Is your baby ready for solids? Mothers are encouraged to breastfeed their babies exclusively without solids for 6 months. While some are able to achieve this, others either include formula feeds or simply formula feed their babies all the way. Breast-milk and formula provide all the nourishment your baby needs for the first half year; his digestive system can only handle such liquid-only foods. However, once your baby has attained 6 months, it is advisable that you start him on solids as recommended by leading health organizations. Starting babies on solids is a developmental milestone and proves to be an exciting time for mum and baby.
Starting your baby on solids from 6 months on will help meet his nutritional needs, prevent iron deficiency and will be instrumental in preventing the development of allergies to particular foods in the future. Health experts recommend the introduction of iron-rich solids first as around 7 months; the baby’s own stores of iron tend to drop and need to be increased.
Avoid the following when starting your babies on solid foods;
• Salt: Salt should not be added to food, as a baby’s kidneys are immature.
• Honey: Honey should not be given to children under 12 months to evade the risk of botulism.
• Nuts: Do not give children below the age of 4 years nuts to avoid the risk of choking.
• Sugar: Pass up on added sugar for babies younger than 2 years old in order to minimise the risk of tooth decay.
The following signs will cue you in on when to introduce solid foods to your 6 month old baby.
1. Curiosity: If you observe that your baby looks longingly at your plate of yam and eggs and his eyes follows your cutlery as it journeys from the bowl of rice to your mouth, then it is time to buy a plastic feeding spoon for your baby.
2. Sits well: You may have to support your sitting baby who is not able to sit alone in a chair, however, it is necessary that your baby is able to sit upright in order to swallow well.
3. Can hold head upright: Your baby should be able to hold his head steady. This milestone is necessary in a baby who is ready to begin to eat solid foods.
4. Food stays in his mouth: It is vital that your baby has stopped using his tongue to push food out of his mouth; in what is called the ‘extrusion reflex’, by the time he is showing other signs of being ready for solid food.
5. Hungrier baby: Your growing baby should have a growing appetite. When he still seems hungry after having had his usual number of milk feeds for the day, then it might be time to start him on solids.
6. Efficient chewing and swallowing: Although your baby might not have any teeth yet, he should be able to roll food to the back of his mouth and swallow; his mouth and tongue develop in sync with his digestive system. As your baby begins to swallow efficiently you may notice that he drools less but this does not apply when he is teething.
In conclusion, late introduction of solids is not advised as when you wait till your baby is well over 9 months he may not take to solids as well in his first and second years.