Off the Spoon
It is an exciting and somewhat daunting time when you prepare to give your little one solids for the first time!
Please refer to the “Food Introduction Table” to see which foods you should begin with. Familiarise yourself with this information, purchase the necessary equipment, get the camera ready and take a deep breath!
I first introduced Mila to solids when she was 4 months old under the mistaken impression that it would help her sleep through the night. Her sleeping got worse and after further research I realised that her under developed digestive system now had to work even harder to digest its food, meaning she was not having a very peaceful sleep at all.
I also made the mistake of giving Mila rice porridge as her first food – the poor little thing had cramps and serious constipation as a result. Despite the very successful marketing of Baby Cereals that they are baby’s best first food, babies have limited enzyme production – and enzymes are necessary for the digestion of food. The specific enzymes required for the digestion of carbohydrates, and grains in particular, are only available in sufficient quantities when your little one is a year old, and only fully available when the molar teeth are developed. This is usually when your little one is around 28 months old. As such, cereals, pasta, grains and breads should be the last foods to be introduced and, when they are, they must be properly prepared by means of pre-soaking or fermenting.
So if not cereals and porridges what food can you start with?
As you begin to wean your little one at 6 months, it is essential that the food that is replacing the breast milk or formula contains fat, iron, zinc and protein. While your little ones will not have the enzymes necessary to digest grains, they do produce the functional enzymes and digestive juices necessary for digesting proteins and fats. It stands to reason, then, that for ease of digestion as well as meeting nutrient requirements, your little ones’ first foods should be animal foods (meat, organ meats, and eggs), vegetables and fruits – as opposed to carbohydrates (grains and cereals).
Follow your little one’s lead.
When you begin with solids it is important to remember that most of the nutrition is still coming from your breast milk (or formula). Do not get stressed about how much your baby is, or is not eating – follow his/her lead. Food, at this stage, is about learning how to chew and swallow and about textures (as well as a whole lot of other neural development) –
it is not so much about getting full or nourished.
The book gives guidelines on how to prepare a variety of purées – these are not really recipes but more ideas for food combinations and some guidelines on cooking methods and times. I made the mistake of preparing a huge batch of purée made with a mutlitude of ingredients only once! Mila hated it, and I had trays of it left standing in the freezer
(a complete waste of ingredients and precious time!).
You will notice that this section in the book is therefore composed of fairly simple purée ‘combinations’, more than recipes. I prepared and froze individual purées – and would then mix and match different cubes at each meal time. If Mila didn’t like a particular combination, I would simply make another – less wasted food and time!
3-day Wait Rule
When I began feeding Mila solids I followed the three-day wait rule – which is simply, feed your little one the same food for three days before introducing another one. This allows you to easily identify a food that may be causing an allergic reaction or digestive troubles.
Once I was confident that Mila did not react badly to a few different foods, I began to combine them in a purée mix. To reduce waste and save time (and my sanity), I kept making individual puréed food ice cubes. I would then take a couple different flavours out at a time and make a combination of those. To these I would add spices or superfoods just before serving. If she did not like that combination, it was easy and quick enough to make another one from scratch.