Starting our babes on food!

This weekend’s article in the paper (and I am yet to get a pic) is on starting solids.

I’ve found this is quite a grey area because there is so much wrong and dated information out there. When I had my first baby, it was recommended to start solids at 4 months. Just one year later, with baby two, it was moved to 6 months. There are grandmothers saying they started their babies on solids at 6 weeks, those who advise putting baby rice into baby bottles, and so many stories and so much information that a new parent would be spinning with confusion!!!

When sucking on the spoon no longer satisfies, perhaps it’s time to go through this checklist:

*Firstly, is your baby six months old?
*Has he lost the natural tongue reflex that pushes everything out that is put into his mouth?
*Can she sit up with less help?
*Can he pick up objects and bring them to his mouth?

Delaying all foods other than breastmilk, until 6 months old, is important for many reasons. It gives baby greater protection from illness, and decreases the risk of food allergies. It gives the digestive system time to mature, helps mum maintain her milk supply, and protects baby from iron deficiency. It also makes the start to solids much easier when baby is ready. Waiting protects baby’s gut. Absolutely do the best for your baby and wait until 6 months!!!

Once you are ready to start, get ready! This actually involves very little work and cost at all, depending on the food you choose. Consider that food is what keeps us going, a healthy diet keeps us well, so your baby will be healthier and will learn better if they are given good food.

Mashing ripe banana or avocado into a bowl with a fork is easy and cheap! Use breastmilk to thin if desired. Choose a time when your baby is happy and also after their normal milk feed. Your baby will only take one to two teaspoons for their first few feeds, but they will enjoy the new taste and sucking on the spoon once you’ve finished!

Avoid rice cereal and other starches, which are processed, hard to digest for a baby, and can upset the gut. Go on – Google why rice cereal is NOT a good first food for babies.

Instead, choose fruits and vegetables such as peeled, steamed and pureed carrots, pumpkin, apples, pears. Skip the fancy baby bowls and spoons, and instead invest in organic and fresh fruits and vegetables.

Start with one food at a time, giving your baby time to enjoy and process each one and time for you to identify any possible allergies. Reactions may include colic, ear infections, breathing difficulties, runny nose, skin rashes, diarrhea or nappy rash. Once you are satisfied with the fruit and vegetables, add steamed chicken, plain cooked mince, potatoes, kumara, broccoli. Always offer solids after baby’s normal milk feed.

After 9 months, you can start introducing wheat, dairy (yoghurt and cheese), egg, pork and fish, however wait until at least 1 year before adding cow’s milk. Avoid all added salt and sugar. If you buy baby food, choose brands that are not packed with fillers (like water and thickeners).

Make your own baby food and then freeze it in ice cubes. Once frozen, store in containers or freezer bags so you can easily defrost several cubes when you need them (one apple cube and one nectarine cube for lunch!) You can also buy freezable and washable baby food pouches now – great for being on the go!

For many following the traditional route of starting solids, the puree becomes mash, which becomes mash with lumps, and so on until the baby can pick up or be fed whole foods in their natural state. However, for those following Baby Led Weaning (BLW), baby starts with those whole foods. Steamed carrot sticks, chicken drums (with that terrible skinny bone removed!) , chopped banana – from the time of starting solids, baby eats what the family does. Check out www.babyledweaning.com for more! Using purees means baby learns to swallow before chewing, while baby led weaning teaches baby to chew and then swallow. Babies have a natural gag reflex to protect them from choking, and understanding this and knowing what to do in a real emergency situation can give you the confidence to pursue BLW. The two children I did BLW with have always eaten well and never went through the fussy stage like the two I didn’t do it with! It’s great to allow your baby to discover different foods and certainly easier to offer family meals than making heaps of baby food (or worse, spending a small fortune on jarred/pouch food!)

As for allergies and reactions – talk your health practitioner on this one. When I first started solids, it was recommended not to give nuts and other high allergen foods until after the age of 1 or 3! More recently, it was recommended to give baby peanut butter and other such foods from 6 months or so because delaying could CAUSE the allergy. It really is quite confusing!!! So if you have concerns in this area, it would be best to talk to your doctor. Personally I never started a new food on the weekend just in case there was a reaction!!!!! (There never has been!)

The worst reactions to food I’ve seen in my littlies is from pineapple and other acidic foods, which burnt baby’s bum dreadfully. Otherwise… they love their food! Sushi, mild curries and seafood are all favourites with my children now!!

Good luck!!! Be sure to ‘like’ Ministry of Lunchboxes for great snack and meal ideas 🙂

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