There’s so much advice out there about when to start feeding your baby, and what foods to offer.
There’s conventional wisdom: start at 4 months, with rice cereal. I did this with my first 2. The joys of scraping the food off their chin and trying to get it into their mouths and hope they’re ingesting it. They have delayed the timeframe from when my first was born to 6 months now, but there’s still issues with this.
Babies need an enzyme called amylase to digest grains, and while there is some present in their saliva, their bodies don’t make enough of it until their molars come in, somewhere between 12-24 months.
Feeding them grains before their bodies are ready means their bodies can’t digest it properly. This can cause the bacteria in their stomachs to be off balance as well as leading to allergies, behavioral and mood issues. So, no cereals, cheerios, goldfish or bread until 12+ months.
There’s (what I consider it) the uber-crunchy method: Liver. I like most of the other suggestions of soft-boiled egg yolk, avocado, banana, meat, etc. But the whole liver thing honestly grosses me out and I want to feed my baby things that are easy to prepare and have around the house.
The key to know when to feed your baby is in watching your baby’s readiness signs:
- Ability to sit up – preferably unassisted
- Interest in what you’re eating – grabbing at your plate, watching you put food in your mouth
- Chewing on things – toys, fingers, etc (no teeth necessary)
- Ability to put things in mouth – yes, picking up dirt off the floor and putting it in his mouth is a skill
Reaching some milestone age doesn’t mean your baby is ready, especially if your baby was born early. In many cultures, babies don’t start on foods until after a year. Don’t worry, breast milk is all your baby needs for awhile, and I think starting late is better than early!
Now, what to feed your baby?
Things I’m planning on: avocado, banana, soft-boiled pastured egg yolk, homemade applesauce, bland soft meat, etc.
- Feeding bigger chunks allows your baby to pick it up him/herself and enjoy the experience
- Feeding them with the family and many of the same foods makes them a part of the meal
- Allowing to eat at own pace and as messy as they want (this is a milestone!)
- Don’t worry if they don’t eat it, it’s about exploring new tastes and textures
- Stay away from unsafe foods, and known allergens (peanuts, popcorn, egg whites, honey, etc)
- Offer wholesome, unseasoned foods
But don’t forget, until a year old or more, a baby’s primary nutrition comes from mom. Don’t rush foods to rush away from nursing. (I understand if using formula, but if nursing, enjoy the time). I’m not one to talk about this honestly as I was young (and stupid) with my first. I was feeding him grains at 4 months and let him wean at 10 months. With my daughter I dried up and was using formula by 4 months and was so ready for her to be eating solids so that I could quit with the formula. I’m a big believer in God protecting our babies from things we had no idea we were doing…
I feel so more laid back and prepared this time around. My baby will be 6 months old next week. I started with avocado this week, and then egg yolk. I have homemade yogurt I’ll be introducing next week. I’m making applesauce this week as well, though he’s already tried a bite or two here and there from his sister’s bowl! I’ve also got carrots and peas growing in the yard that I plan on being primarily for him.
Honestly, I’m starting solids a month or more earlier than I intended, but he’s been sitting up for weeks and skillfully grabbing things off the table for awhile. Today he almost poured my cereal all over the both of us…
And don’t be intimidated by the thought of trying to make everything yourself, or making special foods.
- Don’t season what you prepare for your family until the end, that way you can pull some food out for your baby to eat that doesn’t have extra salt and sauces.
- Mash things with a fork if you want to go the traditional spoon route
- Go super easy and just put large chunks in front of your baby and let him/her go to town playing and grabbing at their food.
I was going to buy one of those fancy baby processors but then wised up and got back to my frugal roots. A fork can do it for preparation at mealtime. A blender or food processor can take care of big batches. Simply slow-cooking foods like apples, sweet potatoes, carrots, etc in the crock-pot or really low on the stove until soft is the easiest method and there’s no need to mess up any equipment, a spoon or spatula will do the job. And try to not add any water that you would need to pour out to puree, because there’s so many vitamins in that water!
If you can to preserve food, you can store the food in small jars in your cabinets. Another easy option is to pour the food into ice cube trays, freeze, and then pop the food out into a container or plastic bag. For easy on-the-go feeding, put 1-2 cubes in a bowl and stick into your diaper bag (or a cooler if it will be more than a few hours). It will thaw out and you can mash it up with a spoon to feed your baby…you can always add a little hot water to get to the right temperature (just throw out anything that’s uneaten or not used within a few hours of being thawed out).