Nom nom nom… solids, here we come!
It’s bittersweet, the first time your little one eats solid food — they are one step closer to not needing you for nourishment, even though they may not fully wean for many, many months (or years). I had hoped that we’d be able to delay the introduction of solids until eight or nine months, but Coraline — as she often does — had other ideas. Having mastered sitting up unassisted by five months, she began diving for plates and glasses, mimicking chewing as she stared longingly at whomever close by was eating. I’d gotten in the habit of giving her celery and carrot sticks to teeth on, but in December I gave her a wedge of canteloupe to gnaw on, and boy did she love it. The girl was ready to eat, and ready is ready at six months or nine.
There are a few different ways to approach solids with your baby. There’s the good ol’ fashioned jarred baby food route. Then there’s the make-your-own-baby-food route. And then there’s the baby-led weaning route. We have chosen the latter, which is essentially letting your baby feed themselves at their own pace as opposed to you feeding them at yours. Instead of purées, baby is given “steak fry” cuts of soft fruits and veggies, and later squishy beans, whole grains, tofu, pieces of meat, etcetera. Since they are lacking the fine motor skills to eat efficiently, they spend a number of months “playing” with food (though they find a way to get it in, too), which in theory helps them develop a healthy attitude towards real food and all it’s textures and tastes.
If it’s time for your little one to start exploring solids (click here for signs of readiness), here’s a little compare and contrast of the different ways to go. Of course you should always do what works best for your baby AND you, so a combination of feeding styles is always appropriate.
Method: Jarred baby food What you need: Jars and a spoon Who makes it: Earth’s Best, Gerber Where to find it: Target, Toys ‘R Us, health food stores How it works: Pop open a jar and away you go. Just make sure you’re paying attention to baby’s cues — if they don’t seem to like it, or seem full, don’t push it. Pros: It’s super easy, portable, and involves very little clean-up. Cons: It’s not the freshest option. And you have to read the package carefully: Sometimes there’s more than just fruits and veggies in there. Cost: Around $20 a case (8 jars)
Method: Homemade purées What you need: Food mill (Kidco makes one), bowl and spoon Who makes it: You do! Where to find it: Target sells food mills, as may your local health food store How it works: Steam any fruits or veggies and put them through the food mill or food processor to purée. You can add a little expressed breast milk to thin, if necessary. Pros: You know exactly what baby is eating, and can make your own combinations of baby’s favorites. It’s fresh, though you can freeze extra in single portions for later use with an ice cube tray. Cons: It’s the most labor-intensive of the three options, and you’ll still need to feed baby. Cost: $15-30 for food mill For more information: Read Super Baby Food by Ruth Yaron
Method: Baby-led weaning (BLW) What you need: Nothing but the food Who makes it: Again, you do! Where to find it: Your own plate How it works: Baby gets “steak fry” cuts of soft cooked veggies or wedges of fruit. As their dexterity improves, you can give them small pieces of things. Pros: Baby gets to explore food on their terms, learning how to feed themselves in the process. You don’t have to do any extra prep — baby can eat what you’re eating. May help to avoid the dreaded “picky eater,” and will ensure baby is getting their nourishment from breastmilk for at least the full recommended first year. Cons: It’s messy! And it can be quite nerve-wracking since baby will gag more often (an unavoidable part of learning how to eat whole foods) Cost: None For more information: Read Baby Led Weaning by Gill Rapley
Regardless of how you’re feeding your baby, make sure you are paying utmost attention to WHAT you’re feeding them. Start with the safe foods — banana, sweet potato, avocado, pear — gradually adding different fruits and veggies, and always waiting three to four days before introducing something new to watch for bad reactions. Once you have a variety of produce down (around nine months, if you started at six), you can add whole grains like millet, quinoa, and rice, and beans, soy, dairy, and meat. While you shouldn’t be afraid to season baby’s food (Coraline’s doctor said Indian dal was her son’s favorite), try to avoid sugar for as long as possible — it wreaks havoc on little bodies. And of course go organic! Baby doesn’t need a healthy dose of pesticides and herbicides with their vitamins and minerals.
Feel free to share your baby-food stories in the comments box below. (Also, don’t forget to participate in the Mama Greenest Green As I Wanna Be Challenge!) Happy eating!