Feeding babies solid food is so much fun! But at the same time, it is a big mystery for so many of us – especially if the baby is a first child. What do you feed first? Cereal? Veggies? Fruits? When should you introduce meats? What about dairy? Eggs? Strawberries? What about food allergies? Should you make your own, or buy it at the store? So many questions! And there is a lot of conflicting advice out there. So, I’m going to share some of what has worked for us, and some good resources with you.
|Banana is such a favorite that he calls all food, and his drink, nanan.
First things first, making your own baby food is so much easier than it may sound. And it is so much more cost efficient, and yields healthier food that is more like what your baby will be eating as he or she grows, which means less food aversions as your child grows into table foods. A 4 oz jar of organic banana baby food can be found 89 cents to $1. Or, I could buy a POUND of organic bananas for 69 to 89 cents. Let me make that clear for you. Four ounces is a quarter of a pound. Now, granted, the banana peel is likely a third of the weight of the banana, or thereabouts. So even if you take that out of the equation, it costs about 2 to 3 times as much to buy the jar of baby food instead of buying the fresh bananas and smashing them yourself. Most other foods are fairly comparable to this as well. So by making your own baby food, you can save yourself about half of what you would spend on prepared baby food. But this is just looking at the minimum price possibilities.
For my boys, with their food allergies, I need to find food that isn’t cross contaminated by being processed on the same equipment as other, possibly allergenic, foods. You may be surprised to know that some of the highest allergen baby foods are processed on the same equipment as first foods in many companies. In fact, you may be surprised to know that oatmeal, recommended as the second food to give to babies by those who recommend cereal (more on this in a minute), is a gluten containing food, and allergies to gluten and gluten intolerance are very high in children. So, to find foods that are labelled as not being processed on equipment with other allergenic foods, I have to pay closer to $2 for that 4 oz of banana. So, $2 for 4 oz or 89 cents for a pound. The choice seems clear, as far as price is concerned.
There is a whole market out there for “supplies” for making your own baby food, but so little of the costly supplies are really necessary, unless it is something that you want to invest in. A cheap plastic food mill will work just as well as a high tech blender. Really! They turn out the same basic food. The blender will require less work to make the food. The food mill will require less clean up. And many first foods can be prepared with nothing more than a fork. Food can be prepared and fed fresh. It can be frozen in ice cube trays and then stored in zip top bags or freezer safe food storage dishes. It can be canned so it will be more like the little jars on the grocery store shelves (although this alters the taste and texture of the food, and it is the most difficult and time consuming option). It can also just be eaten as it comes, in some cases – ripe pear, banana, and avocado all come to mind.
And you don’t even need to invest hours or money in researching baby food recipes
. Just give first foods plain, and once they’ve tried out a few foods, mix a few of those foods together until they make a delightful little smoothie. You can change up your flavors as often as you would like! Applesauce and blueberries? Yum! Banana and mango? Always a hit at our house. Applesauce and carrots? Yes, please! Just let your creative juices flow. Your baby will have his or her own preferences anyway, but you are helping him or her to have an adventure. Don’t be afraid to get a bit messy!
|Elliott enjoying some sweet potato. He is not afraid of getting a bit messy!
Now for the when to introduce what, and what to feed first. There are so many different recommendations out there. This is a choice that each family has to make for themselves. The only constant is that babies should have only breastmilk or formula for the first 4-6 months of life
After that, Gerber recommends cereal first. And many traditional doctors follow their lead. However, baby cereal is low in nutrients, high in calories, can be difficult to digest, and can be constipating for babies. Also, as I mentioned earlier, oatmeal, wheat and barley all contain gluten which is the protein in wheat that many people cannot digest. In fact, wheat is in the top 8 food allergens. We fed our first cereal, with no lasting negative impacts. However, there is a really funny story about her becoming constipated as soon as we started feeding her rice cereal and then we had to feed her prunes to get her to go. That’s not the funny part of the story, but I’ll tell that part a different time! Walter tried rice cereal a few times, but didn’t like anything I had to feed him, so we pretty much skipped it. By the time Elliott came along, I never even tried it.
Many doctors and parents feel that fruits and veggies are a more logical first food. They are easier to digest. They are less likely to be allergenic. In fact, the only fruit or veggie on the top 8 food allergens is soy, which is not considered a first food. We began fruits and veggies right after cereal with the first two, and very first with Elliott. With Sofi, we were forced to feed fruit to get her to poop after the rice cereal. With Walter, he was only interested in food he could self feed. His first real food was steamed green peas. So for Elliott, it only made sense to start there as well.
And some doctors are now even recommending meat or egg yolk as first food, since they are closer in composition to breast milk, which babies should ideally be eating until they start on solids. Roasted chicken, prepared ground beef, meat loaf, turkey, and even soft pork or beef roasts can be gummed on by babies and eaten. And egg yolk is less allergenic than egg whites, so it is best to give the yolk by itself first.
And the best indicator of what to feed may be your baby! Our babies have been very good at telling us what they wanted, what they didn’t want, what they liked and what they didn’t like
, and what their bodies handled well or poorly. This is a picture of Elliott demanding a taste of Sofi’s apple. He won’t let anyone in his sight eat an apple by his or her self!
|*Disclaimer – raw apple is a chocking hazard. Always use caution with babies and crunchy foods. Elliott is not yet able to bite chunks of apple off the core. He sucks, gums and scrapes it off with his teeth. I am not suggesting that anyone give their baby raw apple as a first food.
Some good resources for what to introduce at what ages follows:
Baby Lead Weaning – http://www.babyledweaning.com/
And last, when to introduce those high allergen foods? The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease says:
There is no conclusive evidence to suggest that you should delay the introduction of the most common potentially allergenic foods (milk, egg, peanut) beyond four to six months of age. Delay will not prevent your child from developing an allergy.
It seemed a little scary to me, but tuna and salmon are two of Elliott’s favorite foods!
So, enjoy feeding your babies!
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