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Introducing Solids and BLW

My name is Sophee and I am a kaiako in the Kirikahurangi room (infants) at Future Focus Livingstone Drive. I am super passionate about the developmental milestones of our pēpi, introducing solids being one of them! I’ve whipped up a quick blog post about introducing solids and BLW to your pēpi as some of our whānau have had questions regarding this topic recently! Hopefully this blog helps with some of those questions, as we all know this is a nerve wracking but exciting milestone for you and your pēpi!

Starting Solids

When starting solids, do a milk feed first (until approx. 8-9 months old) then offer solids when pēpi is most relaxed and happy. I’ve always liked to offer milk or water after food or in-between meals. From 12 months of age full-fat cow’s milk can be offered as a drink! You can either hold pēpi in your lap while feeding them or place them in a high chair – whatever you are most comfortable with.

If your pēpi is showing an interest in your food, you can start introducing solids as young as 4 months – the signs could be;

  • Has good head and neck control and can sit upright when supported
  • Shows an interest in food – for example, they look at what’s on your plate, reaches out for your food and opens their mouth when offered food on a spoon.
  • Can keep food in their mouth and then swallow it, instead of spitting the food out.
  • Show signs of chewing movements.
  • Still seems hungry after a milk feed.

If pēpi is not overly fussed by food, you can start the introduction from 6 months old, there is no right or wrong time to introduce food between 4 and 6 months, as food for your pēpi before 1 year of age is all about learning as they explore different textures, tastes and develop fine motor skills. The nutrients they need mostly comes from yours/their choice of milk.

From around 6-7 months (stage 1)
Start by offering ½ – 2 teaspoons of smooth pureed food, this could be cooked puréed vegetables (carrot, kumara, pumpkin, potato etc..), cooked puréed fruit (apple, pear, peaches, etc..), smoothly mashed banana or avocado, cooked puréed meat (chicken and fish) and cooked puréed legumes, rice or lentils.

From around 7 months (stage 2)
Try mixed ingredient foods with a range of flavours (well-cooked egg, tofu, cooked pasta and cut-up noodles, cheese, yoghurt, bread and plain crackers). Offering pēpi between 2 tablespoons to ½ cup of food around 2-3 meals a day. At this age their purée will be thicker, have small lumps and can be mashed, you could also start offering soft finger foods!

From around 8-12 months (stage 3)
At this stage you can start to offer a wider variety of foods in different sizes and textures, even finger food! Depending on appetite, offer pēpi 2-3 meals a day, with 1 or 2 small snacks in-between. Offer minced, chopped, grated and small soft finger food. Ripe soft fruit (oranges, mandarins, kiwifruit, pineapple, strawberries), cooked and chopped vegetables (silverbeet, capsicum, mushroom, eggplant), finely chopped salad vegetables and tomatoes, kai moana/seafood, smooth nut butters, infant muesli, porridge, wheat biscuits, cooked onion, garlic, ginger, small amounts of mild herbs and spices (parsley, basil, mild curry, turmeric, cinnamon).

12 months onwards (stage 4)
Your toddler can join in with whānau mealtimes, and needs 3 meals a day with small snacks in-between. Your toddler is ready for a wider variety of family foods and finger foods. Some foods will still need to have the texture altered by cooking until soft and cutting up into a suitable size. (try avoiding small, hard, round, sticky or stringy foods).

Fun Fact: It can take up to 15 times before babies and toddlers like the taste of a new food!

Food before 1 year old is all about exploring for your pēpi and they have the best time doing it. If there’s any advice you take away from this piece it would be have fun, enjoy the mess, don’t put pressure on yourself and enjoy the laughs because there is bound to be many. We all know you are doing the best and most wonderful job raising your pēpi and we are here to support you along this journey.

BLW (Baby Led Weaning)

You can modify foods you’re already making to share with your baby and there’s not always a lot of separate cooking involved. It also allows your pēpi to have control over what goes into their mouths, which sets a good precedent for letting them eat intuitively from the start.

When starting baby-led weaning;

  • Sit with pēpi during meals.
  • Offer foods the size and shape of your finger.
  • Help your pēpi hold food if they are needing it.
  • Offer preloaded spoons of food.
  • Offer foods with healthy fats and nutrients.
  • Offer water in a sippy cup.
  • End the meal when your pēpi shows signs of being done.

When preparing the food for your pēpi, you generally want the food to be big enough that it would be difficult for them to put the entire thing into their mouths. Specifically,

  • Foods that are roughly the size of a finger, so about a 4-inch stick.
  • Foods that are easy for your pēpi to pick up – they can’t pick up small pieces until closer to 9 months when they develop the ability to use their fingers in what’s known as a “pincer grasp”.
  • Foods that aren’t too slippery – so you can wash and leave some of the peel on fresh foods like bananas, avocado, kiwi, and mango.

The different types of food you can offer are soft foods cut into long finger shapes for example,

  • Avocado
  • Ripe peaches
  • Banana
  • Roasted sweet potato
  • Egg yolk mashed on toast
  • Melon slices
  • Banana with some peel left around the bottom as a handle
  • Toast sticks with avo mashed on
  • Ripe avocado spears (you can roll in sesame seeds to make it easier for your pēpi to grip)
  • Lamb, beef or dark chicken, on the bone or a large piece for pēpi to suck on

Baby-led weaning can be an anxious experience as a parent and this is absolutely valid, if taking a child CPR course is an option for your whānau, we highly recommend as this can ease a lot of nerves when it comes to introducing solids. An important part to understand is a child’s gag reflex. Gagging is a very common reflex for pēpi, this mostly occurs when they have too much food in their month or when trying a new texture. Gagging is understandably a scary experience, however it is important to note, it is different to choking. Gagging is most often a sign that your pēpi is moving food around in their mouths and needs to gag to get it out, which is a great skill for them to learn. If whole foods is not something you are comfortable exploring yet, but you are wanting your pēpi to learn to feed themselves, you can start slow by offering preloaded spoons. Just remember to go at your pace, if you are comfortable and happy, your pēpi will be too!

Information provided is sourced through the Ministry of Health and ‘Wattie’s – guide to baby feeding’. For more advice or food ideas, OHbaby and Mother Nurtured are both great websites that provide food ideas specific to the age of your pēpi!

Nga mihi,

Kaiako Sophee.