Covid-19 made us aware of the importance of our health and wellbeing, but for parents it has shown the importance of developing your child’s healthy relationship with food from a young age.

Experts say that breast milk or infant formula is sufficient as the sole food source for babies for about 6 months. And while this remains the main source of nutrition through month 12, a baby’s nutritional needs increase to support growth and development. And that’s why solids are necessary.

For many parents, making the transition to solids can be daunting. Some babies are eclectic and adventurous eaters (lunatics for meat, voracious for vegetables) while others are picky.

Nadia Jansen van Rensburg, co-founder of Rooted Natural and clinical nutritionist with a special interest in pediatric nutrition, says infants as young as four to six months are developmentally and emotionally ready to explore a new diet – and new foods. Flavors and textures.

Your nutritional needs increase and the intake of solids helps to optimize growth and brain development. In addition, more energy from food supports their active bodies when they start to sit, play, and crawl. It’s a big window of time and experts encourage parents to orientate themselves around their little ones. they suggest

Van Rensburg says children often show you when they’re done by reaching for food, sucking their lips, or opening their mouths when nibbles are around.

When it comes to starting with solids, Van Rensburg says it’s a great idea to have a regular feeding schedule right from the start. “Sit your little one on a chair or a chair with an attachable tray at the table and make sure that their feet are supported. Avoid screens and distractions.

“Try to get them excited about the food – its tastes, textures, colors and smells. Talking positively about food is an important part of the process.

“Allow them to play. Play is a central part of children’s learning, so let them have fun with their food. This is how they learn to eat themselves, ”says Van Rensburg.

She also suggests planning your feeding sessions well.

“Your baby should be rested, hungry, and interested; not excessively hungry, overtired, stimulated, or fed. The important thing is that you also need to be relaxed.

“Go with a single flavor first. Remember to start with vegetables and then move on to fruit, grain and protein combinations. “

Laager Rooibos and nutritionist Mbali Mapholi agree, saying that when introducing solids, it is important to remember what food the baby needs.

This includes:

Protein: Babies are still getting protein from breast milk or formula, but their needs have increased somewhat. Some of the food sources for protein are beef, chicken, maize, eggs, legumes, beans, and fish.

Calcium: This is important for the development of bones and teeth, but cow’s milk should only be given to babies from their first birthday. There are plant-based sources of calcium such as leafy green vegetables, tofu, sardines, fortified baby cereals, beans, and lentils.

Whole grains and complex carbohydrates: These are packed with nutrients and proteins that are good for babies. Some food sources include whole grain bread, whole grain muesli (baby muesli to spoon or bite-size cereals to feed yourself), fortified cornmeal, lentils, beans, potatoes, and peas.

The United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) recommends that when you feed your baby solid foods, give your baby the first nourishment after breastfeeding or between breastfeeding sessions so that your baby continues to breastfeed as much as possible.

In addition to cereals and tubers, the organization recommends that you feed your baby a variety of foods every day – especially animal foods (dairy products, eggs, meat, fish, and poultry), fruits and vegetables.

When introducing solids, parents should be particularly careful not to get sick, says Unicef.

“As she crawls and explores, germs can spread from her hands to her mouth. Protect your baby from illness by washing your hands and hands with soap before preparing food and before each feeding. “

It’s also important to know that almost all healthy babies will eat as much as they need to grow and thrive when they are provided with a wide variety of healthy foods and can follow their appetites.

As long as the little one is growing at a healthy rate, along their personal growth curve (and a doctor will let you know if not) – they are likely getting all of the nutrients they need.

Mapholi gives additional tips for getting started with complementary foods:

1. Start slowly as babies have small bellies. Your baby can eat anything but honey and cow’s milk, which he should not eat until after his first birthday.

2. As the baby consumes more food, milk intake should remain the same.

3. Avoid fruit and vegetable juices as they can cause dental problems.

4. Do not add sugar, salt, or spices to baby foods and beverages. You can add oils, nut butters, margarine, or peanut butter to your baby’s food and drink to improve your baby’s diet.

5. After 6 to 8 months, it is recommended to puree or thoroughly mash food that you have cooked yourself.

6. By 9 to 12 months they can start eating more structured foods. This is when they can hold and eat shredded food.

7. Every meal must be easy for your baby to eat and filled with nutrients. Make every bite count.

8. Cooking your own baby meals at home is the best way to meet their nutritional needs on a budget.

9. If your baby refuses to eat new food or spits it out, don’t force it. Try again a few days later. You can also try mixing it with any other food your baby likes.