The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends the introduction of solids for your baby between five and seven months of age.
At this age your baby is interested in their surroundings and what people around them are doing. They may look at food going to your mouth and may drool or grab for it. These are signs of being ready for solid food.
Your baby’s brain is constantly evaluating the information it receives through the senses. This is a great opportunity to expose your baby to new foods, even ones you don’t like!
Exploring and experiencing food
Food does not just provide sensation through taste and smell. Babies need to touch, squash, poke and smear the food to get a better idea of what to expect from this new stuff before it gets to their mouth.
Try not to worry about the mess. Babies experiment with pieces of food as they manipulate items from their hands to their mouth. Examples of this could be gripping a piece of bread, squeezing a banana, and grasping a grain of rice between finger and thumb.
All of these experiences teach babies about texture, hardness, slipperiness, softness, stickiness, and dryness.
Breast and formula milk
Even though solid food is an exciting new experience, brain and body growth is still dependent on breast or formula milk.
Breast milk contains a relatively large proportion of cholesterol and saturated fat. This is fantastic ‘brain food’. Connections made between brain cells, and indeed all cell membranes of the body, depend on cholesterol to ‘insulate’ the nerve fibres so they send messages efficiently. The relatively high amount of fat in breast milk reflects the importance of brain growth in the human baby compared to other mammals.
What you can do to help
- Let your baby explore their food, as well as you feeding them.
- Look out for foods that are rich in iron after the first few weeks of introducing solids, especially if your baby was premature.
- Continue to breastfeed for as long as possible to reap the benefit of the brain building properties of breast milk (WHO recommends breast feeding until about two years of age).
- Offer breast or formula feed first then solids. This starts to change at around seven to eight months of age.
- Avoid giving your baby ‘low fat’ foods, as all natural fats are great for brain growth.
- Monitor your baby’s environment for toxic hazards. Wash all fruit and vegetable skins or remove peel. Avoid toxic cleaning agents, sprays or even air fresheners and stay away from fumes like heavy traffic, smokes, garden sprays. These chemicals can affect your baby more than a fully grown adult.
- Watch out for what your baby licks, eats or sucks. Some paint can still contain lead and many plastic baby items contain BPA (Bisphenol A). This is a type of chemical which can disrupt hormones. Buy toys made of natural substances and use chinaware over plastic bowls, spoons and cups.
Want to know more?
Pregnancy, birth and baby – Baby development
Pregnancy, birth and baby – Moving on to solids
Raising Children Network – Babies development