Monday, October 11, 2010

Starting solids

I got a question by email about starting solids with babies; I don’t consider myself an expert in this area by any means (we only did it with one so far!), but anyway, here’s what we did.

We never bought ready-made baby food. I don’t see why anyone would buy those tiny, overpriced jars (unless you’re on a trip). We never thought to look up recipes, either – we simply improvised. As you dive into it, you’ll see making baby food is easy and fun.

We started giving tiny tastes of mashed or blended fruit and veggies at around five months, though solids didn’t make a full meal until around 6-7 months. First food was mashed banana. After introducing each new food, we waited several days to make sure there was no adverse reaction. After we tried an array of foods, we started making mixtures and smoothies using a blender.

I know it is often recommended to give the baby cooked fruit, but generally, we gave it raw (apples, pears, plums) and only cooked/baked her veggies (sweet potato, zucchini, pumpkin). I never saw that it disagreed with her.

Many grandparents and pediatricians think that cereals are a good choice for baby’s first food at 5-6 months, but at that point, the amylases in our digestive system aren’t fully mature yet and it doesn’t do good to overload baby with starches. Fruit and vegetables are far better as first foods.

As our baby grew older, we felt more and more comfortable to simply take a fork, mash whatever is on our own plate and give it to her. However, we avoided foods that are considered allergenic (such as fish, eggs, peanut butter etc) until she was close to one year old.

When we made foods particularly for our baby, we didn’t add salt or spices because we wanted her to experience the natural taste of different foods, but when we fed her off our plate we didn’t avoid salt, though we did avoid very spicy foods and artificial taste additives. As much as possible, we avoided (still do) giving her foods with added sugar, and fake foods such as morning cereals.

Gradually, our daughter grew out of baby foods. Bit by bit, she moved on to soft finger foods, and now, at almost two, she sits at the table with us and eats what we eat. She is not as picky about her food as most toddlers I know, and will generally agree to try almost everything. Her diet is healthy and balanced.

We look forward to repeating this adventure, in a few months, with our second daughter.


Kate said...

I read that an excellent first food for baby is egg yolk. NO whites, though, until after a year old (18 months). is a great resource.

Leanne said...

Hi Anna. I appreciated this post, as my daughter is 6 months and we have experimented with solids for a couple weeks now. I started with some rice cereal, as that is what everybody recommends, but she seems to hate it. To me, it doesn't really make sense, I would much rather experiment with fruits and veggies (they seem like they would be more interesting to a baby, anyway). I have tried a tiny bit of sweet potato. Overall, however, I don't think she's interested and am feeling a bit discouraged!

As for the baby food jars, I would not have considered buying them either, however I am on WIC (a U.S. program for women, infants and children in a low-income bracket that provides some generally healthy food items at no cost), and they supply certain types of jarred baby food for moms that exclusively breastfeed. I still like the idea of experimenting with real/raw foods, such as banana. I guess they say to start with veggies, but apparently my mother started me on fruits first and it wasn't a problem.

Well, thanks for the post, it's always good to hear someone share their experience with raising kids, not as an authority or expert on the matter but simply as a regular person living out life on a day-to-day basis, sharing what they've discovered that works for them and what doesn't. Much appreciated! Take care.

Rachel said...

I don't start solids until my babies are sitting up very well and reaching for food. Our baby is turning 1 this week. My how time flies.

Sometimes, I would dip my finger into sauce or broth and put a taste on her tongue after she was 5 or 6 months, but otherwise she nursed (she's my 4th baby). When she was 7 months old, she began to show interest in food on the table, and we began giving her more tastes. By 8 months she was taking at least a sampling meal of "babyfood" before bedtime. She quickly progressed to a second breakfast meal, but still, mostly she nursed.

After she was 9 months old, she started grabbing for our plates and food, so we began offering her tiny bites of "real" food. This quickly progressed to larger bites and her trying to feed herself cheerios and bits of fruit (raw).

Yesterday, I merely cut up chicken, potatoes, carrots, and meatloaf from our meal and put it on her tray. She fed herself. Her daddy often feeds her yogurt mixed with fruit, or jars of babyfood (some store bought and some is home made canned jars from a relative).

