For the first four to six months of life, your baby uses iron stored in their body from in the mother’s womb. They also get iron from breastmilk and/or formula. After six months their natural iron stores go down, so they need to obtain iron and other nutrients from ‘solid’ food.
I’ve always cooked all my girl’s meals from scratch. Years ago with my first baby there was no such thing as organic baby food off the shelf, and the thought of feeding my precious baby tinned food didn’t sit well with me, so I started cooking baby purees, casseroles and sauces. Sure, it’s time consuming and requires a bit of planning, but at least I know what she’s getting (and hopefully, she loves it!)
Often too, baby food off the shelf doesn’t have the full calories that freshly cooked meals do, so babies aren’t as full after eating this food, so won’t sleep as well. That’s what I’ve found anyway.
After desperately doing lots of reading about how food can help a baby sleep better, I discovered that both low GI food and food high in protein keeps babies feeling fuller for longer, therefore are more likely to sleep longer. In fact one week after starting pureed casseroles with my middle daughter Sasha, she started sleeping through and continued to!
Where possible, I adapt the meals we eat for baby to save myself too much work, and use various books like Annabel Karmel range of recipe books, Foods Babies Love by Weanmeister and Tizzie Hall’s Feeding Book for lots recipe ideas, advice and tips.
When we say ‘solid’ it’s not really solid until they get a bit older. It’s best to start with very runny food that’s cooked and pureed. Almost like yoghurt.
The best foods to start with are naturally sweet, soft textured fruit and vegies that babies will (usually) love and are easy to puree – like carrot, pear, pumpkin and apple. Don’t worry if they screw their face up or spit it out at first, that’s pretty normal. In fact, it can take up to 12-15 tries to get them to eat food – it’s a totally new experience and texture remember! I like to mix a bit of fruit or vegetable puree with breast milk at first, so it’s very runny in texture, and a familiar taste. I find it has made the transition to food easier.
I discovered the Qubies storage trays at a baby expo and love them – they make the process really simple and quick. BPA free, silicone and easy to use and clean, you just pour the pureed fruit or vegies into the bottom tray, then add the top tray as the divider. The portions are larger than regular ice cube trays, so each cube is about a meal size all ready to go!
The other ones I like are NUK Freezer Trays that are also silicone and BPA free, and hold about 30ml of liquid or puree each (about a whole meal for a baby starting out on solids) and are really easy to use and wash. These also come with a lid, and can be used for freezing baby food as well as ice cubes, lemon juice, stock and lots of other liquids.
These are some of the foods I’ve had the most success with in the early weeks and months:
Peeled, cooked then pureed:
Apple, especially Pink Lady or Royal Gala
Raw and well mashed:
As well as rice cereal and baby rice porridge (I like Bellamys Organic or Rafferty’s Garden best) you can mix them together or serve them alone for variety and different flavours. The more flavours a baby has at an early age, the less fussy they will become. Believe me!
And when you’re starting solids, remember to get yourself lots of bowls, with and without lids, and soft baby spoons in various sizes, especially for when you’re out and about (babies are great at throwing things out of the stroller!)
It’s important to remember to be patient, take your time and make it a happy and fun experience for your baby. Babies pick up anxiety and stress from us really easily, so if you’re happy and excited about this new stage of their life they will hopefully pick up your vibe and be happy too!
Also give baby small sips of cooled, boiled water from the kettle to help them digest the food. As they’ve only been fed breastmilk or formula milk it’s important to give them a bit of liquid with meals to help them digest.
What’s your experience been like with starting solids?
Please note: I am not a nutritionist, but have done quite a bit of research on nutrition and food for babies and children after my eldest ‘fussy’ eater turned out to be gluten intolerant and suffered from gastric reflux as an infant. If your baby or child has a special dietary requirement like reflux, gluten intolerance, celiac disease, fructose intolerance and so on, you should consult a pediatrician, dietitian or nutritionist.