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When do I feed my baby solids?

Anyone read the papers or listen to radio 4’s Today Programme this morning and hear the furore over the best age to wean your baby onto solids?  I caught it in The Times.  This debate has been going on for as long as I can remember and the advice changing constantly. It’s horribly confusing.

I’ve just written a book, 500 Meals for Babies and Toddlers, due to be published in August this year, this is one of the debates that has been raging between the US and UK publisher and myself.

The current thinking is that you should not give solid food to breast-fed babies until they are 6 months old.  My argument is that all three of my children, now 9, 11 and 14 with no food allergies at all, started solids at 4 months old.

Why?  They were all breastfed and by 13-14 weeks old they began waking up every hour demanding to be fed, this went on hourly during the day too.  They finished a feed and looked around for what else could have to eat. They were hungry, very hungry, and after  week of this and calling my health visitor in desperation (no sleep at night and no way of even getting out of the house during the day) she agreed that it was time to start solids.  It no good having an exhausted Mum and for my mental health and the good of my babies she suggested I add a little baby rice to some expressed breast milk and give my baby a teaspoonful to get her started.  Hmm baby rice, does anyone have a baby who likes this stuff?

My eldest, Big Girl, now 14, started waking up every hour at around this age, she hated baby rice with a vengeance and was extremely good at spitting it out and making raspberries at the same time.  I sat on the floor with her in her chair, me eating a baked apple attempting to get some of the baby rice in her mouth rather than being fired back at me and she just wasn’t interested.  However, she was interested in my baked apple and constantly leaned forward in her chair trying to grab my spoon, so I got a clean spoon and scooped some of the untouched soft apple onto a baby spoon and offered her it.  That was it, she scoffed the lot and kept asking for more, at 14 years old she still loves baked apple.

It took a day or two to work but this was obviously the problem, my baby was hungry.  It was either move to solids or give up breastfeeding and switch to formula.  With my youngest, small boy, I gave in from pretty early on and gave him a bottle of formula at night so that my husband could feed him which meant that I got to have a little bit of social life, ie I could get down the gym and try to lose the baby weight. I wasn’t prepared to give up breast feeding at 13 weeks old, it was difficult to start with but breast feeding was fantastic at burning of the extra fat. I could eat what I wanted was thinner than I’d been for years, I wanted to breast feed until the children were 18 (not serious there, honest!), I stopped when they were 12 months old, then I had to stop eating too (!).

The comment in the news today is that the Government is under pressure to review research from the British Medical Journal that the existing policy of solely breast-feeding for the first 6 months could “leave babies more likely to suffer harmful iron deficiencies, food allergies and disease that causes food intolerance”.  They suggest that babies should start solid food somewhere between 4 and 6 months.

At the end of the day we need to USE OUR COMMON SENSE, always speak to your GP, health visitor, pediatrician, or other health professional before moving your baby onto solids.  You know your baby best so check for signs:

Baby must have good head control

Baby must be able to sit up in a high chair

Baby is hungrier than usual, demanding more feeds and reaching for your food

Baby is interested in the food you are eating

Baby can swallow thicker food without gagging

Introduce foods slowly, begin with a little rice cereal mixed to a thin puree with either breast milk or their regular formula milk, if baby doesn’t like rice cereal (mine hated it) then try stewed apple, pear, sweet potato or similar, well cooked and pureed and thinned down with a little breast or formula milk.

When my book comes out in August this is full of recipes and helpful information to get new Mums through the minefield of what to feed baby, toddler and the rest of the family.  The last thing you want to do is to make up 2 or 3 different meals so my non-nonsense approach will hopefully help.  There is no weighing out onions, peppers or chicken, I’ve tried to keep it as easy to follow as less phaffy as I can with suggestions as to how you can adapt the recipes to feed the whole family.

I’m also putting on some Mums to be or New Mums workshops based on the recipes and the ideas in the book later in the Spring so keep watching the Splat Cooking website for info and dates.