March 8, 2010

Feeding Baby First Foods

My sister, first time mom to four month old Button, asked me for tips on feeding baby his first foods. I promised this post... um a long time ago. So here you are, sis.

To begin with, I usually strictly breastfeed until at least nine months old. Up until this point all baby's nutritional needs can be met exclusively by God's perfect formula. Although, pediatricians and well meaning grandparents recommend starting Gerber cereal long before this point, the American Academy of Pediatrics and experts on well baby care will tell you that the only real point of feeding baby anything more at this point is to get them accustomed to eating from a spoon.

With my oldest two, I followed all the doctor's advice and started foods around four months old. What I found was the baby had no control over their tongue and pushed most of the food back out. Secondly, they couldn't even sit up on their own yet, therefor there was gagging when they actually got some food in their mouth. Third, they didn't have enough teeth to actually chew food. Thus it made no sense to go through the daily ritual of trying to stuff food down their throats. On top of it, they ended up with all sorts of rashes, related to food allergies, that had to be contended with for a long time, which, research proves, could have been avoided completed if feeding had been delayed just a few months.

If breast feeding is adequate and baby is content, why push the issue so early and risk bringing about complications? An added bonus is that breast feeding is so easy it makes life much easier on mother.

By the time my third baby came along, I was confident enough in my mothering to do my own research, rely more on my God-given instinct, experience and the knowledge I had acquired to try something different.

What a difference it made! First, baby Emma was happy and content. She suffered no food allergies at all and was a healthy, active, plump baby. After nine months old, she started showing some interest in food at the dinner table. This is when we started introducing solids. This strategy worked well for her and also for the four babies that followed.

When starting solids, I nursed baby at the usual time and then put them in their high chair for food. Another plus to delaying feeding until this age, is that baby is able to be trained in good table manners at the same time. Our rule was that if baby was old enough to eat table food, they must eat it at the table at meal time with the family and follow the same rules that was expected of the other children. This means:
  1. NO PUTTING YOUR HANDS IN THE FOOD
  2. NO THROWING FOOD, UTENSILS OR PLATES
  3. NO SCREAMING OR SQUEALING
  4. WE HOLD HANDS AND REMAIN QUIET FOR PRAYER TIME
  5. WE USE SILVER WARE, NOT OUR HANDS, EXCEPT FOR FOOD THAT CALLS FOR FINGERS
Training in this area is quite easy if you start right from the beginning. For the first week, until baby understood what was expected, I would focus on baby while the family ate and then when baby was finished I would eat my own meal so as to be sure that no infringements of the rules went unnoticed. Once baby develops a bad habit it is much harder to break it than to pay attention in the first place.

The first food for Emma, and our subsequent babies, was mashed avocado. For those who don't care for avocado yourself, I can not tell you enough how perfect a food this is for your beginning eater. For one thing it is soft and easily mashed with a fork. It is easy for baby's sensitive digestion. It is the perfect well rounded food for toddler because of the high amount of omega 3 fatty acids. A very important nutrient for your babies brain development. You can carry it with you when eating away from home and have an easy meal for baby to go.

Because of the high incident of food allergies, we always waited at least two weeks before introducing a new food. I kept record of when a new food was offered on a calender because it is easy to forget.

The next food our babies ate was mashed banana. Again this is easy to prepare and takes no extra effort. Baby loves the sweetness and you will also find baby likes it mixed with mashed avocado. It looks funny, but baby has no preference for color or taste. At this point they will like what you give them. Later, when baby has a wider range of fruits, our kids loved smoothies made with banana and avocado as the base. In fact, for many of them, this was a favorite food right through their toddler hood.

After a month on these foods, baby is well established in the ways of eating and will eagerly welcome lots of new foods. They should be getting a good set of teeth by now, also.

Other good foods to introduce early on, in no particular order, include: grated apples or applesauce, mashed pears, peaches and plain yogurt. I would steam whatever vegetable we were having with our meal a little longer to make it soft enough for baby and then mash it up with a fork. Carrots, broccoli, peas and green beans were always a hit.

Once their whole fruit counterparts had been introduced, apple, pear or white grape juice in a cup (dilute 50/50 with water to avoid diarrhea or constipation), while not nutritionally beneficial, was a nice way to end a meal for our toddlers. I would feed them and then when they were finished eating, give them a cup to sip from, in their high chair, to keep them occupied while we enjoyed the rest of our dinner or coffee and conversation. You will find this training a wonderful blessing when dining with company or in a restaurant with your toddler.

