Your baby can hit many milestones within their first year. Each step – from uttering that much-anticipated first word to taking those tentative first steps and gobbling down the first mouthful of real food – is unique to the child. Children progress at different speeds and while there is no hard and fast time-span to follow, there are certain signs you can look out for to determine if your child is ready for the next stage.
Take moving on to solid foods, for example. Is your baby sitting up, and demonstrating good head control? Are they starting to put objects in their mouth and experiment with chewing? Are they showing an aversion to their purees at mealtimes? This tends to happen any time from 5 months and indicates your baby is ready for solid foods. Prepare yourself: this will be a messy (albeit rewarding) time and you’re bound to see plenty of upturned bowls and pasta-strewn floors!
Here are five things to think about when you’re moving your child onto solid foods.
1. Thicken your baby’s purees
If you have been making homemade purees of vegetables and fruits for your little one, try blending for less time. These chunkier, coarser purees will give your child a taste of varied textures and ease the transition into solid foods. These thicker purees will also encourage your baby to work on their chewing technique rather than just sucking a puree off a spoon.
2. Fork-mash any solids
The next step after a blender is manually mashing foods. This makes the food soft enough to chew and swallow easily, while developing the baby’s oral skills. Once they are happily eating mashed foods you can progress to baby imitations of what you’re eating. So finely chopped chicken, carrots etc. Make sure that the baby version of your meal has no added salt or anything else that could be harmful for a little digestive system.
3. Gradually expose your baby to different flavours, temperatures and textures of food
This is the time to work on your child being adventurous. Introduce different types of textures and flavours to really get those taste buds fired up. Think small amounts of poultry and cheese. Crunchy apple slices and soft banana. And plenty of veggies.
4. Focus on finger food
Little children love to eat with their hands. Embrace this by offering them food they can easily manage with little fingers. Try mango slices, toast fingers and steamed carrot sticks.
5. Avoid honey and any choking-hazard food
Honey can potentially cause (although rare) life-threatening illness in babies called botulism. It is much safer to avoid it all together until they are older. Other foods to steer clear off include popcorn, nuts, seeds, whole grapes and really anything hard, chewy or sticky.