Feeding your baby its first foods can be very daunting. Then as they get older you need to deal with possible allergies and of course those fussy eaters. I have looked after and cooked for many children and dealt with allergies and fussy eaters. Let me share my experiences with you and hopefully assist you in some way. Please feel free to ask me any questions in the comments section or email me.
How do you know when it’s time to feed your baby solid foods? Some babies are growing much faster than others and milk feeds are not satisfying them completely. This can start at 4 months old. Your baby may be wanting to increase their breast/bottle feeds, they are watching you eat, they have good head and neck control, picking things up and putting them in their mouth. If your baby is 6 months old and only starting to show signs of wanting food, that’s ok. We are all individuals. Don’t leave it too late to start your baby on solid foods. We need to start to develop the digestive system and get some more nutrients into their bodies. You may feel like you don’t know when to feed your baby, but go with your gut, not what everyone else is doing or pressuring you to do. Speak to your Mum, Dad or close friend and get some advice if you’re worried.
The taste buds of a baby are obviously not developed and since breast milk is sweet, these are the tastes that they are more inclined to enjoy. This is why their sweet section of taste buds are the first to develop (tip of the tongue) and their bitter taste buds are the last. When you first introduce your baby to solids remember that they are also not used to texture. So spitting the food out does not mean they don’t like it. They are learning a new function, so persistence is the key. This includes water. Yes they may have spat it out, just remember that it is not sweet and the consistency is slightly different to milk so it is new. Again, persist with it before you think you will go and add some juice. Your baby will take to it. It can take up to 10 to 20 tastes of food or drink for a baby or child to start to enjoy a new flavour or texture. Even as we get older we start to like different foods and get more adventurous.
To try and develop their taste buds the first food you should introduce is something very bland and one flavour only. Potato is great to start with as it is very bland and not sweet, so you are encouraging the taste buds to try something without sweetness. If you start them on sweet foods like pureed apple it may be hard to introduce the more savoury foods later on. But in saying that, go with what you like. If you want to give bub apple first, go ahead. It’s just a tip I like to give. After a few tries of vegetables and bub has tried fruit, you can mix the 2 together. Pear, carrot and potato or something like that might be a good option. Mashing the vegetables with breast milk or formula is always helpful as the flavour of it will carry through a bit.
For the first month you only need to feed your baby one vegetable or fruit at a time. This is very helpful to discover if they have an allergy to a certain food. If your child does have an allergic reaction, it is much easier to pin point the cause and then eliminate it. If you mix 3 or 4 foods together it is much harder to determine what it was that caused the reaction. Reactions may come in the form a rash, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, swollen lips or anaphylaxis (tightening of the airways, restricted breathing, swelling of the face, hives). All allergies should be seen by a doctor and anaphylaxis should be treated as an emergency dialling 000 immediately.
Start with a small amount and 1 meal a day. Lunch time I find is a good meal time but you can decide what is best for you and your baby. Some may want only a few spoonfuls and others may want more. Don’t over feed them. Let their tummy get used to the new food. Offer the solid food before a breast or bottle feed so they are hungry. If they are not interested in foods they may turn their head away, push your hand away, close their lips tight or get upset.
Don’t be afraid to let them get messy. Put a drop sheet under the high chair and let them have their way with the food. If the weather is warm enough, allow them to eat in just a nappy if you’re worried about their clothes. If they put their hands in the bowl, that’s ok. Remember they are exploring new textures and using their senses. This is how they learn. We can always clean them up or throw them in a bath when we are done. Being in a hurry is not the optimal situation. Feeding a child in a hurry also can encourage gorging in older children. We need to let their digestive system know it’s full. Start by encouraging good eating habits.
I always give the baby a plastic spoon so they don’t want to grab the one I am using as much. Even the tiny 4-6 month old. They like to mimic you by sticking the spoon in the bowl and sucking on it. Even if they only get a drop of food on the spoon they are learning something: hand eye co-ordination, how to feed themselves, imitation, fine motor skills and developing the taste buds. If they put their hand in the bowl, allow them to eat off it. There is no need to teach your baby table manners at this stage. That will come in time. Let go of the thought of mess. What is more important? Remember we are laying the foundations of positive eating behaviours.
Once your baby has been eating pureed food for a few weeks you can start mixing them together and adding things like well cooked rice, pasta and meat. Don’t continue to push the bland, plain foods. Mix it up by giving them foods with flavour also. This helps encourage diverse eating.
Here are some examples of foods you can give your baby:
First foods, pureed:
- Sweet potato
Start mixing foods after 2 weeks and numerous attempts at single foods:
- Potato, carrot, apple
- Pear, sweet potato, broccoli
- Pumpkin, zucchini, carrot
- Avocado and banana
- Pear and raspberry
- Apple and mango
- Sweet potato and cauliflower
- Poached chicken, potato and carrot
- Minced beef, rice, tomato
- Pasta, pumpkin and cauliflower
I’m sure you will get creative with foods you have. Mix up a big batch and freeze it in ice cube trays. That way you can pop a few out, defrost it and heat it up.
FOODS TO AVOID: These are all possible allergens. If baby is too young it can be very dangerous if they are allergic. Take note that sometimes, you eating these foods and kissing a child can cause an allergic reaction. So be mindful.
- Any nuts and seeds
- Processed foods