I hope you found the previous installment of this Feeding Your Baby series helpful. (If you’d like to read it, find it here!) Sometimes all it takes is a little encouragement from the mom community that you’re doing the right thing. I feel that the pressure to rush your baby’s feeding timeline can be intense at times in our Western culture. We think that science can somehow manufacture baby food superior to that manufactured by God. Let’s just slow down a little and accept that the baby-nectar of the ages is good enough for our own little ones, and that there is absolutely no need to rush them out of it. :)
At this stage, though it is by no means mandatory, it is perfectly fine to begin introducing gentle solids into your baby’s diet. If you are blessed enough to be a breastfeeding mother who has hung in there to the 7-month mark, well done! Keep offering the breast before any other food, as it offers the highest concentration of nutrients for your growing baby and continues to support his/her immune system.
At this age, solids can be treated as more of an exploration/experiment than as your baby’s main source of nutrition.
(By the way, these feeding methods come primarily from The Nourishing Traditions Book of Baby & Childcare. I do not necessarily advocate all of their child-rearing methods, but their nutrition info is spot-on. I also really like this article, by the Healthy Home Economist, for its wise and accurate suggestions on which foods to introduce to your baby and when.)
First, let me encourage you by saying that your baby is very used to a boring diet. He/she has had milk or formula for every meal of their life up til this point and has been perfectly satisfied by it. Now that you are introducing solids, there is no need to feel pressure to offer your baby something different for every meal or even every DAY! (In fact, introducing one or two new foods per week is a very smart thing to do, as it allows you to easily identify the source of any adverse reactions your baby might have.)
Your ideal “first foods” to try are soft, pureed foods that are high in protein and fat. These two nutrients are the most readily-usable in your baby’s developing body and brain. As we discussed in Part 1 of this Feeding Your Baby series, rice cereal (arguably the most popular first food in our country) offers your baby little to no nutrition other than basic calories. It is actually very difficult for your baby to break down carbohydrates (other than lactose) during their first year, so rice cereal is not an ideal early food. Neither are grains of other sorts, for the same reason. Also, it is worthwhile to note that whole grains are especially hard on your baby’s tummy and should be avoided until well into their first (or even second) year. And even then, if you do feed them to your baby, they need to be soaked in a probiotic such as yogurt or Kefir to aide in the digestion process.
Here are some “first foods” I highly recommend:
1. Soft boiled egg yolk. (No whites just yet. The albumen is hard on baby’s digestion.)
2. Mashed avocado
3. Full-Fat cottage cheese
4. Full-Fat yogurt- Unsweetened is best. You’d be surprised by how most babies will eat unsweetened yogurt (something adults would throw a fit about!) However, if you need to, you can sweeten it with a bit of applesauce or fruit juice.
5. Pureed vegetables mixed with a good amount of healthy fat (such as butter, olive oil, or rendered animal fat from sausage, beef, or chicken.) - I always add cooked onion and garlic to these because they tend to knock out any bitterness that might be present. *Oh, and here’s my favorite kitchen tool for veggie pureeing.
Special Note- I have found it is much more budget-friendly to make my own vegetable purees at home using frozen spinach, frozen brocolli, frozen cauliflower and the like. It couldn’t be simpler! Just boil them in homemade broth with some chopped onion and garlic until soft, then blend. (Low-sodium store-bought broth is also fine.) My baby enjoys her pureed veggies with a scoop of full-fat cottage cheese to make them extra creamy.
Another tip that is very budget-friendly: Whenever I make bacon or sausage at breakfast-time, I reserve the drippings from the pan in ice cube trays and keep them in the freezer. This fat is great to have on hand for adding to pureed veggies… it tastes great, it is good for baby, and it’s almost free!
2. Fruit, Starchy Vegetables, and sweetened yogurt- Yes, I know fruit is healthy. But I have found it is best to get your baby accustomed to savory flavors before introducing them to sweet. Very commonly, babies will develop a preference for fruits, sweet potatoes, etc. because they like the sweetness. Often, they will end up rejecting the healthful savory vegetables you offer (like green beans, spinach, mashed cauliflower, pureed broccoli, and the like) because they’d prefer bananas, sweet potatoes, or sweet yogurt instead. By holding off on all sweets, you stand a much better chance of your baby not being picky about eating their vegetables throughout their childhood and adult life.
3. Low-Fat anything- Even the pureed veggies your baby eats should contain added fat. Babies need fat. They need it. It’s critical to the development of their brain and all other vital organs. So often I hear moms complain that their babies are in the 5th percentile of weight, and I ask what they eat and the answer is, “Oh he/she loves oatmeal… and strawberries… and bananas… and those little slurp-able fruit packets.” Where is the fat?? Your baby is not benefiting from an all-fruit diet.
4. Potentially dangerous or allergenic foods- The main two that fall within this description are peanut butter and honey. Honey poses a threat for infant botulism when eaten at too young an age. And with peanuts (or any tree nuts or nut butters for that matter) it is recommended that you wait until your infant is at least 1 year old before offering these. After the age of one, it is considered safe to administer an EpiPen for anaphylactic shock. (Hopefully your child will not have a dangerous peanut allergy… but if he or she does, then at least by waiting til after age one to try peanut-foods, you can safely administer an EpiPen should the need arise.)
A Note About Portions:
Generally, I think doctors tend to freak moms out by giving them recommended portion sizes. If at the age of 7-9 months your child is still taking 4-5 breast or bottle feedings a day, then I suggest letting them be your guide on how much solid food to give. Some doctors will say they need a whole jar per meal in addition to liquid feedings. (Fortunately, in our family, our little one wanted a whole jar and then some!) But if your baby shows signs of fullness after less than that, conclude the mealtime and pull the same jar out later on. You want to keep mealtime an enjoyable experience for your little one, so now is not the time to employ force-feeding or practice the “clean your plate” principle.
The next installment of this series, “Feeding Your Baby: Part 3 (10-14 months)” will discuss some very fun topics! It’s the time for your baby to learn about self-feeding, to experiment and get MESSY, and to expand their palate even further! I hope you’ll tune in.