal to these foods when you offer them to increase the nutritional content, and help freeze better if you prepare your baby’s food in advance.
- Pureed, steamed fruit
From 6 months:
- Meat, chicken and fish
- Full cream yogurt and cream cheese
- Peanuts (to avoid choking risks use smooth peanut butter)
Are there any foods I should avoid giving my baby?
The only foods to avoid until your baby is 1 year old are fresh milk and honey.
Does my baby need to drink water?
Healthy babies usually require little or no extra fluid over and above their Breast milk or formula. In very hot weather or during illness fluid requirements may increase a little. It is therefore recommended to discourage the habit of juice, Rooibos or water bottles as this unnecessarily fills your baby.
What must I do if my baby doesn’t want to eat a particular food?
It is important to offer a variety of foods to ensure that your baby receives all his nutritional requirements. Your baby may refuse a food many times (up to about 17 times) before they accept it. It is important to persevere!
Feeding baby solids not only ensures adequate growth and good nutrition, but also encourages speech development and stimulates social development.