Guest Blog: “Why does everyone tell me something different when it comes to starting solids?” by Simone {Play with Food}

 

I could rattle off quite a list of (what seemed to be) conflicting advice that I received as a first time mum about starting solids. In fact, I’m sure every mum could. When you are listening to all the opinions come flooding in (wanted or not), it seems like there is no perfect way to start solids. It just felt like there were many, many “wrong” ways to start baby’s solid food adventure. 

“Don’t give them anything sweet, they’ll develop a sweet tooth” 
“Introduce allergens like peanuts to their diet early” 
“Don’t start solids until 6 months” 
“Start solids well before 6 months” 
“Only give them rice cereal for the first few weeks” 
“Don’t start baby on rice cereal it will lead to constipation” 
“Start on vegetables” 
“Start on a bone from a lamb chop” 
“Only do Baby Led Weaning” 
“Start with Purees” 
What can I say? Well, none of that is wrong and none of it is right. In fact, these statements have something in common. They all miss out on one thing – the big picture. Starting solids is a big step for you as a new mum and for baby too. Your journey together has already evolved from baby calling on you at any time of day to starting to get yourselves a routine and now you are going to start changing roles again in a new way. As baby grows, your roles and responsibilities change at feeding times. Initially starting solids is all about tastes, learning and working at it. Baby is still responsible for letting you know when he/she is hungry and you decide what is on offer. At this point, your role is to help them learn about the food in a safe manner. As he/she learns more and more about new tastes, what to do with their mouth and how to conquer new textures you are taking on many little shifts in responsibilities. By the time your child is about 12-18 months they will be eating table foods and refining their skills. They are then in charge of whether or not they will eat the food and how much of it. While you are in charge of what is offered, when it is offered and where the food is offered. Remember, the main objective for feeding is to see the child eating the family food. 

So, with roles and responsibilities shifting so much during the first few months of the eating journey, it’s not surprising that people have their own amazing and individual experiences with it. And it’s also left a window open for their interpretation of what and when babies should start the solids journey. Their experience is so valuable and I encourage you to seek information and support from trusted sources whilst bearing in mind the bigger picture of the feeding journey for your family. Also, the feeding guidelines have changed significantly over the years. Allergens are at the forefront of our minds as we start the solids journey. What was conveyed to me with my first daughter 4 years ago, is very different to the current guidelines. Here’s the key information that you need to know about starting solids from the current Australian guidelines (revised and released in July 2016). 

Foods should not be introduced before 4 months. 
Infants differ in the age that they are developmentally ready for solid foods. 
Signs that your infant may be developmentally ready to start solids include: being able to sit relatively unaided, loss of the tongue-thrust reflex that pushes food back out, and trying to reach out and grab food. 
All infants should be given allergenic solid foods including peanut butter, cooked egg, dairy and wheat products in the first year of life. This includes infants at high risk of allergy. 
When your infant is ready, introduce foods according to what the family usually eats, regardless of whether the food is considered to be a common food allergen. There is some evidence that the introduction of common allergenic foods (including cooked eggs as raw egg is not recommended, peanuts, nuts, wheat, fish) should not be delayed. 
I encourage you to download and read the PDF of the Australian guidelines for introducing solids to babies as they are based on the current research evidence base relating to allergy prevention. Also, if you have questions about these guidelines, take them to your GP and Health Nurse to discuss them further in light of your individual situation. 
If you are interested in learning more about busting the myths of feeding kids, starting solids, continuing solids or understanding fussy eating behaviour, my blog is www.playwithfood.com.au. Specifically, this post on knowing the difference between choking and gagging is important and you will find this one about continuing solids and introducing new textures interesting too.

Simone Emery is a mum of 2 and Sydney based kids feeding specialist. She works with fussy children and their families to find happy mealtimes, via in person and Skype consults and her range of resources on her blog, Play with Food, which you can visit HERE. Simone also offers private group workshops on starting / continuing solids in the Sydney area.

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