What follows is an analysis of my personal experience of introducing solid food to a baby. Please do not take this as medical or expert advice on the matter and always refer to your child’s pediatrician for advice and input on your child’s nutrition. Please refer to my disclosure policy for more information.
Food is extremely important in our house.
Ash loves food. I love food. And it was important to raise Jai to love and appreciate food. I knew that this meant giving him a good foundation when we started solids, but I was nervous when it came time to start.
There are a lot of theories out there about how best to introduce solids to a baby. I knew I wanted to wait until his pediatrician gave the go-ahead, around 4 months, but just because he was physically ready didn’t mean that some experts suggested waiting until he was older.
I was excited to start him on solids but concerned he would choke in the process of introducing solids. I know babies are introduced to solids every day with minimal issues, but I had that parental fear that my situation would be unique and I would cause harm.
I followed my intuition and started him as soon as I could, but made sure everything was smooth enough for him and avoided baby-led weaning. I think if we had to do it again with a second child, with my experience, I would feel more comfortable with baby-led weaning, but because I wasn’t sure what I was doing I wanted to make sure I took small steps until I gained my confidence over the whole matter.
For all my insecurity, I knew there were a couple of things I wanted to do that was against the expert recommendations: when we introduced solids, I would make them interesting for him. He wouldn’t be expected to eat bland food as a child or an adult, so why should I introduce him to boring and bland food?
He was basted for the final two months in utero with pumpkin spice; I ate a variety of foods and spices throughout my pregnancy; and expanded my foods to what I had to avoid during pregnancy while breastfeeding. All of this impacted his palate before he tasted his first solid food and I knew the research that backed this up. Up to this point in his life, he didn’t consume bland, flavorless food. Everything had spice and strong flavors so I couldn’t expect him to be excited over what was effectively gruel.
Doing some more research, I decided to do the following immediately when I introduced the rice cereal: add in peanut butter, cinnamon, and breastmilk. I made sure the food was thin enough so he wouldn’t choke on it, but it was important that I start the process of getting him used to peanut butter in a safe manner. I didn’t want him to have a peanut butter allergy and because neither Ash nor myself had an allergy ourselves, I was confident it would go well.
It did. And he loved it. He got so used to the peanut butter that on the mornings I forgot to put it in or didn’t have any he was more reluctant to eat.
I also wanted to add cinnamon because it was something I knew I would enjoy if I was eating warm rice cereal. I did all of these additions to his first meal with the understanding that if he reacted badly in any way: breakouts, coughing, diaper issues, etc. I would stop immediately. I just wanted to see if he would enjoy the process of eating solids considering all the foods I ate while pregnant and breastfeeding.
The mainstream suggestion is to introduce one food at a time to see how a baby reacts to that.
I technically did that, but with some exceptions. His first non-cereal solid was yams but with ginger and cinnamon. Once I was sure he could handle that that, we moved on to peas mixed with mint. Then green beans and rosemary, though he was less of a fan of that. We tried it again at another point and he liked them.
I added in bananas to his morning cereal once he was ready, and made applesauce with mint as a snack. I actually really liked that a lot and made some for myself as a healthy snack. It was something I was okay with him “stealing” as babies do when I was running errands.
All of these different food introductions happened over the course of several months. Once I was positive he was fine with one set of foods, I moved on with another set. By the end of month two, his dinner consisted of three different types of purees – much like something I would make for myself.
It was important to me to monitor what I put in his belly from the beginning. Looking at the food available in the grocery store, I was put off by the color and smell of it. Ash was put off by the price tag and our city doesn’t do glass recycling, so I didn’t want to be responsible for the hundred or so glass jars we would be tossing in the garbage bin.
If I was going to introduce him to delicious tasting food that I didn’t have a problem testing in front of him, I would have to make it myself.
I found a book while on our babymoon in San Francisco that had a similar philosophy in what to introduce to babies. I looked over the recipes for his age and fell in love with the ingredients and ease in which I could make his food.
When Ash needed nose surgery several months later, he could only eat pureed/soft foods. I made him several recipes from the book (his choice) and he enjoyed the food despite being pureed.
While it took some time to prep, make, and store the food for Jai – I was able to ensure he only got the ingredients I wanted him to get. I could adjust the flavors and spices to my taste and when he started expressing a preference, his taste. The food was bright and had a pleasant texture that he enjoyed playing with, but most importantly, it made him open to trying new things.
I feel that making his food interesting from the beginning helped him be open to any new dish I put in front of him, even at that age. He learned to trust me and trust what I was giving him for food.
The best thing I could do during this whole process was not stress over what happened. I might spend some time making a particular dish for Jai that would end up on the floor or rejected, but that was okay. If he didn’t like a particular food, I introduced it too early and would try again a month or so later.
For the most part, he was open to trying everything at least once and started showing a preference for some of the dishes I made over others. I respected his preference as much as possible because it was about giving him a sense of control even at 7 months old.
We never forced the food issue with him as a baby. If he expressed that he was done eating, we didn’t force him to clear his plate. He would get breastmilk to supplement and we’d try again for the next meal or next day.
It was really important to me that food never became a battleground in our household. I knew if I made a big deal about it, it would become a big deal and something he knew he could resist. If he knew that I was unbothered by a plate that still had food on it, or he chose not to eat more than a bite of a particular side, and he knew that I gave him autonomy in how he ate, then it would lessen his desire to be picky over his food.
More than anything, I wanted to avoid a picky baby that grew into a picky toddler. I will talk about how we manage our toddler’s eating habits on Wednesday (spoiler: more on how acceptance helps us get through our meals).
How did you introduce solids to your little ones? What worked for you and what didn’t work? Leave your stories and comments below.
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