First Tastes and Foods

starting solids with your baby

 

This is the first of a series of blog posts I will be writing about weaning. Firstly, I want to stress that all babies are different and what works for one baby, may not work for another. Everything from their appetites, sensitivities to taste and touch, will vary. So my key piece of advice is to be flexible and adapt your baby meal plan as you go. Trust your instincts as a parent: you know your baby best. For this reason, I have also learnt that there is no point making comparisons with others weaning journeys; you will only find yourself feeling under pressure. Make a plan that works for you and your baby, whether that’s purees, or finger foods or both. And, more importantly if it’s not working (either for your baby or you and your lifestyle) then switch it up. You will find a way that works best for you both. I wish I’d trusted my own instincts more and not continued to batch cook complicated recipes, which my daughter didn’t really like…

The experience of starting solids with my daughter left me feeling both panicked; this was the one feeling I really wanted to avoid when starting solids with my son. I am currently sharing what I do and cook; as well as what works for my baby boy and I. I hope by sharing our food journey, it will help you on your own unique baby eating adventure.

When you start weaning will completely depend on you and your child. Here is a blog post I wrote in conjunction with our paediatric dietician: signs your baby might be ready to start solids. And for further reading the NHS guidelines are a crucial guide. I would also advise talking to your health care advisor as there really is no one size fits all. If you have started too early, and it’s not working, stop and try again a few days later, or a week or two later. Let’s assume that you are your baby are now ready to begin: this is my Stage 1 of weaning; which could fall anywhere between 4-7 months, depending on when you begin. It can feel like a daunting time for any parent: you have just got to grips with feeding and sleeping, then suddenly there is this next new hurdle… Keep it simple, you have enough going on. Embrace this next milestone, it will make it a much more positive experience for you and your baby.

 

My weaning stages broken down

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These are a guide, to check off progress as you introduce new foods, flavours and textures. For me, part of demystifying the process of weaning, and avoiding feeling overwhelmed, is just knowing what to work towards: building a confident and adventurous little eater. And these are the stages I went through to help me achieve that

  1. First Tastes and Foods

  2. Wheat free grains

  3. Combined Purées and Flavours

  4. Protein

  5. Iron rich foods

  6. Self Feeding and Finger Foods

  7. Texture

  8. New ingredients

  9. One Family One Recipe Meal Plans

  10. First Birthday

 

In the next few weeks I will be writing about each stage in more depth. But, this post I will be focusing on

(1.) First Tastes and Foods

(2.) Wheat free grains

  1. first tastes and foods

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I find the easiest way to start feeding your baby is to draw up a list of vegetables and fruits to try and stick it on your kitchen cupboard or fridge. Start with vegetables, as a more savoury flavour, then transition fruits into your plan. Root vegetables are a great first option: start with single flavours. This will help your baby get used to food and new flavours, it will also enable you to identify any possible reactions. Does it make my baby constipated? Is he/ she gassy? and so on. By keeping a list you have an easy “plan” to follow and work through. All fruits and vegetables are loaded with vitamins, minerals and fibre. So although the quantities your baby eats will be small to start with, you will be adding a whole new range of nutrition into your baby’s diet.

George I typed up a quick A-Z of foods to try: make a list for yourself and stick it up in the kitchen somewhere where you can see it. It’s amazing how just having a list can help you feel more in control of the whole process.

Here is a sample first tastes and foods planner ~

 
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N.B. vegetables like beetroot, green beans and spinach are high in nitrates, but because the quantities you are giving your baby are limited to start with this isn’t a concern; especially if part of a varied diet. The idea is to introduce these flavours, not to purely rely on them. Ensure these vegetables are always cooked and not pureed from raw. If weaning is started at 6 months + then these foods will be fine; but if weaning is started earlier (at 4 - 5 months) try other vegetables first (reserve beetroot, green beans and spinach for 6 months +). If you have any concerns ask a medical professional, this would also be advised if your baby has known gut troubles.

First Foods: my advice parent to parent

  • Start with vegetables, preferably root vegetables

  • Then add in more vegetables

  • Then fruits

  • Single flavours, to help your baby get used to eating and also each taste

  • You can note down your baby’s reactions to the foods to: digestion etc..

  • Try new foods in the morning (or a lunch), in case of reaction, and also when your baby is receptive and calm

  • Keep a check chart on your fridge, try new foods for 2-3 days, then combine with other tried foods: combined purees

  • You can offer a little milk before eating, you want your baby to calm, not upset or hungry. You can always offer milk after food, to ensure your baby is full. Milk intake will gradually reduce as food intake increases

  • Give your baby time to explore and try foods, don’t rush them

  • Mealtimes should not be prolonged as this can cause a meltdown – read your babies signals

  • Sit your baby on your lap, or in a bouncer, or high chair: your baby should be comfortable. The key is to ensure that your baby is upright and supervise eating at all times

  • Embrace the mess and let your baby explore food: it should be a sensory experience (smell, taste, touch). You will put your child off by constantly cleaning them. Allow them to enjoy the food and have a tidy up only when needed and towards the end of eating

 

fruit and sweet tastes?

