Breastfed babies do not need to have complementary food introduced until about the middle of the first year. Before that time, you will notice some signs that your baby is changing developmentally, in preparation for beginning solids in a few months. You will notice that:
- he becomes more sociable, playing and holding "conversations" with you during a nursing session
- he has a growth spurt and nurses more frequently for a while
- he imitates the chewing motions you make whilst eating -- he is practicing!
You will know that he is really ready to start solids when:
- he is about six months old
- he can sit up without any support
- he continues to be hungry despite more frequent nursing which is unrelated to illness or teething
- he has lost the tongue-thrusting reflex and does not push solids out of his mouth
- he can pick up things with his finger and thumb (pincer grasp)
Babies who are ready for solids can usually feed themselves. Mothers often report that they knew their babies were ready when they picked up food from a plate, chewed it, swallowed it, and wanted more.
Listen to your baby! Babies with a tendency to allergies may refuse solids until later in their first year. As long as they are growing well and are happy and healthy, there is no need for concern.
Good first foods for babies
Save money and give your baby the freshest food by making your own baby food. Here are some suggestions.
Most babies love fruits. Make sure they are ripe, and wash well before peeling. Here are some favorites:
- Bananas cut into slices which have then been halved or quartered
- Unsweetened applesauce, or tiny apple chunks that have been softened by cooking in the microwave
- Plums, peaches, pears, and apricots, gently cooked if necessary
- Avocado diced into small, bite size pieces
Fresh vegetables should be washed, peeled and cooked until tender. Frozen veggies are convenient to have on hand. Avoid the canned varieties to which salt has been added. Your baby may enjoy:
- Baked or boiled sweet potatoes, in tiny chunks
- Mashed white potatoes
- Baby carrots, green beans, peas and squash
Meat and fish
Babies often prefer well-cooked chicken, which is soft and easy to eat when shredded. Be careful to remove even the tiny bones when serving fish.
Beans and legumes
Remove the skins from beans as they tend to be harder to digest. If you use canned beans for convenience, make sure they are unseasoned.
Grains and cereals
Commercial, iron-fortified cereals are often the first foods served to babies who are not breastfeeding because they need the extra iron, but breastfed babies are rarely anemic as the iron in human milk is well-utilized. If there is concern about the baby's iron levels, a simple test can be done in the doctor's office.
Whole grain cereals, breads and crackers are the most nutritious. Wait until later in the year before offering wheat products. If you use cereals, make sure that they only have one ingredient and use either water or your own milk for mixing. Many mothers prefer to let their older babies chew on a hard bagel or an end of bread instead of sugary teething biscuits.