The Experience of Eating : Getting Ready for Solids

The Experience of Eating : Getting Ready for Solids

The Experience of Eating

We can overthink the introduction of solids quite easily.  As parents it can be a daunting time. We tend to get lots of information post birth, then past home and the interactions you have with primary health care in measures and immunisation’s, you can feel quite alone.  We rely heavily on family, friends and peers for advise and despite all best intentions, they are not always experts.

So, it’s understandable to feel nervous and cautious about introducing solids and in this instance, being cautious is wise. These early years are so important in the longer term health of your baby and the mental preparation for you as a parent is just as important as the physcial/practical preparation. We want to ensure introducing solids is a positive stress-free experience, so we have put some tips together to help you achieve this. 

Preparing for introducing solids

Babies will show signs of food interest between 4 and 6 months of age, but developmentally and gut health wise, they are typically not ready to safely start eating until around 6 months. This is when the gut bacteria are robust enough to handle new microorganisms and potential pathogens that may be in food and their physical development regarding sitting and strength is typically developed.

Everyone has their own “beliefs” around solids, but it is quite biologically based on physical development stages.  When you learn more about the “why?” it does make sense.  Read our other articles aroundsigns that your baby is ready for solids” for more information on the key physical stages and signals.

Getting ready

Firstly, it’s ideal to get practically and mentally ready with:

  1. Products that will help make the transition easier.

  2. Mental preparation for what the process can look like. You need to think about your own hangups with things like cleanliness and organisation, as things will not always be in your control and mess is going to be made

  3. Lowering expectations: You should also not put too much effort into food preparation, as most will initially just be play food and end up in all places BUT the mouth. It can be frustrating if you have spent hours preparing food’s to have it all end up in their lap! So keep it simple.

Some initial tips for equipment and preparing

Get your self ready with:

  • A highchair you can wash down easily – we have always used the Ikea Antilop highchair or the equivalents from Kmart/BigW/Target. Make sure you use the straps on the high chair to keep your baby safe and never leave them unattended in a high chair.

    • Feet accessories; there are some you can buy for the above highchairs, so your babies feet can rest while they eat. Just be mindful that once they hit a certain age, the feet rests can be used to push up with, and unless they are strapped in correctly, this will post a risk of tipping and falls.

  • Decent bibs: these are life changing. We believe in this so much we have invented an improved bib like no other on the market. Bite Nutrition has invented one that clips to a tabletop or the Highchair tray of the Ikea highchair/equivalents. The bib catches all the food dropped between mouth and tray.  Ensure you subscribe to our newsletter for first release options to buy.

  • Age-appropriate cutlery: Babies you want baby to get used to eating themselves and having little cutlery that is easier to grab is helpful to eventually play with and practice moving to their mouths, but then to self feed. 

  • Cups: open cups are highly recommended and proven that if you introduce an open cup at 6months, by 9 months-12months your baby will be able to use an open cup with confidence. Try to get a soft small baby size cup and only fill it with small amounts of cooled/boiled water so they can practice.

    • Training cups are also good, as are straw cups, but the straw needs to be flexible to ensure the swallow wave motion is not disrupted and the baby can move the fluid from the front to the back of the mouth. A weighted straw is also ideal, so the straw follows the water in the bottle.

  • Blender, handheld is always easier for short runs of smooth food, as much of your initial work will be smaller runs.

    • You can puree a batch of single foods and freeze them in freezer trays to pull out one at a time as need be if you chose. This way you have less prep time for each meal time.

The right timing is just as important as the environment.  

  • You do not want baby to be irritated or tired.  

  • You also need to be calm and not feeling anxious or rushed.

  • You also want to time it between feeds, so you do not have a full baby that will have no interest in eating. Initially it will largely be 1-2 meals a day of mostly "play" but there is no point if your baby is freshly full of milk.

  • Ideally you will be able to sit and model eating with your baby where possible so they can learn from you, including your enjoyment!

Note: Make sure your hands are clean as are all the utensils you intend to use.
While eating:

  • You do not want the baby to get too hot while eating, so think about the temperature. Some baby smocks and coveralls are full body and fabrics that do not breath, so try to focus on cotton if possible so your baby can regulate their own temperature better.

  • You do not want the baby to get distracted while eating.

    • Having bibs with colourful prints catches the eye and can be distracting, so plain bibs are best
    • Toys that are attached to the highchair will take away from the association of sitting in the highchair for eating, so try to save toys for the bouncer or other play-based environments. 
  • Do not wipe the baby's hands and face until after they have finished if you can avoid it, babies do not like their faces wiped excessively and you may introduce some anxiety with eating with dirty hands if you are cleaning them too often.

These are just some of many professional tips and hints we have for you.

We hope these tips have been helpful to get you mentally ready for starting solids. Make sure you subscribe to our newsletter (option to subscribe on the side of this article or our website front page) for updates on our product releases, qualified dietetic services and free nutrition education and research updates.