When should you introduce solid foods to your baby and how? The Department of Nutrition & Dietetics at KK Women's and Children's Hospital (KKH) tells more.
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According to the World Health Organization (WHO), you can introduce solid food when your baby is about 6 months old, but no sooner than about 4 months.
“Introducing solid food earlier than four months old is not recommended as your baby’s digestive system is not mature enough. Furthermore, he may not be developmentally ready yet,” says Ms Grace Quek, Senior Dietitian,
Nutrition and Dietetics Department,
KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital (KKH), a member of the
Delaying weaning later than six months of age is discouraged, as it offers no advantage to your baby and may even lead to difficulties accepting solid food later on.
How to know if your baby is ready for solid food?
To determine if your baby is ready for solid food, you first have to look out for signs that he’s developmentally ready. This means that:
- He’s able to sit well with support and has adequate head-neck control – important for spoon-feeding.
- He doesn't move his tongue forward and upwards to push food out of his mouth (extrulsion reflex)
- He drools more and constantly puts things into mouth.
- He shows a keen interest in food and/or people eating.
What’s the best first food for your baby?
Your baby’s first food can be one of these:
- Any single-grain cereal (for e.g. rice cereal, as it’s bland and least likely to cause any allergic reaction) or
- Single purees that are prepared to a runny and lump-free consistency, slightly thicker than milk.
Milk remains the main source of nutrition for your baby in the early stages of weaning.
6 tips on feeding your baby his first solid food
The importance of weaning is to introduce new tastes, different food consistencies and learning to be fed through a different mode of feeding using a spoon so start with small amounts, e.g. one to two teaspoons, and respond to your baby’s appetite and cues.
Choose a time when your baby is not too tired or hungry to introduce the new experience and tastes.
Be vigilant for signs of food allergies
When introducing a new food to your baby, please wait after a period of three to four days and observe for any signs of allergies or intolerance such as rashes, swollen eyes and lip, vomiting and diarrhoea.
Purees -- Go easy on orange and yellow foods
If you’re giving your baby single-strength purees, please note that foods such as carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin and papaya are rich in carotenoid, a pigment that gives them the yellow or orange colour.
If your baby eats too much of these foods over a long period, he may have “yellow or orange-coloured” skin and increased levels of beta-carotene in his blood – symptoms of hyper-betacarotenemia.
Fortunately, hyper-betacarotenemia is harmless. Your baby’s natural skin tone will be restored if you feed him lesser or no foods of high beta-carotene content.
Small sips of water
When you start to introduce foods other than milk to your baby, you can start by offering a few spoonfuls of cool, boiled water during the feeding of solid foods or small sips between milk feeds.
There is no need to give more water as long as your baby has six to eight wet diapers a day and is not constipated, i.e. has no change in bowel movement and consistency.
Important! Boosting iron at the six-month mark
It is important to note that your baby’s iron stores will be depleted at about six months, so it is recommended to introduce weaning foods that contain iron such as infant rice cereal fortified with iron and meats. Meats can be steamed and pureed to a smooth consistency, to be given as a meal or added to cereals.