Watching your little one take their first bites of food is a fun adventure for you both. There’ll be laughter, play, mess and more – and it’s all part of the experience. Introducing solid food is all about giving your baby the best start in life.
One of the easiest ways to do this is to opt for healthy, natural foods that are rich in iron and essential nutrients. Here are three simple ways to enhance your baby’s diet when it’s time for solids.
Babies need food that’s rich in iron to help them thrive. Breast milk or formula will meet your baby’s iron requirements before you start solids. Yet once you introduce food it’s important to ensure you offer plenty of iron-rich foods.
Meat is a key source of iron. Pureed meat can be included in your bub’s diet as early as 6 months. Good sources of iron for your baby include: well-cooked beef, lamb, pork, chicken, liver and fish (no bones). Green leafy vegetables, eggs (introduce at 10-11 months) and fortified cereals also contain iron.
Tip: Add cooked, pureed meat to veggie purees or cereals.
2. Vitamin C
Vitamin C plays a role in helping maintain a healthy immune system and can also help to prevent cell damage. Not only is this key vitamin an immune-enhancer, it also helps little bodies absorb iron from their food.
Foods rich in vitamin C include: citrus fruits, berries, leafy greens, mandarins, peaches, apples, bananas, tomatoes, kiwi fruit and red capsicum.
Tip: As vitamin C increases iron absorption, combine foods rich in vitamin C with iron-fortified cereals or pureed meats.
Offering a variety of coloured fruits and vegetables helps ensure your little one is getting the essential nutrients they need to function at their best.
While all fruits and veggies are healthy, those that are bright in colour tend to contain more of those powerful, beneficial antioxidants.
Some of the brightest fruits and veggies include broccoli, capsicum, tomatoes, carrots, sweet potatoes, berries and zucchini.
Tip: When you’re making purees or little meals, think rainbow: include at least one green, red and orange fruit or veggie for each meal.
General feeding tips:
- Understanding readiness – it’s important to discuss introduction of solids with your doctor if you’re unsure your baby is ready. While the guidelines suggest 6 months, you can introduce solids as early as 4 months if your baby is showing signs of readiness (i.e. an interest in food). Don't introduce them any earlier than 4 months or any later than 6 months.
- Start slow – many mothers begin with purees and then move on to soft-cooked finger foods. Always be aware of any choking hazards and ensure you mash or cook hard foods.
- Variety is key – food is fun for your baby, so include a wide variety of foods and avoid serving the same thing over and over, as your bub will get bored (just as you would).
- Skip the salt – making purees with no seasoning may seem bland for you, but for your bub all new food is exciting. Don’t add any salt, soy sauce or other high-salt condiments to your baby’s food at this early age.
- Wait a few days between introducing new foods – play it safe and introduce one new food at a time to ensure there are no signs of any allergic reaction.
- Continue with breastfeeding or formula – your baby still needs breast milk or formula until at least 12 months old.
Remember: if, at any time, your baby is showing signs of an allergy, be sure to make an appointment with your doctor and chat to them about your baby’s diet.
About the author - Michelle Guillemard
Michelle is the President of the Australasian Medical Writers Association (AMWA) and is the Director of Purely Content, a health & medical writing business based in Sydney, Australia. She has a BA (Media & Communications) from the University of Melbourne, is a contributor to the European Medical Writers Association Journal and conducts regular training workshops on medical writing-related topics for AMWA. Michelle lives in Sydney with her husband and two daughters.
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