When it comes time to introduce solids to your baby, there is a lot to consider: When to start, how much to give, organic versus conventional, homemade or commercial baby food – and the list of qualitative and quantitative questions goes on and on. It’s an exciting time, but it can get overwhelming at the magnitude of this milestone. This pivotal moment of starting your baby on solids is the beginning of a lifelong relationship with food. It’s also a time of worries and uncertainty, as the effects of early diet have a tremendous impact on your baby’s growth and development. That is why it is wise to become well-informed before making food-related decisions. Here’s a look at how you can facilitate this transition and provide a “solid” foundation for your little foodie right from the get-go.
Ready-made baby food is convenient – I get it, but even organically prepared baby food lacks the nutrients homemade food provides and is saturated with tons of contaminants. The reality is the longer any food sits around, the less active their enzymes are that are needed to help us digest. As for all the artificial additives, that’s another loaded discussion. Ever wonder how a jar of baby food can be older than the baby itself and still remain nutritious? This red flag makes me steer clear no matter how enticing the packaging might appear. In fact, using processed baby food is comparable to feeding your baby junk food with a side of toxins. Not a pleasant thought to say the least.
It’s important to know what you’re actually feeding your baby at any age, but especially in their first year. A child grows at a rapid rate during their formative years, making them vulnerable to poor health conditions if nutrition and supplementation is mediocre. As such, don’t rely on getting this information from the baby food manufacturers. In this case, many labels are misleading and the key ingredient is deceit in the name of profit gains. Let’s face it, commercial baby food is a double-edged sword because it empties your wallet, while sabotaging your child’s health.
The natural solution is to make your own baby food, especially in the first months (*6-9 months). This not only helps to manage adequate nutritional intake, but it’s simple, and economical. It also establishes good eating habits and fosters a healthy relationship with food from the beginning. All it takes is a little time to do the prep and a full heart to do the rest. The following is a list of the essential things you’ll need to make homemade baby food:
The trick is to dedicate one day a week to do some batch cooking- read my post on “DIY Menu Board” for easy meal planning ideas. You can steam whole foods such as sweet potatoes, squash, apples, pears, peas, etc. Just add the right amount of water or “milk” (breastmilk or formula) and blend to a desired consistency (eventually lumpier with time). Then you can freeze the purée in trays to represent a serving size. When it comes time to feeding your baby all you have to do is warm up the cube(s). This allows you to have ready-made baby food at your fingertips and portion control at its very best! For quick and easy snacks on-the-go, all you need is a fork to mash an avocado or banana. You can even mix them together for added flavour and nutrition.
The key to starting solids is when your child is showing signs of readiness, such as reaching for your food or mimicking you chew. Offer solids half hour after they’ve had their “milk” (breast or formula) and start slowly with a tablespoon sized-portion of palatable and nutrient-dense food you have chosen to begin with. Some great starter foods are butternut squash, yam, egg yolk (well-cooked), avocado, and other iron-rich foods. Your baby may only eat half of the portion during the first few times. This is okay because food at this point is more for practice than for nutrition as their main source of nutrition is still breastmilk or formula.
When introducing new foods, most parents feel solace following the “4 day wait rule” as a way to monitor any adverse reactions to food. Try not to swear off foods that aren’t a hit the first time around. Rather, try reintroducing these less popular foods anywhere between 12-20 times as your baby’s taste buds are evolving. Increased exposure will eventually help them to acquire a taste for a variety of textures and flavours. In general, exposing an infant to organic, homemade baby food early on primes their palette for better food choices later on in life.
In a nutshell, any health claims made by the food industry as being remotely “healthy”, while exploiting health buzz words act as a marketing smokescreen. All types of processed baby food, whether jarred, frozen or pouched, are significantly loaded with toxins. The added cost, lack of nutritional integrity, and environmental impact compromises the safety of future generations in one way or another. Reliance on baby food manufacturers to take onus is pointless because companies are legally obliged to act in the best interest of their shareholders, not consumers. In the meantime, ask yourself “What’s the best way to improve the nutritional value of my baby’s foods?” The answer is straightforward – just purée the vegetables and fruits or meats in a blender and store them overnight in the refrigerator. Or why not go the do-it-yourself route with baby-led weaning?
On a final note, an overall consensus from any health professional is that home cooking should always be encouraged over using commercial baby foods. Making your own baby food is something worth investing in knowing it’s the building blocks for providing proper nourishment and establishing optimal wellness. The Canadian Paediatrics Society and Health Canada are just one of many health organizations that recommend that babies receive nothing but breastmilk and/or formula for the first 6 months of age. So keep this in mind when contemplating when to start with solids. Discuss the introduction of solids with your health advisers if you have a family history of food intolerance, allergies, digestive problems, or any other concerns about your baby’s health or development. Remember, you are taking the first steps to helping your little one develop healthy eating habits that will last a lifetime.
Happy transitioning to solids!
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Additional resources you may find helpful:
Wholesome Baby Food