Baby's First Food: the Basics All Mums and Dads Should Know!

Embarking on the exciting journey of introducing solids to your baby's diet? The first step can be a game-changer for their palate. Learn about the best baby foods to introduce first and set your little one on the path to a lifetime of healthy eating habits..

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Are you ready to give your baby their first food? What baby food should I introduce first? Here’s what you need to remember when feeding your bubba.

Your baby is around 6 months old and is grabbing wildly at everything you eat. You know that he’s now ready to start eating solid food and you’re very excited about seeing him ‘eat’ for the first time ever!

But with the excitement, you may also start to feel slightly overwhelmed by all the baby food products in the market, and by all the information you might hear from friends and relatives, or read in books or on the internet.

To make this time a bit less overwhelming for you, here’s some information related to some of the most common questions about baby food.

Baby’s First Food: When Is My Baby Ready for Solids?

According to Gina Shaw of WebMD, most babies are ready for their first taste of solids by the time they are 6 months old. She explains that by this age, babies lose what’s called the ‘extrusion reflex‘ that they use for sucking a breast or bottle.

Here are some signs that your baby may be ready for solids:

  • He can sit up with support, and also hold his head up well.
  • He can keep food in his mouth rather than let it dribble out.
  • His birth weight has doubled.
  • He shows plenty of interest in what you’re eating.

Baby Food Stages: Nourishing Your Little One

Introducing your baby to solid foods is an exciting milestone in their development. As your child grows, their nutritional needs change, and so do the textures and types of foods they can safely consume.

Understanding the different baby food stages, when to transition between them, and what foods are appropriate is essential for ensuring your baby’s healthy growth. In this list, we’ll explore the various baby food stages, their descriptions, inclusive ages, signs that they are ready to move to the next stage, and examples of suitable foods.

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Stage 1: Introduction to Solids

Description: At this stage, babies start with very runny, single-ingredient purees. These foods are smooth and easy to swallow, perfect for little ones who are just beginning their solid food journey.

Inclusive Ages: Typically between 4 to 6 months.

Signs to Move to the Next Stage: When your baby can sit with support, shows an interest in food, and can swallow without pushing food out with their tongue (the tongue-thrust reflex has disappeared).

Examples of Food: Single-ingredient purees like rice cereal, oatmeal, sweet potatoes, and pureed peas. You can mix your breast milk in the puree.

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Stage 2: Developing Tastes 

Description: In this stage, babies are ready for slightly thicker textures and more variety. You can begin to introduce new flavours and combinations.

Inclusive Ages: Generally between 7 to 8 months.

Signs to Move to the Next Stage: When your baby can sit unassisted, shows interest in self-feeding, and can mash food with their gums.

Examples of Food: Mashed bananas, avocados, applesauce, pureed carrots, and infant oatmeal with added fruit.

Stage 3: Texture Exploration

Description: This stage involves a transition to more complex textures. Babies can start trying soft, bite-sized pieces of food, encouraging the development of chewing skills.

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Inclusive Ages: Typically between 9 to 12 months.

Signs to Move to the Next Stage: When your baby can sit well without support, has better hand-eye coordination, and can pick up small foods using their thumb and forefinger (pincer grasp).

Examples of Food: Soft-cooked pasta, small pieces of steamed vegetables, finely chopped fruits, and well-cooked, finely minced meat or poultry.

Stage 4: Family Meals

Description: By this stage, your baby can enjoy many of the same foods as the rest of the family. Continue to introduce a variety of textures and flavours.

Inclusive Ages: Typically 12 months and beyond.

Signs to Move to the Next Stage: When your child has a more extensive range of foods they can eat and is adept at chewing and swallowing.

Examples of Food: Bite-sized pieces of family meals like grilled cheese sandwiches, scrambled eggs, small slices of pizza, and a variety of cooked vegetables and fruits.

When Can Baby Eat Table Food?

Babies can start eating table food when they reach around 9 to 12 months of age. At this stage, they typically have developed the necessary motor skills and coordination to handle small, soft, bite-sized pieces of food. It’s crucial to introduce a variety of textures and flavours to expand their palate and encourage healthy eating habits.

However, always prioritise your baby’s safety by ensuring that the food is age-appropriate and cut into small, manageable pieces to minimise choking hazards.

How Do I Choose the Best Food for My Baby?

Experts point out that around the time babies are ready to start eating solid food (6 months), their natural stores of iron begin to deplete.

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Because of this, the Health Promotion Board of Singapore (HPB) recommends giving your baby iron-fortified cereal, as well as foods naturally rich in iron, as some of his first foods.

Making your baby’s first food at home

If you are planning to make your baby’s food at home, keep the texture smooth and runny to help your baby enjoy the process of learning how to eat.

The HPB recommends giving your baby soft, mashed fruit and cooked strained vegetables. They also advise giving soft protein-rich foods such as soybean curd, cooked and mashed lentils, and finely flaked fish.

As your baby’s ability to chew and bite improves, you could add finely minced meat and finely shredded poultry to his diet.

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Here are some fruit and vegetable options that are appropriate first foods for your baby:

  • Avocado: Avocados are full of essential fats and nutrients for your little one, including vitamins A, C, niacin and folate; and the minerals potassium, phosphorus, iron, magnesium and calcium.
  • Pears: Containing vitamins A, C and folate, and minerals such as potassium, phosphorus, magnesium and calcium, pears are an ideal first food for your baby.
  • Sweet potato: This vibrant orange yam is a super-food and is chock-full of vitamins such as vitamins A, C and folate, and minerals like potassium, selenium, magnesium and calcium.
  • Pumpkin: A strong favourite with babies, pumpkin is loaded with vitamin A and beta carotene, and is also a great source of potassium, protein and iron.
  • Banana: Another popular first food choice for babies, bananas contain vitamins A, C and folate, and minerals like potassium, selenium, magnesium and calcium.

