by Kimberly (FL, USA)
Could you point me in the right direction regarding resources on when and what to start feeding your baby when he shows interest in starting solid foods?
I know that pediatricians and other health care professionals recommend starting with rice cereal, but when I looked at the list of ingredients on the Gerber rice cereal it had all this-for lack of a better word- crap in it. Is there a way to make your own baby rice cereal?
My son is only 5 months so I am not starting yet but I wanted to start researching now so that when the time comes I know what to be feeding and feel confident in starting his new life as a solid food eater. Any personal advice, reading materials, websites or other resources would be very much appreciated. Thank you!
I have to agree with you about the “crap” in processed baby foods. It's scary!
The best way to “know when to start” your son on solids is by watching his cues. If he's interested in food, and if he doesn't immediately push foods back out of his mouth with his tongue, he's probably ready to start. Babies have a “tongue-thrust” reflex until around six months that helps protect them from foods they're not ready for. The loss of this reflex is a good indicator that you can start to offer solids.
Keep in mind that at first solids are just an experiment – just learning new tastes and textures. Some babies are ready to go as soon as you offer the first spoonful. Some prefer to wait longer and require repeated exposure to food. Usually babies are ready for solids around 6-8 months.
As for what to feed your baby – yes, you can make your own rice cereal at home by simply cooking rice and mashing it or processing it through a baby food mill. I don't recommend starting with rice cereal, though. Wait until a year on rice and even longer on other grains, if possible. Research is showing that children don't fully develop the enzymes to digest grains until they're around 2 years old! It's possible that early grains contribute to allergies and food sensitives in children.
I recommend egg yolk (Wait until 12 months on the white), avocado, and sweet potato as good starter foods. The egg yolk supplies plenty of iron. If you can get your baby to take it, a pinch of diced liver mixed in with the egg yolk is ideal. Soup broth (chicken or beef broths), butter, and coconut oil are also good things to start with.
You can start with bland foods at first, but I like Dr. Alan Greene's take on seasoning baby's food – he says feel free to do it. Your baby is going to grow up eating foods as you like seasoning them and there's no reason to make him suffer through bland baby foods now!
At 8 months you can expand veggies for baby – I recommend serving them with butter or another good fat. This is good for your baby's brain and it also helps him digest vegetables. Salad greens are harder for young children to digest – and most young children don't like them as much as adults do, anyways. So hold off on those and introduce in small amounts when he's older.
At 9 months you can introduce all meats (except shellfish – wait until a year), and yogurt.
At a year you can begin trying the common allergens (tomatoes, berries, shellfish, nuts, etc.) Make sure you're with him as he learns to eat new foods – especially things like nuts and nut butters, which could present a choking hazard (you can dice nuts).
My experience up until my fourth baby was always babies who preferred to start solids a little later (7-9 months) and then began happily with finger foods. They skipped the pureed baby mush completely.
Galen (baby #4), however, does not like solid textures and his swallowing isn't very well coordinated. I use the KidCo Food Mill to puree most of his foods and I've been very pleased with it. It's easy to use and clean, and it gets things to a texture where Galen will actually eat them.
If you'd like to try pureed foods, I recommend making your own with a Kidco (or similar) baby food mill. The beauty of this is you can quickly puree a little of whatever you're eating! You can also use a blender or food processor and make larger portions, then freeze them in ice cube trays. When they're done, pop them out and put them in a labeled bag or container in the freezer!
A good place to start is with Natural Birth and Baby Care's own guide to nourishing your little one: First Bites and Beyond!