So that you won’t need to guess if your munchkin is ready for solids, watch out for these cues. He might:
- appear dissatisfied with just milk.
- express interest in the food adults are eating.
- show interest in things around him.
- be able to sit with some support.
- have good control of his head and neck.
- not reject semi-solid or solid foods when these are placed on his tongue.
Dr Yang Linqi, a paediatrician at Thomson Paediatric Centre, cites recent research where 4 to 6 months is described as the “golden period” to introduce your baby to solid foods. This is in line with the World Health Organization’s recommendations, which encourages parents to begin weaning their kids when they are 6 months old.
“For babies until the age of 1, milk is the main source of nutrition. Solid foods, therefore, are only complementary to their diet.”
A 6-month-old baby’s digestive system is ready to cope with solid food. As they are growing quickly, they’ll need higher amounts of nutrients such as iron and zinc, so breast- or formula milk alone is inadequate. Apart from sufficient motor capabilities to use their hands and fingers to hold pieces of food and deposit them into their mouth, they are also learning to chew and swallow soft foods.
SmartParents gets experts to address the different myths around weaning.
#1. You can stop breastfeeding baby when they start taking solids
FALSE. “For babies until the age of 1, milk is the main source of nutrition. Solid foods, therefore, are only complementary to their diet,” stresses Dr Yang. Mothers should try to breastfeed for as long as they can, since breastmilk contains essential vitamins, nutrients and minerals to boost growth and development.
#2. Baby shouldn’t take nuts
FALSE. Your baby can have nuts if your family has no known history of nut or other food allergies. Ker recommends waiting until your child turns 1. Nuts, when consumed whole, could become choking hazards, so make sure that you crush or grind the nuts you offer your child.
#3. Baby shouldn’t eat eggs
FALSE. Nutritional guidelines suggest controlled exposure to foods instead of avoiding it, as it can help lower the risk of allergies. Dr Yang recommends giving fully-cooked egg yolk to your baby after she has successfully tolerated several other first foods. Then consider introducing egg white if she has no issues with egg yolk. If allergies run in the family or junior has eczema, talk to your paediatrician first.
#4. Don’t give baby rice cereal
FALSE. It’s not just readily available, you can mix it with milk, so that the taste is familiar to babies. Choose an iron-fortified rice cereal as iron may help support cognitive and behavioural growth and development in infants, says Daniel. Avocado purée is a good alternative to rice cereal, Dr Yang suggests, since “it is full of good fat, has a smooth texture, and has a neutral taste”.
#5. Introduce vegetables before fruits, so baby doesn’t develop a sweet tooth
FALSE. “Many studies have shown that humans exhibit an innate preference for sweet tastes. As this preference is innate, the sequence may not matter,” Ker points out. It is more important to offer your child different fruits and vegetables when weaning and expose his palate to various tastes and textures. Introducing fruits and vegetables early can also help to establish healthy eating habits from a young age.
#6. Baby is likely to develop the same food sensitivity or allergy as you
FALSE. “It is not necessarily true, although there is an increased risk,” Dr Yang says. If you’re concerned, consult a paediatrician, who may coduct an allergy test.
“It may take up to 10 attempts to introduce a new food to your baby before she learns to accept it.”
#7. If baby has started taking meat, it’s okay to reduce their milk feeds
FALSE. Milk should still be a major component of your baby’s diet as it fulfils most of their nutritional needs, including protein. “Although meat also contains protein, it carries a higher risk of allergy and contamination,” Ker explains. So, do introduce meat only after your baby has started eating food from other groups such as grains, fruits, vegetables and fish.
#8. Offer only bland foods to baby
FALSE. “These can be flavourful as long as no sugar, salt or artificial flavouring has been added,” says Dr Yang. Seasonings such as soya sauce and chilli also should not be given to kids less than 1 year old, whose kidneys are not developed enough to process high amounts of sodium, Ker adds. Cook with fresh and healthy ingredients, so that your child learns to appreciate the natural taste of food. For instance, adding carrots or tomatoes gives porridge a sweet or savoury taste.
#9. Introduce a variety of new foods to baby at the same time
FALSE. Wait three or four days before you introduce a new food to babies. Feeding the same food on consecutive days can help you determine if baby has a food allergy or reaction, says Dr Yang. It also allows your child to get used to the taste and learn to accept it.
#10. If baby spurns the new food, don’t force them to take it
FALSE. Stop ― then try again several days or even weeks later. “It may take up to 10 attempts before they learn to accept a new food,” Ker notes. “Don’t force them to take something they don’t want.” There may be reasons why baby is not interested in the food, the most common is that they aren’t hungry yet. So, prevent this from happening ― make sure there’s a suitable interval between junior’s snacks and meals.
Other stories worth checking out on SmartParents.sg…