Feeding Maggie the first six months of her life was easy. Not easy as in “Breastfeeding is the easiest thing in the world! No problems at all!” I mean I-am-lazy-and-my-boobs-are-attached-to-my-body easy. When Maggie was hungry, all I had to do was pop my breast out of my bra or tank top, and there ya have it. I didn’t have to prepare anything, because — lucky for you Maggie! — my boobs are attached to my body for your convenience.
Then, things changed. I had to start thinking about solid foods. I’m telling you — once you think you’re in a good groove, literally the second you let your brain think “This sh*t is easy! I’m the best parent ever!”, something else comes into play and takes it all away. Solid food, teeth, sleep regression, separation anxiety, rolling over, crawling, walking, etc. etc. etc. YOU’RE NEVER IN THE CLEAR.
When to start solid foods? We decided to wait until six months. There are a lot of theories and philosophies around this, and my best recommendation for you would be to do your research and ask for opinions from people you trust. I read a bunch of things, and asked my parent friends. Then ultimately, we did what we felt best for Maggie. That’s basically been my approach to most of this “parenting stuff”.
In my research, I found that the World Health Organization recommends waiting until baby is six months before solids [read more from their website here]. Dr. Sears recommends to take things slow, and to also wait until six months [read more from this website here]. I wasn’t personally in a rush to get Maggie on solids. I was nervous to be honest. I was able to see the excitement of tasting new flavors and textures, but I also saw allergies and choking. So thankfully around six months not only did Maggie seem ready to go, but Colin and I were also ready.
From Dr. Sears website:
Gone are the days when pressured mothers stuffed globs of cereal into the tight mouths of reluctant six-week-olds. Nowadays parents feed their baby on the timetable that is developmentally and nutritionally correct — as determined by their baby. Don’t be in a rush when introducing solid foods.
Here are some reasons you might wait to offer baby solids [from Dr. Sears]:
1. Baby’s intestines need to mature
2. Young babies have a tongue-thrust reflex
3. Baby’s swallowing mechanism is immature
4. Baby needs to be able to sit up
5. Young infants are not equipped to chew [Maggie only just got her first two teeth at eight months]
6. Older babies like to imitate caregivers [around six months babies like to imitate; if they see you chewing/using a spoon/etc. they may want to try too].
A lot of doctors and people in general recommend starting baby with rice cereal. After a bit of reading and asking around, we decided to skip this with Maggie. Instead, Maggie’s first food was avocado. She liked that at first, didn’t for a while, now she’s back to liking it. Wacky!
A note on cereal from The Food Renegade:
What’s wrong with infant cereal? Babies can’t digest it. In order to digest grains, your body needs to make use of an enzyme called amylase. Amylase is the enzyme responsible for splitting starches. And, guess what? Babies don’t make amylase in large enough quantities to digest grains until after they are a year old at the earliest. Sometimes it can take up to two years. You see, newborns don’t produce amylase at all. Salivary amylase makes a small appearance at about 6 months old, but pancreatic amylase (what you need to actually digest grains) is not produced until molar teeth are fully developed! First molars usually don’t show up until 13-19 months old, on average. Undigested grains wreak havoc on your baby’s intestinal lining. It can throw off the balance of bacteria in their gut and lead to lots of complications as they age including: food allergies, behavioral problems, mood issues, and more.
Make Your Own Baby Food
Another thing I wanted to do to prepare for our solid food journey was to take the Make Your Own Baby Food class offered at Acelleron Maternal Health and Wellness in North Andover. The class is taught by Maria Nardella who was awesome — she is a personal chef, a health coach, and a mother. I wanted to take this class, because solid food intimidated me. It was overwhelming [as is each new step in the parenting journey I'm finding]. What should I feed Maggie? How do I properly and safely prepare it? How much should I feed her? When do I move on to new foods? What if she doesn’t like using a spoon? What if she doesn’t like the foods I’m giving her? etc. etc. etc.
Are you excited about making delicious and nutrition foods for your new baby? Or does the prospect scare you but you really want to learn? No matter how you answer the question, if you would like to learn how to make wholesome and nutritious baby food for your bundle of joy, without having to buy an expensive machine, come to the workshop! We will explore how and when to introduce solid foods, what foods to introduce first and when to add grains and proteins, how to prepare/store/serve the foods you make, fun ways to have your baby explore all these wonderful foods, demonstration on making your baby’s food using the equipment you have at home, and explore products that make creating and storing your foods easy.
