There is so much information out there on starting your baby on solids that it's easy to be confused! With my son, I was extremely paranoid about introducing solids too early in case he should develop food allergies. I delayed solids until he was about 9 months old, (much to my in-laws' dismay). I never thought that rice cereal was a healthy choice for a first food, so I just skipped that. I thought that I should start with finger foods (as recommended by proponents of Baby-Led Weaning) and let him sample whatever we happened to be eating. Putting ideas into practice is how I learn best, and I realized that maybe it's not so bad to feed baby with a spoon. The problem was, the most convenient finger foods are not usually the healthiest. Cheerios and yogurt melts were staples of his diet. Those are full of sugars and refined grains that convert into simple sugars very quickly in the body. Also, sometimes we eat things that babies really can't handle, such as soup that needs to be eaten with a spoon, or really spicy things.
When I got pregnant with Baby #2, I decided I would do things differently. I started reading about Real Food, including Nina Planck's book Real Food for Mother and Baby. Her food philosophy made sense to me. She's all about whole foods such as protein (especially salmon roe), good fats, and veggies for the little ones. She really discourages feeding babies bread and other grains. I highly recommend her book because it is full of interesting studies and nutrional information that was all new to me.
Since I finished Planck's book I have read quite a bit of material from the Weston A. Price Foundation. I am using a blend of all this information to guide the food choices I make for my daughter. The WAPF says you can start solids around 4 months, but I waited until closer to 7. I'm still not convinced that any food is better than breastmilk, even though WAPF says that the nutritional quality of breastmilk will be affected by the mother's diet. WAPF recommends starting with lightly cooked egg yolks and then adding raw grated liver. (Um, yeah, I just can't do the raw liver.) At first the egg yolks were a hit, but she has not eaten them so enthusiastically in the past few days. I did give her some hard boiled egg yolk in the airport and she seemed to like it.
Next in the WAPF plan is mashed bananas introduced after 6 months and meats and vegetables around 10 months. I am not waiting until 10 months to introduce other vegetables like they recommend, just because I feel like letting her try new things (really well-thought-out reason right?). She doesn't care much for bananas. I've introduced her to avocados, which she eats pretty willingly.
Since it's hard to keep fresh bananas and avocados around I decided to cook some vegetables to freeze in baby-sized portions. I steamed some carrots, mashed them, and flash-froze them in tablespoon-sized portions. I've seen some people use ice cube trays but I don't have any! I did add a little sea salt and butter but they still tasted pretty bland to me.
|Cooked carrots ready for the freezer.|
She has also tried spaghetti squash, which she liked, and crackers when we're away from home. I feel more confident about what I'm feeding her than what I fed my son that I am able to relax a little bit about the whole baby food thing and just enjoy watching her try new foods. It is really funny to see her get so excited about the spoon coming her way, and then to see her make a funny face as she decides whether she likes it or not. I will probably offer her some flaked fish the next time we have some (which is not often enough at our house). I believe it's easier for her to handle than even the most tender slow cooked beef. Once she can handle the flaked fish I'll probably start offering tender chunks of meat. I'm not sure what to do about the birthdays celebrations that are coming this summer. I'd really like to get my son an ice cream cake. Maybe some homemade ice cream sweetened with honey or maple syrup... I'll let you know when I decide.
I think the most important thing to keep in mind when feeding a baby solid foods is that they will have plenty of opportunities in their lifetime to consume nutritionally void, worthless, downright harmful, junk food. There is no good reason for us to give them Fruit Loops, ice cream, or soda pop. Some people interpret a baby's reaching for junk food as a sign we should give it to them. I disagree. We are in charge of their health at this point, and we will never have as much control over the foods they eat as we do now. We must use our power wisely!