When our Little Bird was 4-months-old, her pediatrician (who we weren’t really crazy about already) told us that she was ready for us to start introducing solids. I was surprised, since I had heard in breastfeeding support groups to wait until 6 months. In research afterwards, the current consensus in the medical community does seem to recommend 6 months. The doctor also told us to start with rice cereal, and I had already decided NOT to start with a “white” processed food. To make it worse, she suggested sneaking a little rice cereal into her bottle, which just seemed dishonest.
We ended up switching doctors for other reasons and although I didn’t follow her advice, the visit did prompt me to start researching all about introducing solids. My previous experience feeding babies was limited to one very messy afternoon of spoonfeeding my niece, over 8 years ago, from a jar. Most of it went all over her and the kitchen and she let very little of it in her mouth. Cute, as the auntie that got to leave afterwards, but less fun day in and out. (And as it turned out she never enjoyed “baby food” –even the organic baby food her mom got her from Whole Foods– and she quickly switched to small chunks of her favorite foods.)
Here is what I knew I wanted when introducing solids:
- To use organic, pesticide-free and non-GMO food as much as possible.
- To use vegetables from our garden as much as possible, as well as eggs from our chickens.
- To make as much as possible myself from scratch, time permitting.
- To have my daughter enjoy eating, vs. forcing anything on her.
- To follow in my mom’s footsteps, who brought a small food mill to restaurants, and fed us whatever our parents were eating.
Here is what the internet told me:
- I could prioritize baby and our breastfeeding relationship by introducing solids according to Baby Led Weaning, where she was only given large pieces of food, and if she couldn’t chew it, oh well, she didn’t need it…
- To make my own baby food, I should make a large batch and freeze it in small, individual servings and defrost for each of her meals.
Here is what I did that worked for us:
- I didn’t stress!
- We let her “eat” when we ate.
- I followed my baby’s behavioral cues of when she was ready to start “experimenting” with solids. (For example, showing interest in our food: Baby Bird at 4 months once grabbed a handful of spicy tahini sauce from my beef shwarma, stuck it in her mouth, and said “mmmmmmm.”)
- We did end up offering food at 5 months, but we defined “eating” in the first few months as anything from merely tasting to just playing with food.
- From day one we involved her in the process of cooking and preparing food. It makes her more excited about the finished product. (See my post on Baby’s first Applesauce for a “tree to highchair” recipe.)
- The first month or so, we only offered food once a week. For example, if we were eating avocado, she got to try some. After 6 months, we offered food once or twice a day.
- I decided to go with intuition and common sense when deciding when, how and what to introduce, but I did boost my confidence on the order for introducing solids by reading a few good baby food books, such as this one from Sage Spoonfuls.
- We kept a list on the fridge of all the foods she had tried and tolerated, introduced only one food at a time, and then waited a few days before introducing another.
- I usually mixed breastmilk into her purees.
- I didn’t stress about whether or not it was strict “baby led weaning”, which I found restrictive, and offered a mix of purees and whole, soft foods, such as bananas, avocado, pears.
- I didn’t buy a fancy baby food maker, but used the magic bullet we already owned. It was the perfect size for her meals.
- I did end up buying a simple food mill, like this one, for about $12. It worked well for rice and meat. (I also purchased the small storage containers from Sage Spoonfuls.)
- I tasted EVERYTHING I gave her. I figured if I didn’t like it, why should she? For the record, neither of us liked powdered, reconstituted rice cereal. Yuck.
- I never ended up freezing much food for her ahead of time. Like the point above, fresh food just tastes better. Instead, I gave her some of whatever I cooked for us. Sometimes I reserved some for her before adding salt or ingredients she hadn’t had yet.
- Up until 9 months, I made sure that all her caregivers understood that introducing solids was to be treated as a fun activity or an extra treat, and that her “job” was to still to consume breastmilk.
Although strict Baby Led Weaning was not practical for us, I really wanted to like it and I still admire some of the philosophy and believe it is worth reading up on. We ended up doing a combination of BLW and purees. Every baby is different so see what works for yours! Try this article for a good balanced view.
I only recently stumbled upon an article on the Montessori approach to weaning and found it resonated with me.
I’m honored to have since joined a taping of the Boob Group podcast as a panelist for an episode on “Breastfeeding and Introducing Solids.” The episode is now available to listen and download here. I am a big fan of the podcast, hosted by Robin Kaplan, M.Ed., IBCLC, and owner of the San Diego Breastfeeding Center (also check out her awesome blog.) The episode features expert Barbara Robertson, IBCLC, Director of The Breastfeeding Center of Ann Arbor, and Director of Professional Development for the United States Lactation Consultation Association. She had a lot of great, evidence-based information. I won’t provide spoilers, but one tip I got that I will do differently with baby #2 is to start proteins and good fats early. With baby bird #1, I focused on vegetables, fruits and a few whole grains in months 6-8. I’ve since learned babies really benefit from easily digestible proteins (lamb, liver, etc) and fats such as coconut oil and olive oil. There was a lot more great info, so be sure to check it out!
I am not a doctor or a nutritionist. Please consider the opinions of your own healthcare practitioners and your own child’s unique needs when introducing solids. I’m just a mom who put a lot of thought and research into it, and found a simple approach that worked for my child. She happens to be a great eater, but who’s knows how much all of the above contributed. Please remember that every baby is unpredictably different. If I leave you with any message, it’s that there is no WRONG approach. You may find a few ideas that work for your family–or not. Just like with all of parenting, there are so many different ways of doing things. Go with what works for you, whether it’s strict BLW or strictly from a pouch, or all of the above like us.
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