Mealtime tips for starting solids
When you’re first introducing solids, meals and mealtimes can be flexible. Here are tips to help:
- Choose a time of day when you and your baby are calm, relaxed and not in a rush.
- Sit your baby on your knee, in a highchair, or somewhere that they’re safe, supported and supervised.
- Give your baby a spoon to practise eating with. You might like to feed your baby with one spoon while they play or practise with another spoon.
- Give your baby pieces of soft food, so your baby can learn to feed themselves.
When is the right time to start introducing solids? When your baby shows signs of being ready. These signs include reaching for food or opening their mouth when you offer food. This usually happens around 6 months old, but not before 4 months.
Feeding babies first foods with a spoon: tips
Here’s how to get started:
- Put a small amount of food onto the front of a soft, flat spoon.
- Bring the spoon near your baby’s mouth, and wait for them to open their mouth.
- Put the spoon into your baby’s mouth, being careful not to push the spoon in too far.
- Give your baby time to suck and/or swallow the food.
- Repeat steps 1-4 until your baby shows signs that they’ve had enough to eat.
If your baby wants to eat more, they might lean towards you and open their mouth for the next spoonful. If your baby has had enough to eat, they might:
- turn their head away
- lose interest or get distracted
- push the spoon away
- clamp their mouth shut.
At first, your baby might not swallow much. This is because eating solids is a skill, and learning new skills takes time. Just try to be patient and go at your baby’s pace.
Food safety and hygiene are important for keeping your baby healthy. Wash your hands before preparing or serving your baby’s food. And always use clean spoons, bowls and plates. You can wash them with warm soapy water or use the dishwasher.
Getting babies interested in solid foods: tips
By the time your baby is 12 months old, they should be eating the same healthy foods that the rest of the family is eating. Here are ideas for developing your baby’s interest in new foods after they’ve started on solids:
- Offer your baby tastes of what you’re eating to introduce the flavours of your home-cooked meals. This is also a good time for you to think about the foods you eat, set an example of healthy eating, and enjoy healthy foods together as a family.
- As your baby starts eating more solids, feed them during family meals each day, if you can. Your baby might be more interested in food if the rest of the family is eating too.
- Be guided by your baby’s interest and appetite levels. It’s normal for your baby’s appetite to vary from day to day.
- Talk with your baby about the food they’re eating – what it is, what colour it is, how it tastes, where it grows and how it was cooked.
- If your baby refuses a new food, just offer it again the next day. Sometimes babies and children need to try new foods more than 10 times before they accept them.
It’s common for babies to make funny faces when they try new foods. Funny faces can mean different things. For example, your baby might make a funny face when they’re surprised, confused or unsure about a new taste.
Managing mealtime play and mess
You can expect your baby’s eating to be messy and slow. Eating is a skill that babies have to learn. Also, babies learn about the world around them by touching and playing with new things, including new foods.
Here are ideas to help your baby get the most out of mealtimes and to help you manage mealtime mess:
- Encourage your baby to explore foods with their fingers. This builds skills in other areas of development, like fine motor skills and thinking.
- Try to stay calm and patient with your baby’s mess. This will help your baby to enjoy mealtimes.
- Make cleaning up easier by spreading newspaper or plastic under the highchair and having a washcloth handy.
- Try to wait until the end of the meal before wiping your baby’s face. Babies usually don’t enjoy having their face wiped regularly while they eat.
Starting solids is about more than nutrition. Once your baby is eating solids, mealtimes can become family time – time to talk, listen and bond with each other.