Two of South Africa’s most renowned Dieticians, Megan Pentz-Kluyts and Dorothy van der Spuy, put pen to paper for our MamaMagic community to help you know when your baby is ready for solids.
At around six months, you have probably got your baby’s milk feeds down to an art. Still, as with many things in parenting, things are about to change because your baby will soon be ready for solid foods. This is an exciting milestone for you and your baby. Introducing solid foods is a process when moving from breastmilk or infant formula as the sole source of nutrition up to 6 months of age to food as the most critical source of nutrition at 12 months. During the introduction, carry on giving your baby their regular milk feeds.
IS MY BABY READY?
At about six months of age, babies need different sources of nutrients to meet their growing needs. Milk alone can no longer satisfy them, and your little one is ready to start eating solid foods.
Physiologically, a baby’s digestive tract and kidneys are more mature, and their iron stores usually begin to drop. While developmentally, they are ready to learn a new skill. Signs of readiness include head and neck control. Their nerve and muscle co-ordinations allow them to sit in a chair, with some or no support. They can hold their head up without support. The tongue-thrust reflex has decreased, and they move food to the back of their mouths and swallow. This is a beautiful window of opportunity where they start showing an interest in food, opening up their world to different smells, tastes, and textures. They are encouraged to bite and chew. Biting and chewing develop the facial muscles around the mouth, providing speech benefits.
HAVE FUN AND EASE INTO IT
There’s no need to rush this exciting period. We want to make the feeding experience a positive one. Each baby is an individual and develops at a different rate. The aim is to eat a good variety of family foods by the age of one year. Introducing a wide variety of foods early on will make it easier for them to learn to accept different types of food later on.
READY, SET, AND ENJOY
There is no evidence proving that one food is better than another as the starting food. Starting with locally available, hygienically prepared food is a good idea. Start with a vegetable or porridge as a first food and add an iron-rich food as soon as the second food – which can include chicken, fish, meat, and eggs.
Always focus on nutritious foods to help meet your baby’s needs. Aim to introduce a variety of foods, including foods such as vegetables, fruit, grains and cereals, protein from meat, chicken or low-mercury fish, legumes, egg, yoghurt, and fats and oils including avocado, ground nuts and nut butter mixed into foods.
It’s recommended that rather than avoiding gluten-containing foods, they are included in your baby’s diet and should not be avoided. Also, foods commonly linked to food allergies should not be avoided. These can consist of well-cooked eggs (white and yolk), peanut butter, and other nut butter added to porridges, fish, and wheat as part of a varied diet.
Try one new food at a time. Allow your baby the time to explore and discover each new food using all their senses. This should be done in a relaxed environment when the baby is well-rested and ready for this thrilling experience. You can offer food before or after a milk feed. Some parents find it best to offer milk and solids at six months. Then when your baby is about nine months, offer solids first and then milk as a top-up after the meal.
At the time of introducing solids, all babies need additional water. Use cooled, boiled water sips given in-between meals and between milk feeds is an excellent idea to get them used to the taste of plain water.
Check out our following Milestones issue for part two of this informative article courtesy of Dieticians Megan Pentz-Kluyts and Dorothy van der Spuy for MamaMagic.