A lot of people message me and ask me about fruit and it’s sugar content, in relation to their baby’s first foods. The advise is to start with savoury vegetable flavours at the beginning and then introduce fruits. I suggest encouraging a broad range of flavours from savoury > through to sweet: to help your baby build a broad palette. That doesn’t mean avoid fruit: fruit has plenty of health benefits for your baby, as part of a varied diet. It is full of fibre, vitamins and antioxidants. I also recommend not choosing baby food recipes that add fruit to everything. When I started feeding my daughter one of the most recommended babyfood recipes that came up again and again was avocado and banana: this is as horrible as it sounds. Either serve avocado, or banana, both are fruits and both have their own tastes. They don’t need to be blended into one sweet mush. Avoid confusing flavours and allow your baby to appreciate and enjoy the flavour of real foods. I don’t sweeten all my babyfood with fruit, you want your baby to embrace a variety of flavours.

 

why I chose babyfood purées

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I found purées worked really well for both my babies: slowly increasing their thickness, then adding texture and also soft easy to hold finger foods. This is best described as a “combined approach”. With neither of my babies have I followed a purely baby-led weaning meal plan, I personally preferred to combine purées with finger foods.

I get asked why all the time: so I thought I’d explain. Both my babies were large for their age, and classified by my paediatrician as “hungry babies”, with my daughter she also had reflux. So we were given medical advise to start weaning earlier than 6 months. Given their age and stage purées proved the easiest way of feeding them. I didn’t delay adding texture into their meals, when they were ready and also gave them finger foods, again when I sensed they were ready. This worked for us but, this is just my experience: all babies are different. I always advise that you choose a method/ or approach that works for you. Talk to your health care advisor, at check ups about what is right for you and your baby. Largely speaking there is no right or wrong way.

how to cook babyfood without the hassle ~

  1. Softly steam, or boil, first foods in a simple cooking pot with a little cold water, as needed

  2. Once they are soft and cooked through you can blend them

  3. I use a simple stick blender, I find this the easiest tool to clean (as the blender can be removed and washed in the dishwasher)

4. First purées should be the consistency of pouring yogurt, or pouring cream. Think a nice smooth consistency.

5. Cool the purée to room temperature, before feeding it to your baby. Stir thoroughly to ensure there are no hot spots and test the puree on your wrist to make sure it is the right temperature. Babies are extremely sensitive to heat.

6. Use a soft silicon feeding spoon to feed your baby, this will protect your babies sensitive gums

7. You may find that at a first sitting they eat very little. So use glass storage pots or multi-portion freezer trays to store extra. However, once your baby has tried a purée, from one bowl, you must throw out the remainder of that bowl. The saliva from the spoon will contain bacteria which means that portion will not keep, so portion out any food into a small bowl before beginning feeding. You will find yourself wasting less

8. I make small batches of first foods and then freeze portions in multi-portion freezer trays (see pictured). You can then defrost portions as needed. These will keep in the freezer for 1-2 months. To defrost babyfood safely, place in a sealed container (see pictured) and defrost in the fridge overnight, then heat through until piping hot and cool to serve. Do not reheat, once frozen and reheated.

 2. Wheat Free Grains, 4-7 months+

If you have started weaning early and want to introduce grains prior to 6 months they should be wheat free. Good options which are recommended by our paediatric dietician are millet, or baby rice. Her preference though is for millet, please read more below, as to why. Wheat can then be introduced from 6 months.

Baby rice

is normal rice, ground to a very fine consistency, like flour. It often comes with added vitamins, such as: zinc - which helps strengthen the immune system and iron - needed for healthy blood. It has the benefit of being gluten and lactose free: it is therefore the least allergenic of grains, so is often recommended as a first baby cereal.

However, concerns have been raised about arsenic traces which have been found in rice. Bianca advises “You want to opt for a grain that is neutral in taste. Then your baby is likely to accept this, especially when it is mixed with your baby's usual milk, as it will taste familiar. The research into baby rice is currently inconclusive and because the quantities being given are small and because your baby’s diet is not going to be solely rice-based it is fine to give. It can cause constipation in some babies - try and see how your baby is doing on this.  I advise not getting caught up on just giving a cereal or baby rice - focus on introducing new flavours (through other foods) during the window of opportunity” to broaden your baby’s palette.

millet

is rich in unsaturated fatty acids and has a significant amount of minerals, vitamins and trace elements - in particular silicic acid, which influences the healthy growths of bones, hair, nails and skin. It has the benefit of being gluten and lactose free. so is a great option as a first grain, before 6 months old.

 

Miriam Cooper