There are different aspects to baby-weaning, which is a months-long process. As a new parent, you probably have questions on your mind regarding when to start solid food for baby. How much solid food to give baby? And, most importantly, what types of food are safe for baby? Should you worry about food allergies that your baby may develop?
Our baby-weaning guide below answers your questions about solid foods for baby.
When to start solid food for babies?
Most babies begin weaning once they’re six months old. Observe your baby for signs of developmental readiness, which include being able to sit upright, keeping the head and neck steady, being able to swallow food (instead of reflexively spitting it back out), and greater hand-eye coordination. Your baby may start to grab small objects and put them in the mouth. Once a baby displays these capabilities, he should be ready to start the weaning process.1
How to start baby on solid food?
To start with, you can feed your baby only half to one teaspoon of pureed, mashed, blended, or softened solids per day.2
Between 7 to 9 months old, you can build up to 3 meals per day. During this time, gradually increase the amount of food to 5 - 10 teaspoons per meal2 , or roughly 1.5 ounces of food per meal.3
What solid food for baby can you start with?
Iron-fortified baby rice cereal is often the most convenient baby-weaning food – it’s easy to make them baby-safe and baby-friendly, and they have the lowest risk of causing allergies. Include vegetables and fruit to provide Vitamin C that will enhance iron absorption.
As your baby grows and gets used to more solids, you can start to introduce proteins16 like chicken, and potentially allergenic food like eggs, dairy, wheat, nuts, and fish, in consultation with your doctor, should there be a strong family history of allergy or a personal history of other allergic problems.1
Identifying the Types of Food Allergies
Allergies – including allergies to food – usually develop early in life and can develop as early as infancy.4
Certain foods tend to be more allergenic and include the following5 :
- cow’s milk
- foods with gluten (including wheat, barley, and rye)
As you introduce new solid food for baby, observe your child for symptoms of food allergy. Allergic reactions to food often manifest as5,6 :
- Skin problems: hives, rash, swelling
- Eye, nose, and throat problems: runny or blocked nose, red watery eyes, sneezing, wheezing, coughing, throat tightness
- Stomach problems: nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea
Parents should take note that food allergies are different from food intolerance or food sensitivity.6 Allergies are caused by the immune system overreacting to certain substances. Food intolerance or food insensitivity pertains to difficulty digesting certain foods.7 Symptoms of food intolerance include tummy pain, bloating, farting, diarrhoea, skin rashes, and itching.7
If your baby does experience allergies, you can get an allergy test to help identify food triggers. Blood tests and skin tests for allergies can be done at any age, even in infancy.8,9
The single-ingredient method
As a rule of thumb, parents should start weaning with single-ingredient foods.1 Single-ingredient foods make it easier to determine what, if any, your baby may be allergic to.
Introduce single-ingredient foods one at a time, every 2-3 days.2 Mashed banana, avocado, sweet potato, or softened, bite-sized bits of broccoli, cauliflower, or carrots are excellent options to start with.
Once you get to potentially allergenic foods (eggs, dairy, nuts, wheat, or fish), give your baby only tiny amounts.5 Observe your baby for adverse or allergic reactions, which often manifest as a rash, eczema, swelling of the skin, diarrhoea, or vomiting.5,6 Given no signs of allergy, you can start to include these foods to your baby’s regular diet.5
Managing Food Allergies in Babies
Managing or monitoring food allergies in babies can be a challenge. Equipped with the right information, you can help reduce or avoid altogether the occurrence of allergies. The following are some handy tips to keep in mind:
Genetics. Your baby may be predisposed to food allergies if one parent is allergic to certain foods. However, this isn’t a foregone conclusion.11 You can still introduce the potentially allergenic food to your baby’s diet using the single-ingredient method as described above.
Integrate potentially allergenic foods to their regular diet. If your baby displays no adverse reactions to allergenic food, start to give them food twice a week. Giving your baby a type of food and subsequently removing that food from their diet may increase the risk of developing an allergy to that food.12 These allergenic foods should gradually be introduced into your baby’s meal plan before becoming a regular part of a varied and balanced diet.
Introduce potentially allergenic foods before baby turns 1. Research has shown that introducing potentially allergenic foods between 6 to 12 months may reduce the risk of developing food allergies. Keeping your baby from eating these foods after he turns 1, may in fact, increase risk of developing allergies to these foods.5,12
Maintain good gut health. Seventy per cent of the immune system is located in the gut, where immune cells interact with the microbiome.15 Studies have observed that children who didn’t have food allergies, as well as children who outgrew their food allergies, were found to have good gut bacteria, suggesting that gut health in infancy plays a role in preventing or minimising the occurrence of food allergies.13,14 During the weaning process, make sure to introduce fruits, vegetables, and grains high in fibre to your baby to encourage the growth of good bacteria in the gut. Probiotics formulated especially for babies should also help them maintain a diverse and healthy gut microbiome.
Preventing Food Allergies in Babies
If your baby is allergic to certain foods, stop giving them these foods. Always check baby food labels for the list of ingredients. Consult your paediatrician for advice; you can ask for an allergy management plan.
Thankfully, most food allergies go away in early childhood. About 80 to 90 percent of egg, dairy, wheat, and soy allergies subside once children reach age 5. Take note, however, that some allergies may be more persistent. Allergies to nuts or seafood tend to be life-long allergies.6
1When, What, and How to Introduce Solid Foods – CDC . Accessed January 18, 2022.
2Stages of weaning – Our Health Service . Accessed January 19, 2022.
3Feeding Your Baby: The First Year – Cleveland Clinic . Accessed January 19, 2022.
4What Causes a Person to Develop Allergies? – Carolina Asthma and Allergy Center . Accessed January 21, 2022.
5Food allergies in babies and young children – NHS . Accessed January 21, 2022.
6Food Allergies in Children – Healthy Children . Accessed January 21, 2022.
7Food intolerance – NHS . Accessed January 21, 2022.
8Earliest age to start skin testing – World Allergy Organization . Accessed January 21, 2022.
9Allergy Testing in Children: Which Test When? – Contemporary Pediatrics . Accessed January 21, 2022.
10Food Allergies in Children – Hopkins Medicine . Accessed January 18, 2022.
11Kids and Allergies – Kids Health . Accessed February 9, 2022.
12How to Introduce Solid Foods to Babies for Allergy Prevention – ASCIA . Accessed February 9, 2022.
13Gut Microbes May Be Key to Solving Food Allergies – Scientific American . Accessed February 15, 2022.
14Data from twins suggests that gut bacteria are important in food allergies – Stanford Medicine . Accessed February 15, 2022.
15If you want to boost immunity, look to the gut – UCLA Health . Accessed February 15, 2022.
16https://www.healthhub.sg/live-healthy/1227/baby-getting-ready-for-solids . Accessed March 03, 2022