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Feeding Baby Solid Foods

When to start feeding baby solid foods?

Baby may be ready to get his "teeth" into solids as early as four months. Other babies are happy with milk until a bit later. If your baby shows no interest in solid food but is still happy and putting on weight, that's fine.

Milk - whether from breast or bottle - will still be baby's main source of nutrition until he's reached his first birthday. Even when he's going through the toddler stage, milk will still form an important part of his diet. Offering solid foods early is a good way to introduce baby to different tastes and textures and add some interest to meal times.

How do you know when to start feeding baby solids? A good indication is if he's hungry in between meals. There comes a point where he's not satisfied with just milk. He may start to make chewing motions or he may become very interested in the food you eat.

Try offering baby some rice cereal mixed with either breast milk or formula. Make the mixture quite runny to help him swallow it. If he shows no interest or makes no chewing motion, it may be too early for your baby and you could try again in a week or so.

Some babies take a while to get used to new things, so persevere. He'll get the hang of it!

It's best to start with a fortified rice cereal as rice causes few allergies. Once he's eating that well, you could add other grains such as wheat, barley or oats. Allow a few days between introducing new foods in case allergies do appear, then you'll know what caused them. If baby has a negative reaction to any food, stop giving it until you have advice from your paediatrician.

If baby's on formula, it's best not to add cereals to his bottle. This could cause him to put on weight too quickly and also does nothing to teach him how to master the art of eating solid food.

Feeding baby solid foods can be an adventure. There will probably be more food on him, on you, the floor and the walls, than there will be in his tummy! Especially if he's one who pushes food out of his mouth with his tongue. This is simply a reflex and won't last for ever so have some patience, wear washable clothes and keep the paper towels handy!

At the age of around six months, you can start introducing pureed fruits and vegetables. You may find he'll prefer the sweeter vegetables such as carrots but keep offering the other vegetables as well. This is the stage where eating habits are formed so the more vegetables he tries now, the better.

A word of warning about fruit juices. Don't overdo it and don't offer fruit juice in place of milk. Baby probably won't mind, but fruit juice won't give him the nutrition milk does. It's fine as an occasional treat.

Foods that cause allergies

Some foods are more likely to cause allergies in babies than others. Some nutritionists advise against feeding eggs before baby reaches his first birthday, others disagree. If you start off with a tiny amount of egg yolk only, that shouldn't cause problems.

Wheat can be another allergen and it will show up straight away. If this happens to your baby, simply  go back to rice cereal and contact your doctor. If your baby shows allergic to wheat he could have coeliac disease which could make him sensitive to other grains such as oats.

Peanuts and seafood are best withheld until your child is at least two or three years old.

Although it sounds like a serious business, feeding baby solid foods can be fun. Try mashing up food from your own plate and offering to him now and then, Babies always seem more interested in what's on someone else's plate than on their own!

Cooking your own baby food.

If you have time this is quite easy and cheaper too! You may need to invest in a blender if you make all the foods, however pushing them through a fine sieve works well for small amounts. Make sure their pureed finely at first, as they learn to chew properly they'll be fine with coarser textured food.

Cook by steaming rather than boiling to preserve the nutritional value of the foods.

There's nothing wrong with prepared baby food if you're pressed for time. They're well prepared and nutritionally sound. Tip them into a bowl to avoid contamination and make sure to discard any unused potions after a couple of days.


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