Steps to preparing food for baby [for example, cauliflower]:
2. Steam cauliflower for five to ten minutes [can test with a fork to see if it's still not soft enough]
3. Add the steamed cauliflower into your blender, Vitamix, etc. as well as some of the steaming water you just used. That water has nutrients in it from the process of steaming and helps make the cauliflower the proper consistency for baby.
4. Blend that together, and let cool down a bit before serving to baby.
5. You can also add a bit of breast milk to the prepared food in order to thin it out more if needed.
6. Storing excess food — fill up an ice-cube tray with the rest of the food you made, put a piece of parchment paper on top and throw it in the freezer. That helps prepare you for a while! Just be sure to use the food up in time — this food should last up to three months.
*A note about storing foods — Be sure to label frozen foods with what it is, and the date. And don’t add breast milk into the food before freezing! Wait until you thaw it, and then add it in. Microwaving frozen food is not recommended. Instead, fill a bowl with hot water and add a smaller bowl [or my favorite -- a Wean Green container -- which they sell at Maternal Health and Wellness!] and let it defrost that way.
Some other takeaways from the class were:
- Cauliflower is a great staple — it’s high in vitamin C and folic acid, it can also easily be mixed into other foods.
- A child may need to be exposed to a food up to fifteen times before they like it [adults too!]
- Be gentle and slow when introducing foods to baby — start with one food per week, or at least 4-5 days [so as to not overwhelm them, but also to watch out for allergies].
- Sometimes it takes a while for an allergic reaction to show up. Don’t stress yourself out about this, but just be aware — diarrhea, constipation, mucus in poop, a rash — all can be signs of allergic reaction.
- Steam the food you are giving to baby and save the steaming water to add into the blender with the steamed food for extra nutrients.
- Can also add chicken stock for additional nutrients.
- Can add organic coconut oil, butter, sea salt, etc. to foods in order to add a little extra flavor for baby.
- You want baby’s first foods to be super smooth, no chunks. The reason for this is you want their food to already be broken down for them since this is a whole new ballgame.
- Avocados, bananas, sweet potatoes = all great first foods.
- Keep track of how much baby is eating; for example if you put two tablespoons of food in each ice-cube slot, you know how much you’re giving your baby for those first few weeks or months.
- Remember, at this point your baby probably hasn’t had a spoon in his or her mouth regularly. Serving baby his or her food off of a spoon may create anxiety for either baby or mom and dad at first. Keep in mind that it is fine to start with your finger to get baby comfortable with this new process.
- Egg yolk is the safe part of an egg to give baby — the egg white is the allergenic, not the yolk — so the yolk mixed with some butter and sea salt is a great first food for baby. Plus, we tried it in class — it is delicious prepared this way!
- Don’t stop breastfeeding or formula feeding just because baby is now getting solids. Continue breastfeeding as long as mom and baby want.
- The dirty dozen — what to buy organic
Maggie is just about nine months old and our solid food journey has been a lot of fun! Maggie LOVES sweet potatoes, butternut squash, blueberries, apples/applesauce, egg yolk. She is usually pretty open-minded about trying new things, especially things like her cousin Brian’s doughnut [oops!]. She doesn’t really like green beans or peas, although I do keep trying them out on her. Maybe one day…
I try to make food for her for dinner every night [as best I can -- usually the vegetable Colin and I are also having for dinner], but we definitely have been using Happy Family food pouches quite a bit too, and they are great. Maggie also loves their puffs and yogurt bites which are actually quite delicious, and they are a perfect way for her to practice her motor skills.
Something that really stuck with me from the Make Your Own Baby Food workshop is a phrase Maria used, “food for fun, until age one”. Remember, this is a fun and exploratory phase for both baby and parents. Enjoy it, and don’t put too much pressure on yourselves!
The Make Your Own Baby Food workshop is $40 per family.
The next available openings are Monday, November 17th from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. or Saturday, January 10th from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Click here to sign up!