By Guest Blogger Dietitian Emma Landorf, APD, AN, Women’s and Children’s Hopsital
Introducing solids …. a topic that generates more conversation and opinion than whether K-Rudd or Abbott should lead our country! Google ‘introducing solids’ and you will be presented with more than 1.2 million webpages giving different opinions on how and when to give babies solid foods, and what foods to give – no wonder new parents are confused! Thankfully the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) have done all the hard work for us by reviewing over 500 research publications to come up with practical, evidence-based guidelines for new parents. Here is a summary of the new guidelines for introducing solids:
- Solid foods should be introduced at ‘around 6 months’ – this is a time when a baby’s appetite and nutritional needs are no longer satisfied by breastmilk or infant formula alone. At around 6 months most babies are also developmentally ready to accept solid foods as their digestive system has matured and they are able to hold their head up and sit with support.
- Continuing breastfeeding while introducing solids is recommended until 12 months of age and beyond, for as long as the mother and child desire. If a baby isn’t having breastmilk they should have infant formula as their main drink until 12 months of age.
- There are problems with early and late introduction of solid foods. There seems to be a window of opportunity to introduce solids at ‘around 6 months’. Starting solid foods too early is not good for babies as their swallowing skills and digestive system may not be ready. It is also important not to leave it too late to start solid foods as this can lead to nutrient deficiencies (such as iron deficiency) and feeding problems.
- Iron rich foods should be included in the first foods. Babies need extra iron in their diet at around 6 months to prevent iron deficiency. Experts now recommend that iron-rich foods such as iron fortified cereals (e.g. baby rice cereal), meat and poultry dishes, pureed tofu and cooked legumes and beans (all in appropriate consistency) should be included in a baby’s first foods.
- Foods can be introduced in any order and slow introduction of foods is not necessary. As long as iron rich foods are included there are no recommendations about the order in which foods should be introduced or the number of new foods that can be introduced at one time. This is a big change to previous guidelines which recommended introducing one food at a time in a particular order and waiting several days between each.
- Foods do not need to be delayed to minimise allergy risk. Experts now agree that delaying the introduction of certain foods does not help in preventing food allergies and there is some evidence that delaying the introduction of foods may actually increase (rather than decrease) allergies. Foods such as eggs, nuts and seafood (in appropriate texture) can be introduced at the same time as other foods.
- Variety and texture is important. Most babies start with a puree texture of food but it’s really important to expose babies to lumpier textures and finger foods as soon as the baby is developmentally ready. Exposing babies to a variety of tastes and textures helps prevent feeding problems later on.
- Fruit juice and honey shouldn’t be given to babies. Fruit juice contains lots of sugar and doesn’t have the fibre of real fruit. Babies and young children can fill up on fruit juice instead of eating more nutritious foods and lots of fruit juice is also bad for their teeth. Honey is also bad for teeth and can contain a bacterium (Clostridium botulinum) that causes babies to become very unwell.
- Salt shouldn’t be added to foods for babies. Salt is hard for babies kidneys to process because they are not fully developed so shouldn’t be added to foods.
Recipe idea: Creamy pasta Bolognese sauce
This recipe can be used for the whole family and modified to suit the stage of the infant’s eating.
- 1 onion, finely diced
- 1 clove garlic, grated
- 400g lean beef mince
- 1 large carrot, finely diced
- 1 large zucchini, finely diced
- 1 teaspoon dried mixed herbs
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste (choose no added salt variety)
- 2 tablespoons cream cheese
- 420g diced tomatoes (choose no added salt variety)
- In a frying pan brown onion, garlic and mince
- Add diced carrot and zucchini. Sauté for 2-3 minutes
- Stir in mixed herbs, tomato paste, cream cheese and diced tomatoes. Simmer uncovered for 5 minutes stirring occasionally.
- Serve according to your baby’s stage of eating:
– For a young baby on puree foods – puree the sauce and serve with puree vegetables.
– For an older baby managing lumpy foods – serve the sauce with pasta (e.g. macaroni) or mashed vegetables.
Acknowledgments to Start Right Eat Right for this recipe
For more information on the infant feeding guidelines visit www.eatforhealth.gov.au.