By Alicia of Lollygag Learning
Nova is almost ready to enter a new phase of babyhood—eating solids! There is so much information about starting solids that it can easily become overwhelming. With our first baby, I did a lot of reading and researching, and I had a checklist of questions for the pediatrician and my breastfeeding support group. That was only 2 years ago, so it’s still fresh on my mind! After all of that preparing, the introduction of baby food was over in the blink of an eye.
I’m very thankful to have a pediatrician who takes the time to bounce around ideas about feeding. Also, since Nova has a sensitive belly, I am meeting with a nutritionist who is also a lactation consultant. While breastfeeding, I have pinpointed several food sensitivities for Nova including dairy, soy, wheat, tree nuts, and peanuts. The food sensitivities are a new challenge for me since my first baby did not have any issues with the food I ate. I have decided to wait to start solids until Nova is around 6 months old and sitting unsupported.
There are 3 different styles of feeding that I will experiment with when we start solids: purées, finger foods, and baby-led weaning (BLW). One thing I’ve learned since I became a mom is that it’s good to make a plan, but be willing to change it! With Nova, I plan to try a little bit of purées and finger foods and see how she does. We will see what she likes, identify her style and preference, and go from there. Maybe it will be 100% purées or a mix of two styles. I’m thinking it will be a little bit of each style. It will be so fun to see her learning and experimenting!
Purées: I don’t think you need any kind of special baby food making machine to make purées. If you have a good blender or food processor, or just a fork you can do purees easily. The stage of feeding baby food purées is so short that I don’t want to purchase another kitchen appliance that will sit in the cupboard unused afterwards. Start with a simple age-appropriate fruit or veggie, and blend it while adding breast milk, formula, or water until it is soupy and thin. The food should pour off of the spoon like a liquid. If it is so thick that it sticks to the spoon it might cause choking or constipation at this age. Some great first fruits or veggies are avocado, sweet potato, banana, pear, apples, or butternut squash. I like to bake the sweet potato and squash, and steam the apple to soften before puréeing. If you want to try mashing the food with a fork, you will notice it is more textured, which is great once your baby has a little more experience.
Not sure how thick to make your purées? Check out this video to see the consistency foods should be when it's mashed versus blended.
Finger Foods: Small diced fruits and veggies can be served for Baby to self-feed and get a great sensory experience, while learning about their food. Be sure that the food is very soft and you can easily squish it between two fingers the way that their little gums will mash the food. Teeth are not required for finger foods because babies learn to mash with their gums before they ever get molars. I tend to dice the food to about the same size of a baby puff snack or Cheerio. It’s small enough to pick up with their tiny fingers, but it’s not too big or firm to be a choking hazard. Follow your baby’s lead and interest!
Baby Led Weaning: Offering whole foods in their purest form, with no purées or dicing, is the idea behind baby led weaning. This approach is said to help baby have better eye-hand coordination, learn about their food, self-feed, and regulate how much they eat. You can try offering a large slice of avocado, a half of a banana with the peel as a handle to grip, or large slices of baked sweet potato.
At first, your baby might not eat a lot of the food you prepare, but that’s okay! Breast milk or formula should be the main source of nutrition until they are one year old, unless otherwise instructed by your pediatrician. Follow your baby and do what feels right when you are deciding how to introduce solids. There are many different styles and you’re sure to find one that works best for your baby.