Welcome to solid food, baby.
Your struggle to breastfeed paid off and your babe’s settled into a fairly regular nursing schedule. She’s content, you’re content, and finally, your breasts are content. But at her last check-up, your doc suggested to start real food and gave you a pamphlet, which you dutifully read before Googling it. Four months vs. six months, meat vs. cereal, to nut or not… you just mastered the art of feeding and now you have to start from scratch again?
Be one with your hand blender.
The rules seem to change faster than the seasons. We were given different instructions for each of our babies. Our oldest had to be six months and not a day younger, infant cereals were first followed by veggies, and no nuts were allowed until age two. Our middle guy was allowed to start cereals at five months and we were given permission to try nuts around age one “if we felt comfortable”. Now with little miss number three, we started just after four months, the focus was on iron before cereal, dairy (except milk) was fine, and we were advised to give peanut butter asap. The only consistent rule for all three: avoid honey until age one. Confusing much? It’s enough to make anyone go (mashed) bananas!
Take your cues from your babe. Does he stare eagerly while you’re eating? Can he hold his head up well enough so he won’t gag? Does he open his mouth for the spoon or turn his head away? Listen to his body language; he’ll let you know if he’s ready. When you’ve decided it’s time to start, the next hurdle is – what the heck do you start with? Aside from avoiding potential allergy triggers, it really doesn’t matter.* The first few weeks are more about exploration than actual ingestion. She’ll want to touch it, squish it, and smear it, which is key for her to accept it. Introduce whatever you have on hand and wait a few days before introducing something new. Don’t get lazy just because she’ll happily “eat” the same thing every day; offer a variety from all of the food groups so that by the time she’s actually eating more than she’s rubbing in her hair, you’ve got the nutrition bases covered.
Making baby food is a breeze – all you need is an immersion blender and you won’t ever have to worry about additives or other sketch ingredients. You don’t need to buy over-priced baby cereals – just make a batch of non-instant oatmeal/rice/quinoa/whatever you’re eating, and puree away. Steam fruits and veggies to blend, and save the pot water to add to purees for a vitamin boost or just when you need a more blendable consistency. Once she’s passed the individual taste tests without any allergic reactions, mix it up by adding chicken/beef/veggie stock or even pureed fruit. At this age, it’s more about texture and temperature than taste; even though raspberry-spinach-chicken-oatmeal doesn’t sound (at all) appealing to you doesn’t mean she won’t lap it up. In our house, applesauce has been the go-to-addition for everything. Her pudgy little legs start kicking enthusiastically when she sees the familiar glass bottle and she can’t shovel it in fast enough. Applesauce is the one “baby food” we don’t make at home. In fact, we usually buy it by the case-load because it’s so inexpensive and our boys love it too (especially mixed with frozen berries). But we make sure it’s unsweetened: the earlier sugar’s introduced, the earlier they’ll start demanding it. And while we don’t buy everything organic, we’ll pay for organic applesauce. Apples are always high up on the dirty dozen list and exposing our babe’s brand new immune system to those extra pesticides is just not something we’re comfortable with.
If you’re looking for culinary inspiration, check out the weelicious cookbook and awesome family-friendly site. We typically puree our meals to feed our munchkin, but whenever we do make a batch of baby food we freeze portions in ice-cube trays so we always have something on hand. Perfect for pizza night.
A lot of baby/toddler/childhood foods are more about marketing than nutrition. There are definitely great options out there, but they’re often pricey and really, how expensive is a bowl of rice? As overwhelming as it feels to start feeding someone who can’t even sit yet, if you keep it simple, you’ll both adapt and before you know it, she’ll be grabbing the pasta right off your plate. Finger foods, here we come!
*If allergies run in the family then definitely consult with your doc to finesse your gameplan. Avoidance may not be necessary, but awareness definitely is.
Email any questions and let us know how this worked for you!