She's not a picky eater. None of my children have been, and we've mostly followed this with all of them. Our oldest was also an early eater. Our second girl showed not much more than passing interest in solid foods until she was nearly 15 months old. She also often choked and gagged on foods - and still gags easier than any of my children. But by 18 months she was eating a lot of table foods. Our boy showed only passing interest in table foods until he was nearly 1. But took less than a month to be eating just about anything we put in front of him. He still gags on macaroni.

We just added the 26th grandchild to our family - so we have all types of eaters. My dad and I were discussing this just a few weeks ago. We had noticed that the "late eaters" progressed to solid foods easily with almost no choking/ gagging problems. They figured out the chew and swallow within days of being given "real" food. We surmised it was because they had time to observe adults and older siblings chewing food.

We also have several that were introduced to baby food very early - at 3 months or less. And at a year old, they still choked on the merest hint of solids in their foods.

We noticed that the older the baby was when given real food (as if breast milk was not real food), the easier it was for them to chew and swallow solid bites of food. And the younger the baby was when introduced to baby foods, the harder it was for them to learn to eat solid foods.

We also introduce one or 2 foods at a time, giving a new food only every 3 or 4 days. This way, we can identify problem foods more easily - allergies or poor digestion. Often a food can be reintroduced in 3 or 4 months without problems.

Audrey said...

We did something similar with our second, except eggs were her first food (well, the yolks), and we gave her fish fairly early. Although she had no interest in starting solids until she was 8 months old. Now she's 11 months old and everyone is surprised by how well she "chews" her food, even though she's only got a few teeth (and no molars). She gets pieces of chicken, ground beef, scrambled eggs, potatoes, etc. Literally whatever we're having, we give her a mini-portion! It's so much easier to feed babies this way instead of worrying about buying baby food (or making it), worrying about giving them certain foods at certain times, etc.

Marianne said...

We had a similar experience with our son. I made all of his baby food, which we started around 6 months. And, at 2, he was a hearty, healthy eater. Then, he got a stomach bug. Since then, this child will eat nothing but meat and fresh fruits. I guess it could be worse. We're working on it.

Congratulations again.

Mrs. Anna T said...

Kate, if you mean yolks such as in eggs boiled soft, I'd only give that to a baby if you're sure you're safe regarding salmonella.

Lady Anne said...

I breastfed my daughters exclusively until they were six months old, and then began putting whatever we were having in the blender with a bit of extra water or broth. Both ofthem were wonderful eaters. I was determined to keep them from being picky, as my late husband was a real whiz to cook for!

Leah Brand-Burks said...

I don't know if anyone mentioned it, but the reason US pediatricians recommend cereals as a first food is because by 6 months, most babies' stores of iron are getting low, and fortified cereals (plain, no sugar, whole grain) are an excellent source of iron.

Mrs David W said...

Good post Anna!
Also, something wonderful my friend taught me is to... cook your veggies or puree fruit and then freeze it in ice cube trays for travel. I use fresh but, if I am in a hurry I also have this.
A lot of women feel very intimidated by making their own food but, it is so much better. I also fed my daughter right from the table and she had everything under the sun. This does not always guarantee a picky-free eater later though. My daughter, now 2 1/2 gets "character training" :) As she learns to eat all of her food.
Also, Leann: don't worry if at first they don't seem that interested. It took at least 3 wks with both of mine, just testing a little taste to get truly used the idea of eating. (I started at 6 months w/my son and 7 months with my daughter.)
One more thing to Anna, what Rachel might mean is a hard boiled egg. You can do that and then mix it very well w/breastmilk or formula. It is quite smooth and well cooked.
Keep enjoying your second precious gift!

Mrs David W said...

Ok, so I meant Kate and Audrey
Sorry! :)

Kate said...

Anna, I should clarify that the eggs are boiled hard, the yolk removed and mashed well with breast milk, formula or water. Soft boiled runs the risk of salmonella (though from what I read, salmonella lives on the shell, not the interior, though cross-contamination can occur once broken) and a risk of whites mingling with the yolk.