Introducing first foods can be an exciting and rewarding experience for yourself and for baby. Imagine tasting food for the first time like tasting sour or tasting sweet!
Using seasonal fresh foods that can be frozen in cubes, ready for use at a later date is also an amazing and cheap way to keep baby fed and healthy. Plus you can reduce your single use packaging each time you feed baby.
Introducing first foods can also be frustrating and even cause some apprehension. There can be allergy worries, questions about what to give as a first food and fussy babies.
Below is the when, what and how on first foods including information on iron, constipation, table salt and allergies.
When to introduce solids?
Is a sometimes a contentious subject and at the end of the day it is entirely up to you.
Different cultures and countries have their own recommendations on when to introduce first foods.
The guidelines in NZ are between 5-7 months to introduce solids.
Signs that baby is ready for solids is when they are able to hold their head up and sit with assistance on your lap or in a high chair and shows interest in food.
What to introduce as a first food?
Amazing first food options that are readily available in New Zealand are avocado, carrot, apple, banana, kumara, pumpkin, broccoli and cauliflower.
How to offer First Foods?
Fruits vegetables, meat, rice, beans and pulses cooked till soft (if needed) that are mashed or pureed is the current recommendation on how to offer to baby.
Small amounts trying one food at a time is suggested.
A soft baby spoon is easiest when offering first foods to baby.
Freezing food in an ice cube tray is an amazing way to store food until needed. Simply defrost and serve.
Iron and the 6 month old baby
Baby is born with a natural supply of iron (supplied in the womb) but by the time baby is 6 months old it will have depleted so introducing iron rich foods is essential at this point.
Below are some great ideas to increase the iron stores and absorption.
- Make your own iron rich meal combinations with beef, chicken, rice, spinach, kale, kidney beans and oats. Even incorporating herbs like thyme which weight for weight has more iron than beef.
- Spirulina for baby is great. Powdered spirulina can be sprinkled on some pureed apple or pear.
- Try and have foods with vitamin c incorporated with the iron rich foods to aid absorption like broccoli and tomato.
- Avoid giving milk with iron rich foods if you are trying to boost the iron in baby’s diet as the calcium in the milk may inhibit the absorption of iron.
- There are also some good alternatives to Farex if you want to use something to thicken food. Ground millet, ground oats and ground quinoa are great to mix in with foods that contain a lot of liquid and they are all high in vitamins and minerals.
Easing constipation in babies.
Sometimes your baby may show signs of constipation. If your baby seems to be in pain or you have any concerns, see your doctor.
Below are some ideas to try.
- Limit iron rich foods – the downside to some iron rich foods is that they are constipating.
- Certain babies can get constipated from cereals, dairy, banana and pumpkin too. You can ease up on the foods that constipate and introduce more foods that encourage soft bowel movements like pear, kiwifruit and prune.
- Coconut water is a natural laxative and can gently get things moving again.
- Bathe baby in Epsom salts – the magnesium from the Epsom salts absorbs through the skin and will act as a natural laxative.
- Feed baby foods high in Magnesium such as green leafy vegetables and avocado.
- Gently massage baby’s tummy.
Is not recommended to be included in baby’s diet, it is bleached, contains anticaking agents and added iodine and not needed when you are introducing first foods. However new research on Himalayan salt in an infants diet is fine in small amounts when included in meals for older infants it balances pH, prevents muscle cramping and constipation, lowers blood pressure and helps the intestines to absorb nutrients.
There is no recommendation on delaying the introduction of certain foods, however there are foods which have a higher risk of being an allergen.
Below is a list of foods to be aware of when it comes to allergies.
- Eggs (usually the white part of the egg)
- Tree nuts (almonds, walnuts ect)
- Citric acid added to foods.
- MSG (621 or Monosodium glutamate) added to foods.
Potentially any food can be an allergen and it can be a frustrating, confusing and scary time when you are faced with a baby or child who has a reaction to a food or food group.
Below are some reactions that you should be aware of.
- It can be life-threatening
- It is usually a sudden reaction, although reaction times can vary
- A small amount of food can trigger a reaction
- A reaction occurs every time baby eats the food
Food Allergy Symptoms
- Hives or welts
- Flushed skin or rash
- Face, tongue, or lip swelling
- Vomiting and/or diarrhea
- Coughing or wheezing
- Difficulty breathing
- Loss of consciousness
- Usually it is a gradual reaction
- It may only happen if the baby consumes the food often
- A reaction may only occur when quite a lot of the food is consumed
- It is not life-threatening
Food Intolerance Symptoms
- Will often manifest as a gastrointestinal problem such as bloating, wind or diarrhoea, nausea and indigestion
- It can also manifest as eczema or asthma or general irritability
Another thing to be aware of is that Friday and Saturday nights are St John’s busiest times alongside Saturday afternoons during winter sport season. So just avoid these times if you want to be extra safe when introducing a new food to baby.
All content here, including quotes from health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding the health of your baby or toddler.