At around six months babies are developmentally ready to start solids and when we talk about appropriate first foods to give babies, we need to consider texture, size and nutritional content.
First foods need to be an appropriate texture. This gives babies the opportunity to learn to bite, chew and swallow solid food, without increasing the risk of choking.
Foods offered should be firm enough to be picked up without falling apart and soft enough to manipulate in the mouth. A good way to test if the food is soft enough is to press it between your thumb and index finger.
Certain foods are a high risk of choking in babies and infants and it’s important to take the following precautions: -
Remove any pips, stones, tough skin or stringy bits
Avoid whole grapes, chunks of apple or carrot, nuts and popcorn
Avoid small, hard foods and those that are in gelatinous pieces
(First Steps Nutrition Trust, 2019)
To start with food needs to be the size of an adult’s little finger or bigger. Babies hands are small and are limited to grasping in the beginning. The size of the food needs to be big enough for them to grasp while leaving some of the food available to put to their mouth for tasting or biting.
As babies get older, they develop their 'pincer grasp' where they are able to pick up smaller pieces of food such as peas and rice. This happens around nine months.
Finally, the foods we offer need to have maximum nutritional impact. Babies eat very small amounts to start with, if anything at all, so anything they do eat needs to pack a nutrition punch. Breastmilk (or formula) will continue to be the main source of nutrition for babies up to age one so when food does replace some of this milk it needs to be more nutritious, providing additional nutrients or energy (Brown, 2017)
Ideal first foods are high calorie, iron rich or rich in vitamins and minerals. Some foods can even provide all three!
It’s our responsibility to offer our babies appropriate first foods from the start.
Here are a few examples:-
Sweet potato fries
Brown, A (2017) Why starting solids matter. Pinter and Martin Ltd.
First Steps Nutrition Trust (2019) Eating well: the first year. A guide to introducing solids and eating well up to baby’s first birthday. www.firststepsnutrition.org