After baby has an adequate amount of teeth, around one year or so, we begin offering small bits of finger food for baby to feed themselves. Some things we like to start with are apples peeled and cut into very thin pieces, soft fruits like pears and peaches, a chunk of banana, melon, grapes (but only if cut into quarters), raisins or other dried fruit (make sure they are organic and sulfur free), steamed green beans and carrots. Citrus fruits should be held at the end of the introduction of fruits and vegetables as they require a more mature immune system.

Likewise, starchy vegetables like potato, peas and corn, should always be the last foods you give to baby. Around 15 months or later is what I found to be good. At that time you can boil legumes for baby and you will find he delights in them. I always cooked up a pound at a time and froze in serving sizes. Natural crackers, please make sure they are free of chemicals and sugar, are a great finger and travel food at this point, also. And of course, good quality whole grain bread, oatmeal, rice and pasta.

Baby requires no seasoning but olive oil is a great addition for health benefits and essential fatty acids when needed or if necessary for cooking. I added olive oil to oatmeal and pastas as well as drizzling over vegetables to make certain baby got enough fat, especially when they had completely weaned from nursing.

When starting baby on foods and introducing new foods, watch carefully for signs that baby is not ready yet or signs that baby may be having an adverse reaction to a food. These would include, redness or a bumpy rash around the mouth or in the diaper area,constipation or diarrhea, spitting up or vomiting, runny nose, eye discharge, unexplained fussiness following a new food and even the refusal of a certain food can be baby's way of telling you that he is not ready for it. This may be a permanent sensitivity to that food or a temporary reaction caused by baby's digestive system not being ready for food or for that particular food.

If baby has a reaction the first time you offer food, then you can assume baby is not ready to eat yet. Put the idea away for a few weeks and then try again. If baby has been eating for some time and had a reaction, discontinue that food for a number of weeks (at least two) and then offer it again. Make a note on your calendar of the reaction so that you can keep track of what is happening. You may find in a few weeks that baby eats it again with no reaction or he may again act adversely.

Once baby is well established in this routine nut butters (NOT PEANUT BUTTER- peanut butter should NEVER be offered before four year's old) are a great addition to baby's diet. Cashew and almond are the best choices. They can be stirred into fruits, served on bread and crackers or eaten plain, too! Eventually, when baby is able to chew well, you can introduce whole raw cashews and almonds for a nutritious treat.

With the exception of plain organic yogurt, I hold off on dairy and meat products until well after age two. Baby does not have the enzymes to properly break down these foods until much later and they are not nutritionally necessary. I also, avoid feeding baby any chemical laden foods, sugar, salt etc... whenever possible and for as long as possible. Your baby is a clean palette and you have the ability to develop their taste buds into whatever you would like them to be, healthy or otherwise. Just as we are prone to becoming addicted and dependent on these foods, baby is too.

Now, I know someone is going to say but what about rice cereal? What about jarred baby food? My response to you would be what about nutrition? Those foods, even if they do not have added salt, sugar and preservatives, have been cooked and processed to the point of completely lacking in nutrition and the live enzymes that our bodies need from food. The same rules that we talk about when feeding ourselves apply when choosing food for baby. The closer to its natural state the better!

I am sure I forgot a million things in my rush to get this out before class tonight. Leave your questions in the comment section or click on the email button on my side bar if you would like to know more.

In the meantime, Bon Appetite, baby!



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10 comments :

  1. Kat,

    I love how you started with Avocado for the first foods. Now why didn't I consider this. Looking back I think this post will prove valuable as moms start to really consider doing this organically and you've got some great tips in this post. Hmmm, perhaps you should consider getting a baby book published because you've got some great advice here.

    Love and Hugs ~ Kat

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  2. Great post! The only thing that I want to (only sorta) disagree with is the bit about longer breastfeeding=avoiding food allergies.
    It is better and it does decrease the chances of food allergies developing, but don't fall into the thinking "if I nurse longer my son won't have allergies"...it's a hard hard fall when your kid misses the memo and your safety net disintegrates. It happened to us x5 and we did everything "right" with four out of the five of them.

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  3. Can I just say: AMEN GIRLFRIEND!!