Buying your baby’s first food from the supermarket

Most baby food jars are labelled according to your baby’s stage of development. So if you’re looking for first foods, look for jars labelled as Stage 1, which contain food pureed to an appropriate consistency for your little one.

What to check:

  • The expiry date on the jar label/lid
  • That the vacuum seal on the lid is intact and hasn’t ‘popped’ — the centre of the lid should be slightly indented
  • The ingredients — they shouldn’t contain added salt, sugar, preservatives, modified starch or colouring
  • Stage 1 foods should ideally contain just one ingredient, i.e., the fruit or vegetable it is made of.

Also, before you open the jar to feed your baby, don’t forget to wipe the lid and then check that when you open it, you hear a popping sound which indicates that the seal is intact.

Baby’s First Food: Go Organic

Many parents prefer to go the organic route when giving their baby their first food, even though they cost more. However, others trust the Singapore Government’s food safety standards and may opt to buy commercially produced fruits and vegetables.

Either way, this is an issue that’s best resolved by considering your family’s budget and beliefs.

However, do try to avoid skimping on fruits and vegetables in an effort to reduce your baby’s exposure to pesticides.

Instead, consider buying organic for the following fruits and vegetables known as the ‘dirty dozen’ — produce that typically contain the highest levels of residue pesticides.

The ‘dirty dozen’ are celery, peaches, strawberries, apples, blueberries, nectarines, bell peppers, spinach, cherries, kale/collard greens, potatoes, and imported grapes.

Here’s an idea: If you have enough garden space, why not grow your own fruits and vegetables? Even if you live in an apartment, you can still grow things like herbs and tomatoes in pots!

Baby first food—Freeze small portions of baby food to avoid wastage.

To avoid wastage in making organic baby food, make large batches of purees and then freeze them in appropriately sized containers (many baby shops have great first food storage solutions) or even in ice-cube trays.

This way, you only need to thaw the amount you need for each meal. Remember not to re-freeze thawed baby food.

How Long Does Baby Food Last After I Open the Jar?

In general, baby food containing poultry, fish, meat, or eggs should stay fresh in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours.

Those made with only plain fruits and vegetables should last 2 days. Do check the jar label, too, for recommendations on how long to keep the food once the jar is opened.

Baby food can be kept for a month or two (6 months for plain fruits and vegetables) in the freezer, but take note that freezing does change its consistency.

Keep in mind that liquids tend to expand in the freezer, potentially cracking the jar or causing the container to pop open, so place the baby food in a clean storage container, leaving some room at the top.

If you store leftover baby food in the fridge, make sure you don’t dip your baby’s spoon in it during feeding, as this could cause bacteria to grow in the food.

Instead of dipping it into the jar, scoop a small amount of food into a bowl and feed your baby from that. If you need more, use a clean spoon to dish food out from the jar.

When feeding time’s over, throw out anything that’s left in the bowl. If there’s food left in the jar, put the lid back on and store it in the refrigerator. 

Is It Okay to Heat Baby Food in the Microwave?

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You can heat baby food in the microwave but with plenty of care. Food heated in the microwave tends to get hot very fast and heat unevenly too.

Because of this, it may contain ‘hot spots’ which could be dangerous for your child.

Heating the food on the stovetop may be safer. You could also place the container with the food in a bowl of hot water and it should heat up nicely.

However, if you do use the microwave to heat your baby’s food, scoop it out of the jar (if shop-bought). Then place it in a microwave-safe container. Heat it for only a few seconds.

Take the food out, stir well and let it stand for a few minutes. Always test the temperature of the food before feeding it to your baby — it should be at room temperature.

More Tips About Baby Food

  • According to the HPB, the earliest phase of introducing solids to your baby is all about teaching him to swallow. So you only need to start with about a teaspoon of solid food. As your baby grows, you can gradually increase the portion size.
  • Do take note that the HPB and the World Health Organization recommend exclusively breastfeeding your child for the first 6 months.
  • If you are wondering when the best time to feed your baby his first meal is, pick a time when he is alert and not too hungry — mid-morning is a good time for most babies.
  • As your child grows, encourage him to feed himself and introduce plenty of finger foods when he is old enough to handle them.
  • Always serve your baby clean and safe food, and supervise his eating. Avoid hard foods that could cause him to choke.
  • The HPB advises introducing one new food at a time. Continue to feed your baby the same food for 3 days in a row and observe him for any adverse effects such as rashes or diarrhoea.
  • If your baby tolerates the food well, then add another new item to the menu. If there is a history of food allergy in the family, take particular care to avoid the introduction of known allergens.

Giving your baby their first food, albeit nerve-wracking, is an important milestone. Remember, you will set the pace for your child’s first real eating experience. Making it fuss-free and enjoyable will help him develop a healthy relationship with food in the long run.

If you have any questions about your baby’s first food, do not hesitate to consult your child’s paediatrician.

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Here at theAsianparent Singapore, it’s important for us to give information that is correct, significant, and timely. But this doesn’t serve as an alternative for medical advice or medical treatment. theAsianparent Singapore is not responsible for those that would choose to drink medicines based on information from our website. If you have any doubts, we recommend consulting your doctor for clearer information.

Written by

Nalika Unantenne