You are what you eat. A healthy body including fabulous hair and skin is all down to the content of your diet. An affinity for healthy foods is best taught at a very early age. Now that our son - Little Zeusy - is 4.5 months old we’re thinking hard about when and how to introduce solids.
Given women have been having babies for centuries you’d be forgiven for thinking that issues regarding the introduction of solids would be pretty decided by now but scientists are very much “still working on it”. I’m getting a lot of conflicting advice. Rather than focus exclusively on the science, I’ve decided to balance the science with my own intuition and stories from other mums’ experiences.
What are the outcomes I want for Little Zeusy, ideally?
- I want him to accept a wide range of healthy foods over time, i.e. I don’t want a fussy eater
- I want him to have a healthy relationship with food – I don’t want him to overeat, undereat or be overly attracted to just certain foods
- I don’t want him to have food allergies
What I Learnt at the NCT Workshop on Introducing Solids?
When to introduce solids?
Experts recommend you wait until your baby is 6 months old or approaching 6-months or is showing the following 3 signals:
- Shows an interest in food (i.e. reaches for it)
- Sits up with head control (with or without back support)
- Has decent hand to mouth coordination
Baby-led vs. Parent-led (Pieces of food vs. Pureed food)
Baby-led weaning basically involves giving your baby real food. You don’t mush it up for the most part, you simply cook it or, if it’s soft e.g. avocado or banana, cut it up into pieces and let the baby feed himself.
The session I attended had an experienced mum overseeing how it was conducted and I was convinced by her story: she gave birth to a set of twins when her first two children were 4 and 2 years old. She weaned her first two children by pureeing things initially but when she had the twins she just fed them whatever her other kids were eating. She says the results were amazing: her twins accepted a much wider variety of food over time and to-date her first child who is 12 years old still struggles with vegetables.
The most amazing thing she found is that her twins (now 8 years old) just stop eating when they are full because that’s what they’ve grown up to do. Even if they are eating a food they like such as cake once they’re full they’ll simply stop eating.
I would never have believed this to be true if I didn’t live with that kind of person: my husband, Harry, can leave 3 crisps in a packet, roll it up, clip it and put it back in the cupboard. I was flabbergasted the first time I found a bag of crisps with literally 3 crisps in it. When I asked why he bothered to leave them he simply said, “I was full.”
Ultimately, letting a child feed himself is like breastfeeding: the child stops when they have had enough. When a parent feeds their child they want to clear the plate or empty the bottle whether the baby is full or not, that’s natural.
What time of the day to introduce foods?
She suggested introducing new foods Monday to Friday in the morning when GP surgeries are open and A&E is better staffed in case there is an allergic reaction. I think this is overly cautious but in principle I would agree.
We’ll probably do it in the evening so my husband can take part. Given he’s a paediatrician it should be okay.
Commercially packed food or homemade food?
Nowadays you have so much pre-packed food in sachets, cans, etc. “Ella’s” is all the rage. The main problem I have with these foods is that they’re NOT food as you would have at a regular meal. Apparently some babies that become accustomed to foods from sachets where they squeeze the pack to get the food out can reject food that doesn’t come in something that they squeeze out. To solve this problem nowadays you can buy empty “squeezey” satchets to fill up with mashed up food yourself…
A second problem is that when you are weaning a baby they need very little food; however, these sachets/jars expire within about 48 hours of opening them, this means unless you’re making the baby finish the food (which you shouldn’t do, always stop when the baby indicates he’s full) you’ll be throwing loads away.
I see the value of pre-packed food if you’re travelling somewhere but not as a lifestyle choice. Personally, I’m planning not to buy any at all. It’s a very unnecessary expense and isn’t in agreement with the mostly baby-led weaning my husband and I want to try and follow.
Raw or cooked?
Apparently, most food should be baked, steamed or boiled initially to reduce choking risk. I was going to let the baby suck on raw carrots but apparently this isn’t advised due to the choking risk. I’ll do more research on this.
Sweet vs. Savoury?
Because breast milk is sweet, babies are more likely to accept sweeter foods, e.g. parsnips than savoury foods. However, someone I know says she’s worked with some babies that rejected savoury foods because the weaning process focused too much on sweet foods. One set of twins she cares for only accept savoury foods if they are dipped in a sweet food first.
Ultimately, the weaning process needs to be slow and gradual. Breast milk or formula is meant to be the primary source of food for the first year of life and up until the 6-month point provides everything the baby needs from a nutrient perspective.
There is a lot of new information coming my way right now but I’d like to know your experience. What worked and what did not work when it came to introducing food to your baby?
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