It is important to understand and recognize your baby’s signs of readiness for solid food. When you begin to see signs of readiness, you can introduce solid foods in addition to breastfeeding or formula. Signs of readiness include:
- Holding head up steadily
- Sitting up and leaning forward
- Mouth opens wide when you offer food
- Can indicate when they are full (ie. Turning head away)
- Picking up food and attempting to place in mouth
Although your baby may show signs of readiness, they may not accept all new foods and it is important to keep trying. You may try again another day or experiment with different textures. Introduce solids no later than 6 months of age.
What Plant-Based Foods Should I Introduce First?
When your baby begins accepting solid foods, it is important to remember that breast milk or formula is the most important food at 6 months of age, but adding in certain solid foods will provide an additional source of energy, nutrients, and variety in order to meet their requirements. Foods that should be introduced first need to be rich in the mineral iron to prevent iron deficiency and provided at least twice per day when the baby is between 6 and 9 months old.
In regards to the order of which foods should be introduced apart from iron, there is not enough scientific evidence to indicate an advantage of providing food groups in a certain sequence (For example, vegetables before fruit or fruit before whole grains).
There are various plant-based foods that are naturally iron-rich and can be provided to meet your baby’s requirements. Well-cooked tofu, legumes (beans, lentils, chickpeas), and iron-fortified infant cereals made with breastmilk or formula are great plant-based sources of iron. Serve these foods with a source of vitamin C such as crushed tomatoes, sweet potato, mango, and melons to maximize absorption of iron. Limit providing processed and packaged meat substitutes as these are typically high in sodium. Speak with a Registered Dietitian to ensure that your baby is getting all the energy and nutrients that they need.
How to Introduce Solids to Your Baby
Remember that every baby is different so do not worry if your baby is different than others when advancing to solids.
Try to introduce solid foods using these suggestions:
- Feed your baby in a feeding chair or a high chair to ensure they are sitting up straight for safety.
- Introduce foods 2-3 times per day and work up to 3-5. It is normal for your baby to have a varying appetite from day to day.
- Start with a small amount (1-2 tsp) and use a spoon to serve. Wait until your baby opens their mouth before feeding.
- Offer different textures such as finely minced, ground, lumpy, pureed, mashed, or finger foods.
- Let your baby use their hands and fingers to explore foods.
- When your baby reaches out for the spoon, encourage them to feed themselves.
- To make the food more familiar, mix it with breast milk or infant formula.
- Feed your baby when you or other members of the family are eating as well.
How to Prepare Foods
Preparing your own baby food can be easy and convenient when planned properly. Making your own baby food allows you to provide different textures, use fresh vegetables and fruit, reduce the amount of salt and sugar you use, use foods from your culture, and save money.
Use some of these tips when making homemade plant-based baby food:
- Choose vegetables and fruits that have few blemishes or bruises and make sure to wash thoroughly before cooking.
- Chop foods into small chunks ensuring to have removed any seeds or pits. Press cooked legumes through a sieve to remove skins.
- Boil, microwave, or steam fruits and vegetables in water. Beans, peas, and lentils can be made from scratch or if canned, rinsed and heated up. Mash, puree, mince, or grind once softened and save some cooking water to mix in to provide the appropriate consistency.
- Honey and corn syrup should not be provided due to the risk of containing spores of Clostridium botulinum
When you think your baby is ready for solids, be patient and offer a variety of texture appropriate, iron-rich foods first. Provide different textures in small amounts and remember that it may take up to several tries for your baby to eat what is offered. Every baby is different and if you have concerns with your baby’s growth, consult with your doctor or a registered dietitian for additional support.
Do you have any other strategies for introducing foods? Let us know in the comments below!
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- Health Canada, 2012. Nutrition for healthy term infants: recommendations from birth to six months. Retrieved from: http://hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/nutrition/infant-nourisson/recom/index-eng.php
- UK National Health Service (NHS) (2015). Your baby’s first solid foods. Retrieved from: http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/Pages/solid-foods-weaning.aspx
- UnlockFood. (2018). Introducing solid food to your baby. Retrieved from: http://www.unlockfood.ca/en/Articles/Breastfeeding-Infant-feeding/Introducing-solid-food-to-your-baby.aspx
- Mangels, A. R., & Messina, V. (2001). Considerations in planning vegan diets: Infants. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 101(6), 670-677. doi:10.1016/S0002-8223(01)00169-9. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11424546