Make every bite count – latest news on introducing solids by expert Karen Kingham APDExpert Examiner, Nutrition News — By Emma Stirling on October 14, 2010 at 3:36 pm
This week in Sydney a group of dietitians and other health professionals interested in the latest news on starting solids, attended a meeting hosted by the Dietitians Association of Australia and one of their corporate partners Meat and Live Stock Australia (MLA). It was interesting to read the live tweets from afar and hear the reactions from colleagues with kids. Karen’s babies are now 5 and almost 8 years old (very close in age to mine) and I can vividly remember the night that she arrived home from hospital with her first. I of course was the pro having a 6 month old. But despite my experience as a paediatric dietitian, no textbook can prepare you for the when, how and what of first foods. So now it’s Karen’s turn to share the latest and greatest advice:
Karen Kingham loves good food. An Accredited Practising Dietitian, freelance nutrition writer and mum of two, she is passionate about sharing her knowledge to help people enjoy the benefits of great tasting, nutritious food. Karen is the dietitian spokesperson for Aussie Apples , the author of several healthy cookbooks and is the resident nutrition expert for the BBC Australian Good Food magazine.
As the gate keeper of good nutrition in our family I was determined my babies would be breast fed as long as possible, start solids at the correct time (6 months) and progress through a wonderful variety of foods and textures emerging as well rounded foodies that would sit around the dinner table and share the family meal. And, from information presented at this meeting that’s what most mums wish for too.
Looking back I think I have mostly got my wish, but there remain a few kinks; this year my Miss almost-8 has refused to eat the grainy bread she has eaten all her life. Fortunately she loves the crusty wholemeal bread I make (I just wish I could find time to do this more than once a blue moon); my Master 5 still can’t stand topping of any kind on his pasta (though he’s ever hopeful that the tomato sauce might one day be the one out of the bottle) and I still seem to scrape an inordinate number of masticated grey masses into the bin at the end of a meal featuring red meat.
So what did I learn?
Well surprisingly, little seems to have changed around the when, what and how of first foods. In a nutshell, we should all aim to:
- breast feed as long as we can (but not beat yourself up if it’s not as long as others!)
- introduce first foods around 6 months or when baby shows the developmental signs of readiness, sitting supported, holding their head up and losing their tongue thrust reflex
- start with smooth puree progressing to lumpy, mushy foods by 7 months and then on to finger foods from 9 months
- introduce new foods every few days and watch for signs of intolerance
It was the insights of the experts on why first foods can be difficult for some that I found of most benefit. Here is my take home trouble shooter advice:
Don’t panic about a gag – all babies have a sensitive gag reflex, some more than others. And first foods will invariably see your baby gag at some stage. But a gagging baby is not a choking baby and confusion about this is a common reason for delaying the progress in texture of first foods. Your child health nurse should be able to give you good advice on what to do when your baby gags.
Variety, variety variety – this is all about that dreaded word ‘neophobia’ that innate protective mechanism babies and young children have that means they need to be exposed to new foods multiple times before they will accept them. The research shows the more foods babies get to experience and the more often they get to experience them, the better eaters they will grow up to be. So work your way through the fruit and veggie section of the supermarket and don’t forget the legumes, meat, fish and chicken too.
Parents provide, children decide – I love these words of one of the world’s experts in feeding children Ellyn Satter. But not surprisingly they are among some of the hardest advice to take. Relinquishing control at the point you put the food on the plate or in the bowl is hard, but children need to be trusted to know when they are full.
Something is not always better than nothing – this leads on from the last piece of advice. If children don’t want what you give them try not to run around making something else or pulling out the favourite food yet again. The next meal is never far off so they won’t starve in the meantime.
Don’t be afraid to include red meat – iron deficiency remains a risk for young children and there is no reason why red meat can’t be pureed up and included with the rice cereal, pumpkin and peas that typify those first foods for babies.
Keep it in the family – we’re so time strapped parents these days we don’t want to prepare and cook more meals than we need. Adapting family meals to suit the various stages of our babies and young children means we offer greater variety with less effort. And, the flow on benefit is as children get older family meals are exactly that – everyone sharing a common meal. A new brochure by MLA Make Every Bite Count addresses just this with information on first foods and 4 family recipes that include the adaptations necessary to feed everyone from baby to toddler. You can view or print a copy of Make every bite count here.
A few teaspoons left in the bowl – this advice is for all of us wanting to know how much is enough to feed our babies and young children, a question that answered any other way would have endless versions depending upon the child. Suffice to say, enough isn’t a clean plate. It’s simply the point where baby or child has had their fill regardless of what’s left.
Thanks Karen, great to have your first hand insights. I would just add, based on personal and professional experience, that the above describes children with typical development and without underlying medical issues that can affect their acceptance of food. If you have concerns about your child’s eating seek expert advice from a Registered or Accredited Practising Dietitian. So over to you wise readers. How are you going with introducing solids? What happened when you were a child (I was fed sweetened condensed milk to fatten me up being a premmie)? Love to hear your tales, trials and tribulations in the comments below.