Starting solids is a major milestone in parenthood, but it shouldn’t be rushed!

Rushing solids can have a long term negative impact on your child’s gut health.

Here are the facts about starting solids

When should solid food be added to the menu?

Starting solids too early is not good for baby’s gut.

Common reasons why some parents start babys before the recommended 6 month mark include:

  • To improve weight gain – breast milk (or formula) is much higher in calories than any pumpkin or carrot, so this won’t help weight gain.
  • Excitement – especially with baby number one, the thought of introducing solids is super exciting, for the first week or so, and then you realise how much easier it is just to give breastmilk!
  • They were hungry – true, as babies get within a few weeks of 6 months, the hunger can increase, and solids might be necessary, but this is a few weeks before 6 months (not a few months before 6 months).
  • They were ready – they may have appeared ready, but their gut isn’t ready.

Signs baby is ready for solids?

  • Your baby can sit up well. Babies will generally need a high chair that slightly reclines initially, so their head is fully supported. Once they can reach forward for a spoon, they can be moved into a normal high chair.
  • They are hungrier – the normal number of breast or bottle feeds doesn’t satisfy them, and they get frustrated after a feed, or start waking more at night time.
  • Your baby can move their tongue back and forth in mouth, not just up and down.
  • They are interested in your food

How to avoid constipation when you start solids?

  • Starting slowly is very important. Baby’s digestive system needs to adjust from just having liquid, to having solid.  Introduce one ‘meal’ per day and leave it for a few weeks before you introduce another meal.
  • Avoid processed foods – especially rice cereal fortified with iron.  Breast milk is not a good source of iron, and by 6 months, baby’s stored or iron they were born with starts to get depleted.  But so does their stores of zinc. Fortified cereal will replace the iron, but not the zinc.  If you have ever taken an iron supplement, you will know how constipated this can make you.  And when a food is fortified, it is just like taking a supplement.  It is much better to include food sources of iron and zinc as soon as you can and avoid the fortified rice cereal altogether.

What foods first?

  • Cooked foods are easier to digest than raw foods, so start with cooked.
  • Choose organic.  Baby’s detoxification systems are not the same as adults.  Choosing organic foods will be of great benefit to your baby’s health now, and in the future.
  • Cooked pumpkin, zucchini, green beans are good choices.  When you feed your baby a new food and they screw up their face – that doesn’t mean they don’t like.  It just means their taste buds are going crazy with all this new flavour.  Don’t assume that your baby will only like sweet foods, and therefore only offer sweet vegetables.
  • Avocado is an exception to the cooked rule, and can be served raw early on.
  • Stewed pears or apples are also good choices – especially if constipation has been a concern.

You really want to take things very slowly and watch for any sort of reaction when you introduce a new food (a rash, poor sleep, mucus in their poo for instance).

Only introduce a new food every 3 days or so.  This will help you quickly identify problem foods.

What foods to avoid?

  • Whilst a very convenient food, bananas should be off the menu for now.  They can be very constipating and are a mucus forming food.
  • The nightshade family (tomatoes, capsicum, potatoes, eggplant) should be delayed until after 12 months, as they can cause a reaction.
  • Cow’s milk.  This should be off the menu until at least 12 months, but don’t think that at 12 months you need to serve a cup (or bottle of milk) with meals.  Fermented dairy like hard cheese, proper yoghurt or kefir are much better choices if you want to include dairy in your little one’s diet.

Why not to introduce early?

  • Basically your child’s gut isn’t ready.
  • They don’t have enough digestive enzymes
  • Their gut is still too porous
  • Most of their immune system is in their gut – if it is overloaded, their immune health will suffer.

If you would like some support on your path to safely introduce solids to your baby, please make an appointment with me.