Our video is presented by Melissa Little, Paediatric Dietitian
It’s unsurprising that this can all start to feel a bit stressful. But need it be?
In a word – no.
Adding solid foods complementary to breastmilk (or infant formula) is an important stage, yes. But it’s not the rush and precision exercise many will lead you to think it is.
In the midst of all the conflicting advice you will likely get, here are 10 evidence-based things to think about that will help you make the best choice for you and your baby – and stop you getting too stressed out in the process.
There is no need to offer baby solids until six months. Research has shown that there is generally no benefit in starting any earlier, but the risk of gastroenteritis can go up if you start earlier. And besides, six-month-old babies are a lot easier to feed than 4-month-old babies as they can sit up, chew and swallow food. Far more of your carefully chosen offerings are likely to actually go in rather than around your baby.
When you first start offering solid foods this is about tastes and textures, not amounts. Estimates of how much a baby needs from food between 6 – 8 months suggests less than 200 calories.
Choose the sort of foods you offer wisely – choices should be nutrient dense and complement those in breastmilk (hence the name complementary feeding) and should be based on minimally processed family foods.,
Breastmilk (or infant formula) remains an important part of the diet throughout the first year. You do not need follow-on formula, whatever the adverts might tell you, whether you’re breast or bottle-feeding.is no need to switch. Breast milk does not suddenly lose all its nutrients overnight at six months. Breastmilk is one of the most energy dense and nutrient-rich foods you can give your baby. As you introduce solids babies will drink less milk, and breastfed babies should still be fed responsively. Bottle fed babies will need about 600ml of infant formula a day between 7-9 months, but as food intakes increases after 10 months this will reduce to about 400ml a day by the end of the first year..
Commercial baby foods are fine occasionally and can be convenient. However, they tend to be high in sugar and lack the range of authentic tastes and textures home-cooked food provides; so don’t give them all the time. Be careful with how much you give your baby too. Many of the jars and pouches have too much food in them for one meal for a younger baby.
Remember the baby food industry is there to sell products – the more you buy of their product the better for them and the worse for your pocket. Baby foods are really expensive compared to their non-jarred and ‘adult’ equivalents. You really don’t need a load of devices and … stuff… if you don’t want it.
Whatever approach you take to introducing solids, remember the importance of responsive feeding. What really matters is looking to your baby and matching their pace. Whether you’re offering finger foods or puree, baby jars or homemade – feed slowly, looking whether your baby wants more. Don’t try to encourage them to eat or finish a meal if they don’t want to. They know best how hungry they are.
Baby-led weaning makes a lot of sense because it promotes good choices such as delaying solids, family mealtimes, and responsive feeding, and all current guidance about introducing solids includes aspects of baby led approaches. But that doesn’t mean spoons and purees are evil. If you don’t want to exclusively baby-led wean, you can still follow these steps. Let your baby sit with you at meal times and have some finger foods. Offer foods to play with – it helps them learn about textures and might help them be better eaters.
Foods are sadly not magical. They will not help your baby sleep (or make them into a genius) despite what your mother-in-law or the advertising says. Many first foods offeres to babies are low in calories and end up displacing milk so your baby might even eat fewer calories., Babies wake for lots of different reasons, not just hunger – just like adults do. Feeling cold, wanting a drink, or just needing to be close to someone – but babies can’t sort those things out for themselves.
If a baby is hungry, or a ‘big baby’ but not yet six months old, the best choice is to give more breastmilk or infant formula as it is energy dense. You can make enough breastmilk for your bigger baby – the body can adapt to feeding twins or more. Many first foods offered are lower in calories than milk and more difficult to persuade a young baby to eat.
Relax. It is likely your baby is getting enough. We have survived for millennia without special baby feeding guides and specific schedules for types of foods and nutrients. Offer your baby a wide range of foods, tastes, and textures and if you are breastfeeding keep allowing them to responsively feed. Your baby will let you know if they are hungry!
Dr Amy Brown discusses these steps and more in her new book ‘Why Starting Solids Matters’ – out now, published by Pinter and Martin. http://www.pinterandmartin.com/why-starting-solids-matters.html