Many mommies feel overwhelmed when the time comes to wean their babies and introduce solid food. It is very normal to go through this emotional phase because every new step we take in parenting is innovative and we do not know where it will lead. Various questions pop into our minds and we wonder if the baby will enjoy the food or refuse it completely. We also worry about food allergies! Most importantly we wonder what type of food should be given first and when can we start with solid food.
Medically speaking there are two types of schools; the old school that encourages parents to familiarize the baby with food at four months. On the other hand, the new methodology stresses on starting at six months due to the high rate of babies suffering from food allergies.
Personally, I take the midway where I start to experiment with my babies’ taste buds around the end of the fourth month. From my humble experience it is evident that a mom can tell if her child is ready for food or not. For example, if the baby is able to sit right and shows interest in what the parents are eating, then having him try a few tastes and nibbles will not hurt. In contrast, it alleviates the baby’s sense of taste. The whole idea on starting early using a spoon is to familiarize the baby with a new way of swallowing since it is completely different from drinking milk – whether it is breast milk or from the bottle. It usually takes me around a month to have my children get used to the idea of having food from a different source. The first few times they simply take one or two tiny spoons. One thing is for sure is that the more they are exposed to different tastes before the age of one the less fussy eaters they become later on. Moreover, and luckily enough, none of my children had any allergic reaction to food, so I could easily experiment and test with all five of them different types of nutrients.
Ten years ago, when my eldest was almost four months old, I was at ToysRUs and by coincidence I came across Annabel Karmel’s Small Helpings cookbook. I quickly flipped through the pages, delighted to know that I have found the ultimate guide for my baby’s food. Her book explicitly clarifies step by step on how to introduce solid food for babies, including the amounts, types of vegetables, meat, poultry, and dietary products etcetera. There are also recipes for toddlers and children.
With my children, the first vegetable that I introduced was zucchini which I used to mix with some breast milk and a small spoon of baby rice. Out of the five, only two refused it. The main idea is to have the baby try the same vegetable for two consecutive days before introducing another vegetable. The reason behind this practice is to see whether or not the baby has an allergy to this specific type of food.
On the next, I would introduce carrots with the milk and rice. On the fourth day, I mix the zucchini with the carrots. Even if the baby does not really respond easily with you, try to be patient and try again the next day. I used to give them two or three spoons of the food that I have prepared and then I would breast feed them. This tactic decreased their frustration but also stimulated their taste buds. I used this method until they showed complete interest in the food and knew how to swallow well without feeling exasperated.
The vegetables that I introduced from 4 months to 6 months were:
Zucchini, sweet potatoes, potatoes, pumpkin, butternut squash, carrots, green beans
Once I am done with the vegetables and my children would have a complete meal of vegetables, I would then introduce fruits in the afternoon. Again, I used to take baby steps at first, having them try two or three spoons of fruit puree then I replaced breast feeding with a complete snack of fruits mixed with baby cereals or biscuits. Here, it is essential to note that it is important to provide your baby with organic biscuits and cereals as they do not include refined sugars. Surprisingly enough regular baby biscuits have palm oil and sugars in their ingredients.
Apples, pears, bananas, dates, dried peaches, apricots, mangos, papayas, avocados, and nectarines were the fruits that I gave between the age of 5 and 7 months.
At around 6 months, I used to cook their food with chicken stock which I used to store in the freezer. With every month, I used to introduce a new type of food until they reached the age of one and ready to eat from everything. For example, the twins who are now 13 months old love blueberries!
Another important idea is not to be afraid of handing your baby with as much finger food as possible. The more the baby explores foodstuff on his own, the better eater he will become. I know it is a very messy ordeal, but it is also the best way for a baby to learn how to eat and what to eat. Steamed carrots, cucumbers, pineapple chunks, thin sweet melon wedges, and slices of apples are all excellent examples for them to chew on. On one hand it soothes their gums since they will be teething at that time, and on the other hand it keeps them occupied as they explore and develop their fine motor skills.
With all five of them, I have always prepared their food at home, and I never used any jarred food. However, a few weeks ago, my friend got me an organic pureed fruit, which turned out a delicious treat for the twins. I find these very practical in case you are traveling or going for a long trip in the car, they come in handy.
In fact there are tremendous organic baby food in the market which might be helpful for working moms. However, they need a budget as they are quite costly.
There is another concern that moms worry about, and it is providing the baby with water. Paediatricians stress on the fact that a mother’s milk is sufficient and a baby does not need to have water. I, on the other hand, introduce a few drops of water in a spoon at around 3 months. Then gradually have them try it in a small plastic cup. By the time they are 6 months, they will be drinking water from a cup. I always try to constrict a bottle to milk and so when it comes to weaning them from the bottle, they already know how to use a regular cup. The picture below shows the cups that I use with my twins. They have a curve on the sides that help them drink properly without spilling water.
Having your baby sit in front of you in his/her high chair gives him/her the first lessons of table manner. It is never too early to teach good manners! While I am feeding them I would be telling them what they are eating, how it tastes, and that I enjoy cooking for them. I also invent some songs about food. Eventually, they will come to appreciate food and learn about different tastes.
Finally, help your child eat bigger chunks of food as he moves into the tenth month. I know of many moms who suffered with their kids as they continued to blend their food till the age of two. Again, take things smoothly and slowly, and being patient with your child will lead at some point to a better eater.
Feeding babies is time consuming, but soon our cute little ones will be on their own sitting in front of you at the table devouring their plates.
I hope this summary will be of beneficial use to you, especially if you are a first time mother, and please feel free to ask for more details in the hope that I can be of any assistance.