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Introducing Solids

Introducing Solids

As babies grow, so do their nutritional needs. By about six months of age, most babies are ready to explore their first solid foods. You’ll need to be ready too, so it’s best to plan ahead when introducing solids. Every baby is different and the time of food introduction and their appetite may differ slightly between babies. Be sure to consult with your baby’s doctor about when to introduce solids to your little one.

Look what I can do!

Your little one is now at the appropriate stage of development to start eating in a new way.  Signs that she is ready to take her first spoonful include:

  • The ability to support her head and neck
  • Sit without support
  • Takes interest in what you’re eating
  • Seems hungrier than usual
  • Keeps food in mouth without using tongue to push it out

Learn more about baby's very first feeding.

Breast milk or formula – still the main dish

Introducing solids is fun, but breast milk or formula is still baby’s most important food during her first year. At 6 months, solid foods are a complement (not a substitute) to breast milk or formula, which still makes up about 80% of your little one’s diet. Solid foods are new foods that will help meet her evolving nutritional needs, as well as introducing new tastes and textures.

Make first foods iron-rich

While you’re busy introducing baby to new people and places, it’s important to introduce iron-rich foods as well. Maintaining adequate iron is essential for infant growth and motor development, as well as cognitive, behavioural and nervous system development. Iron is a critical nutrient in brain development1 helping baby to remember all of the new things learned each and every day. When babies don’t get enough iron they can become iron deficient and may be less active than usual and could develop more slowly.  Healthy full term infants are born with iron stored up in their bodies, which meet their needs until about 6 months of age, when these initial reserves may start to run out.

Health Canada emphasizes that baby’s first solid foods be iron-rich and recommends that infants between 6-12 months be offered iron-rich foods two or more times per day. Healthy options are foods with a semi-solid texture, including pureed meat or meat alternatives and iron-fortified infant cereal.

Learn more about iron and your growing baby.

There is no set order

There is no order when it comes to what to offer your baby next. Stick to single ingredient food choices with a focus on iron-rich foods such as meats, meat-alternatives and iron-fortified single-ingredient baby cereals such as rice, oat and wheat. Vegetable and fruit purees are also good early food choices when introducing solids. Many babies like the taste of sweet potato, carrots and squash because they are naturally sweet. Healthcare professionals recommend that when introducing new foods you should introduce one at a time and to wait 2 days before introducing another new food. This allows you to monitor your baby's tolerance and whether they have any allergic reactions.

To get more ideas on what foods are appropriate for your little one, check out the Nestle Baby Feeding Guide.

Friends and family may tell you that your baby should avoid certain foods until her first birthday because she could have an allergic reaction. Regardless of family history of allergy, health experts advise that you can introduce peanuts, soy, whole eggs, fish, and wheat as you would any other food, one at a time, waiting 2 days before introducing a new food and monitoring for allergic reactions. There is no need to delay the introduction of any food in order to try and avoid allergies once your baby is 6 months or older. Speak with your baby’s doctor if you have any concerns.

Variety is the key to good nutrition

The foods that you offer your baby now will help to build healthy eating patterns as she grows. Be sure to introduce a wide variety of foods within the first year of life - even ones you may not like. Don’t get discouraged if she doesn’t like every food you offer, it can take up to 10 exposures to a food before it is accepted. Offer foods from all 4 of Canada’s Food Groups.

In addition, once you know that your baby has accepted and likes a certain food, be sure to continue to offer it along with the other new foods you plan to try at a meal time.  This helps to build variety and menu options for each meal, each and every day. You will find that your baby will quickly be able to go from one small meal offering, to two to three meals per day, especially when more energy intensive activities such as rolling and crawling begin to become a big part of their activities every day.

Don’t forget the “D”

If you are breastfeeding, continue to offer a vitamin D supplement of 400 IU per day until your baby’s diet contains plenty of vitamin D-rich foods (around 2 years of age).

Your role in offering food and baby’s role in accepting and eating

You and your baby each have a unique role at meal time.  Understanding each of your roles at meal time can help make the experience more positive and less stressful. This understanding also helps your baby develop healthy eating habits, which studies have shown to start even this early.

As the parent, you are responsible for feeding your baby. You decide what foods you offer and where your baby eats. Your baby is responsible for the choosing to eat, whether it’s accepting cereal from a spoon or picking up small, finely chopped pieces of food to self-feed as her skills develop. She decides how much and whether she eats the food that you have offered. Variety, healthy choices and trusting your baby to decide how much and whether to eat are key factors when offering food at this age. And remember, your baby will let you know when she is hungry for breast milk or infant formula, which is still baby’s most important food during the first year.

Many parents choose to introduce sign language gestures relating to food items and feeding as they begin to introduce solids. Using sign language may reduce frustrations when baby understands you but cannot speak to you.

Learn more about sign language and how you can help to develop your baby's communication skills.

What to avoid

Not all foods are appropriate for your little one. Below is a list of some things you may want to avoid for in these early stages of introducing foods.

Cow’s milk

Whole cow's milk is a poor source of iron and should be avoided as the fluid portion of baby's diet until your baby is at least 9-12 months of age. By introducing cow’s milk too early you could be displacing other nutritious foods such as iron-rich foods which may increase the risk of iron deficiency.

Learn more about why your baby isn't ready for cow's milk.

Honey

Avoid honey, including pasteurized, as it may cause a type of food poisoning called infant botulism. Honey should not be added to any baby food. After your baby turns one year old, it is safe to introduce honey.

Sugar & salt

Avoid adding sugar and salt to foods that you prepare for your baby and the rest of the family. Allow your little one to experience and develop a taste for the food’s natural flavours.

Raw & unpasteurized beverages

Babies and toddlers should not consume raw or unpasteurized beverages. Milk must be pasteurized in order to be legally sold in Canada. Pasteurization is an important step that eliminates harmful bacteria. Unpasteurized beverages, such as some types of apple cider, can be harmful to babies and toddlers. Read the label when choosing drinks for your little one.

If you don't find the information you're looking for, please feel free to contact us for additional support.


Reference:

1Butte N, Lopez-Alarcon M, Garza C. Nutrient adequacy of exclusive breastfeeding for the term infant during the first six months of life. Department of Nutrition for Health and Development, World Health Organization: WHO Press; 2002.

 
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