The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the UK government both encourage exclusive breastfeeding till baby is around 6 months of age (26 weeks), which follows World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines. However, after 6 months of age, solids need to be introduced to provide adequate nutrition for the growing baby. So while breast milk or formula remains an important part of a baby’s diet for the first year of life, providing solids alongside continued breastfeeding or formula will give your baby the best nutrition whilst baby learns new feeding skills.
Hence the main goals of complementary feeding are to optimize baby’s nutrition and to gradually introduce a variety of tastes and textures into a baby’s diet to help baby learn new skills such as self-feeding, chewing and eating solids. This helps to build the stepping stones towards baby eventually eating family meals.
There are generally two camps of thought in how babies should be introduced to solids – via a Baby Led Weaning method or via Complementary feeding. If you are interested in starting your child on solids using complementary feeding, know that the introduction of foods can be grouped into three stages:
1. Smooth purees and mashed foods
2. Mashed foods with soft lumps and soft finger foods
3. Harder finger foods and minced family foods
It should be noted that while most babies will tend to follow this pattern of progression in solids/textures, not all babies do! So being flexible and aware of this as a mom is important. Babies progress as different rates and stages in their feeding skills, and some may take longer to go through one stage than another. For example, my eldest child took a long time to go through the pureed stage and was only at 13 months beginning to move onto minced family foods. Part of this could be because her top two teeth have finally come in, allowing her to be able to chew better and handle tougher textures. My second daughter seemed more ready for lumpy foods and textures at about 8 months of age. So don’t worry if your baby does not exactly follow the stages of transition of complementary feeding described above. You can also do a mix of complementary feeding and baby led weaning – no one really says you can only have one and not the other. Some parents following the Baby Led Weaning method do still give their babies some pureed foods, but may choose to offer them some ‘pre-loaded’ spoons placed on their plate or bowl. If you are interested to learn more about Baby Led Weaning, see How is Baby Led Weaning (BLW) Really Defined? and Intakes of Baby-Led Weaning Infants & Traditional Spoon Feed Infants – Are There Nutritional Differences? for more information!