Your baby has just turned 6 months old and the day has arrived! You’re ready to start your little one on solids! You’ve got the food ready and you’ve bought a lovely new spoon. What now? How do you start your baby on solids? Is there a choking risk? What if they gag or vomit? What texture should the food be? There are so many questions that parents have when they start their baby on solids. At OneOnOne Children’s Therapy, our Speech Pathologists and Occupational Therapists are very familiar with these concerns parents have. Let’s hear what they have to say….
Why do babies start solids at 6 months?
Eating requires a lot of co-ordination. There are 26 muscles that need to work together for your baby to eat. Your baby needs to co-ordinate their eating with their swallowing to make sure the food goes to right part of their mouth. They need to hold their breath momentarily while they swallow so that the food goes down the right way. Under the age of 6 months babies simply do not have the strength and control to manage solids.
The other reason that babies start solids at 6 months is because their iron stores are starting to run out. Breast milk and formula isn’t enough to support cognitive development after 6 months. The iron now needs to come from iron rich foods.
What texture of food do babies start with?
Babies start with runny purees which are the consistency of a smooth, runny custard. Up until now they have been having breast milk or formula which is the consistency of liquid. When a child is breast fed or bottle fed, the liquid is delivered to the exact spot where they can swallow it. Runny purees teach your baby to learn to move the food from the front of their mouth to the back of their mouth. That is the aim of these first solids – for your baby to learn to make these movements.
Do I keep my baby on runny purees?
Once your baby can manage this runny texture then we continue to move them through stages of solids. As they move through each of these stages, they learn the more complex control and movements that are required to eat food. By the time your child is 12-24 months old then they will be eating food that is similar to what you eat – with some exceptions!
What happens if they gag or vomit?
Yes, babies will gag when your introduce each stage of solids. It doesn’t mean they don’t like your food. It means that the protective reflex is telling them that the food may need to be chewed more before it can be swallowed. As they become better at chewing and swallowing, the gag reflex will dampen down. However it continues to be there so that it is protective through their whole life. When babies put their hands and toys in their mouth, that also helps the gag reflex dampen down. Vomiting can happen too, especially if your little one continues to eat and doesn’t realise when they are full. However, if your baby continues to vomit after introducing solids then medical advice may be indicated. If you are worried about choking then we recommend www.cprkids.com.au. They have wonderful videos about managing choking and excellent courses!
What time of day do I start solids?
We always recommend the mid morning to start trying solids. They are often too hungry first thing in the morning to try solids, and they are often too tired at night time. Start with food at room temperature. Start with only a small amount – 1/4 teaspoon is a great start. Then we can gradually increase what they take in. Remember, our goal is that your baby learns to manage all the stages of solids. We don’t want them to stay on one stage for too long. The research shows that staying on pureed foods for too long can lead to a picky eater when they are older.
What if I want help teaching my child to eat solids?
OneOnOne Children’s Therapy has a program for parents who are keen to learn more about introducing solids to their baby. We run a parent training course which you can do in our Bondi Junction clinic. We can also come to your home to do a group session – get a group of your friends together for a coffee morning! Training is also available via Skype.