How to help your baby start solids - and prevent fussy eating in kids

Photos: Natalia Cooper and Ezra / Supplied
Photos: Natalia Cooper and Ezra / Supplied 

Starting solids. It sounds simple enough, but it causes so much angst and confusion for many first-time parents. (myself included!)

We're bombarded with information on the internet, there are plenty of old wives' tales and you also get lots of well-meaning but conflicting advice from family and friends.

When it came to solids, I just had absolutely no idea where to start. That was until I came across fellow Perth girl, Dr Kyla Smith.

Photo: Ezra was always super independent and wanted to feed himself from the get-go.
Photo: Ezra was always super independent and wanted to feed himself from the get-go. 

Kyla is a paediatric dietitian who specialises in preventing fussy eating in kids. She helps parents to feed their babies with confidence through her programs Baby and Toddler Mealtimes.

Here's a little Q and A I did with her.

Ok, Kyla, starting solids. It's stressful! Where should parents begin?

It can definitely feel stressful, but it doesn't have to be that way! Keep it super simple at first.

Starting solids is actually about learning to enjoy food, so the best thing you can do is let your baby learn about the smell, feel and taste of new foods when they're eating.

Mess is a good thing!

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Traditional purees or baby led weaning?

I love a combo of the two! I like offering iron rich foods as a purée (think meat, legumes and egg) and soft fruits and vegetables as first finger foods.

This way your baby gets important nutrients and a chance to practice feeding themselves!

Photos: Ezra loves his veggies (for now!)
Photos: Ezra loves his veggies (for now!) 

Why can't you pretend the spoon is an aeroplane to trick your baby into eating?

Good question! Basically, we don't ever want to trick or coerce our babies into eating if they don't want to.

It's important to follow their cues, so only pop the spoon in their mouth if they lean forward or open their mouth to let you. If your baby clamps their mouth shut, let them have a play with the spoon and build up their confidence before trying again.

Photo: Also loves a babycino
Photo: Also loves a babycino 

What about trying potential allergens like eggs and peanuts. Should you do it right before a doctor's appointment?

Food allergies are a big worry for lots of parents. But you definitely don't need to wait in the doctor's car park! Offer the main food allergens before your baby turns one. This includes egg, peanuts, wheat, cow's milk, soy, sesame, shellfish, fish and other nuts.

Start with super small amounts, like 1/4 teaspoon, and try each allergen at least three times in the first week you offer it. If your baby tolerates the food, ideally you want to keep offering the common food allergens weekly after that.

If your baby has an allergic reaction, stop offering the food and seek medical advice. My 'Introducing Food Allergens' book might be helpful too! 

Ezra was always super independent and wanted to feed himself from the get-go. But I used to worry that he wasn't getting enough in his belly. What should parents do if they have a Mr or Miss Independent?

This is so common. Try to remember the mantra 'parent provide, baby decide'. Your job is to offer, but it's up to your baby to take as much as they need. You can trust them!

Every time Ezra gagged, my husband and I would freak out… when should parents be worried?

Gagging is a super normal part of learning to bite and chew. It's very different to choking.

We actually want our babies to gag when they're learning to eat. I'd seek help if your baby is vomiting a lot at meals, or really struggling to swallow soft foods.

Why does it have to be so messy? When Ezra was younger, we'd end up with puree all over the walls. These days, half the meal ends up on the floor. We find peas in the most random of places.

Ahhh no one likes mess! But when babies make mess, they're actually learning all about the sensory properties of food. This helps them to be less fussy in the long run.

In the meantime, use an eating smock, a splat mat and embrace the mess!

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Something really cool that I learnt from you was to trust your baby's appetite. One meal, they'll gobble it all up, then next they'll barely eat a thing. Is that normal?

That's actually more normal than babies eating a consistent amount at each meal. We know that babies are the best judges of how much they need to eat.

It might be more or less than other babies, or more or less on different days, but that's a great sign they're listening to their bodies.

Ezra LOVES vegetables. They are his favourite things. (woohoo!) This is most likely because of you! But I've heard lots of toddlers hit a stage where they start to reject their usual faves… help! What should I do if that happens?

Go Ezra! It's very normal for babies to start rejecting foods like meat and vegetables at around 15 to 18 months.

The best thing you can do is roll with it. Keep offering but don't try harder to get them to eat. It will get better if we trust them to come back to veggies when they're ready.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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I'm a bit useless with toddler snacks. Any tips?

Think of them as mini meals and include a bit of variety. I like to offer a calcium rich food (like yoghurt or cheese), a grain food (like crackers) and a fruit or vegetable (even just a strip or two).

Ok and lastly – tell us about Baby and Toddler Mealtimes 

Baby Mealtimes is an online membership program for parents who want to take the stress out of introducing their babies to solid foods. Baby Mealtimes is a practical guide to starting solids and includes a members-only website, a supportive Facebook community and an Instagram page which delivers regular meal inspiration. 

Toddler Mealtimes is an online course and community for parents wanting to prevent or manage fussy toddler eating. Toddler Mealtimes uses photos, videos and Q&A sessions to teach you how to confidently encourage toddlers to enjoy a variety of nutritious foods without battles at the table.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Thanks for guiding Ezra, Carl and I through the world of food. You're a legend!

Natalia Cooper is a reporter and presenter for Sydney's 6pm edition of Nine News