    Blessings, andrea

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  4. This is a very informative post on first foods. I really love how you went from listening to others and listened to what you knew.
    We have held of feeding solids till 9 month age and 'everyone' tell us they should have solids earlier.
    I love reading each of your posts even if I don't always comment, you have a wealth of information to share, and I love seeing what your family is up to. They remind me of ours and the fun and love of family life.
    Blessings

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  5. Kelly,

    Yes, that is true and I should have stated that clearer... delaying food decreases the incidence of food allergies but it is not a guarantee. Our Samuel has allergies to both chocolate and peanut butter despite our best efforts. However, because of the success with our other children, I would continue the same strategy in the future.

    Gae,

    Thank you for your delightful and encouraging comment! It was a breath of fresh air to me today.

    Hugs,

    Kat

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  6. I wished I had known about Avacados! What a perfect food idea. My little guys loved carrots so much they had orange little noses for awhile. I had such a bad experience with peanut butter (I hated it, thought my mom was trying to kill me) that I never fed it to the boys. However, when they hit about 6th grade, the LOVE it. As a matter of fact, I had to buy each of the older boys their own jar because they would just grab a spoon and eat.

    What a wonderful post! I wish I'd had this when my guys were little (especially the first). You are one amazing sister:)

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  7. Thank you for this wonderful post! I actually printed out a copy to put in my kitchen.

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  8. I remember reading this before Arabella was born :o) . We have started her on solids because she had completely stopped gaining weight, but she was about 7 months old and thankfully we don't have any history of food allergies so I'm not too worried about that. As you said we are very careful about what she has- only homemade food, she loves plain yogurt, brussels sprouts, beans, peas (she can pick them up and eat them one by one) banana etc... she'll eat anything we give her! She looooves smoothies too. :o)

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    Replies
    1. Dove,

      When our Nathaniel was six months old, I became pregnant with Aedan. At that time, Than was still exclusively breast fed. Before I even knew I was expecting, our little boy transformed over night into a very fussy baby. He quickly stopped gaining weight and then lost a lot of weight. Doctors ran tons of tests over the next six months and even thought they were sure there was something horribly wrong, could never find anything. He declined so quickly, we were all sure he would not live. He refused to nurse and had allergies to both soy and milk. No matter what we tried he didn't improve. At any rate, we finally started making our own "formula" of sorts which was so revolting looking and smelling I can't tell you. But he took it and began gaining. I am convinced that it was all related to being pregnant and nursing. Perhaps the hormones changed my milk content or the nutritional quality of it? Who knows? Doctors did not and all the women I knew who were wise in such ways were stumped as well. I had several friends who had successfully nursed through the entirety of pregnancy and beyond. All I know is it was a very scary time. Any way, I was calculating and it seems that the time you said Arabella stopped gaining would be about the time you were expecting? Just wondering. The main thing is to keep your girlie healthy. It would be no good to delay feeding to prevent allergies if she got sick or malnourished, now would it? Carmella, at almost 11 months, still has no interest in food. Her brothers, I am sure, would have climbed out of their high chair to get food long before now. LOL. But she is a milder, gentler spirit than they. She has been slower in her teeth development, too. She still has just two, which indicates to me she is still not ready for food. Because she was four weeks early that puts her about 8 weeks behind in her physical development which would place her at about 9ish months so perhaps that is the delay in both teeth and food? Either way, she is healthy, growing, happy and I love the joy of nursing and the ease of not having to tote a meal with us every where we go. This time of year is a great time to be starting baby on food as there are so many great choices of fresh fruits and veggies to offer.

      Blessings to you and darling.

      Kat

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    2. Hello Kat,

      Thanks so much for your advice. Bella stopped gaining around 4 months, I was not pregnant yet. She did gain less than a lb. around 6 months (when I became pregnant) but has stopped again. So she is 15 lb 6 oz and 27.5 inches long! No one seems to figure it out! She seems perfectly healthy and has been a very happy baby until the past few weeks, when she has become very fussy. I don't know if it's teething, Wonder Week 37, or what. She has been a short napper since 7 weeks so I think she is very tired too.

      I offered her formula yesterday and she refused (she has never taken a bottle. Maybe she sensed I didn't want her to have it- I shudder to read the ingredients!) I gave her a full BF and then she ate 1/3 cup yogurt, a chunk of cheese, and pineapple! She seemed much happier after. Maybe I'll look into doing some sort of homemade formula and put it in a cup. I really don't want to stop nursing her though!

      Thanks for your help, and when you have a chance, I'd love to hear your experience having to babies so close in age... I'm trying to get advice from other mothers on how to handle and train a toddler while BF'ing a newborn!

      Dove xo

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