I believe in evidence-based practice. This is an important philosophy in early childhood education and care, and I have carried it over into my parenting. I try to make big parenting decisions understanding relevant research and how it can be used for best practice. Based on the infant feeding research I did, I tried to approach the introduction of solids with a set of principles:
*Wait for signs of readiness (does William show interest in food? Is he able to communicate want/refusal (by opening mouth/turning away)? Can he sit independently? Is he physiologically ready for solid food?). Refer to Satter's Child of Mine: Feeding with Love and Good Sense for a full list.
At six months old, William was eagerly grabbing at food and intently watching my husband and I eat (or actually, watching our forks go back and forth from plate to mouth, with a serious forehead wrinkle). When I first offered him a spoonful of avocado, he pulled it into his wide open mouth. He began sitting independently on the day he reached the age of six months, and most importantly, he actually lost a few ounces during his 5th month! It is normal for exclusively breastfed babies to plateau in their weight gain around six months, as their increased activity makes them little calorie-burning machines! But a loss of weight indicated to my pediatrician (and I had to agree) that William was physiologically ready for some extra calories from solid food.
*Follow William's lead (be respectful of his responses to food and how he chooses to explore it, and "listen" to what he is communicating about food non-verbally, allowing him to develop a comfortable relationship with food).
This means tuning in to William's cues: is he looking at the food? Does he want to touch it? Is he totally uninterested? I usually place a new food in front of him so that he has the opportunity to touch it first, and the chance to put some into his mouth without the use of a spoon. I then offer it to him on a spoon, and allow him to turn it down, or to pull the spoon into his mouth (with a bit of directional guidance from Mama!). Yes, he gets very very messy at pretty much every meal time! This sensory experience is important, and outweighs the time it takes to clean up his face, hair, eyes, ears, hands, arms, legs, the highchair, splat mat, etc. And to change his clothes. I also feel that being respectful of William includes not cajoling him to eat with "airplane" deliveries of food, "sneaking" nutritious food into his diet or applauding the act of eating as if it were some great feat (Id' rather that the experience of tasting is reward in itself). This sort of insincerity in the feeding relationship seems destined to cause serious issues down the road...but that is not to say that mealtime shouldn't be fun!
*Make "baby food" delicious. Have you tasted the "Stage 1" jarred baby food purees? They taste so vaguely of what they are supposed to be, it's silly. Even when you get into the "Stage 3" combinations, there is no seasoning, other than the occasional dash of cinnamon! I feel that teaching a baby to not just eat, but to enjoy his sense of taste necessitates the use of seasoning! Our pediatrician suggested I start with rice ceral mixed with breastmilk, and a scoop of formula for extra nutrition. Although I respect her opinion, this sounded so "textbook" and so unappetizing to me that I decided to gather more opinions. I referred back to my books, looked online (I love wholesomebabyfood.com) and spoke with my favorite Lactation Consultant, who is also an R.N. and a true infant feeding specialist. I weighed all of these resources with my belief that food should be meaningful and enjoyable, and introduced William to his first solid food when he was just over 6 months old.
While adhering to the guidelines for food introduction and allergies, I began introducing a new food about every three days (a single ingredient food), whenever possible using fresh, organic items cooked at home. I also have used some jarred Earth's Best Organic Baby Food , pouches of Sprout Organic Baby Food, Plum Organics Pouches and Bella Baby Organic Frozen Baby Food Pouches.
Here is a list of the foods William has had to date, in the order they were introduced:
Brown Rice Cereal
Plain Whole Milk Yogurt
I think it is important for babies to have a nutrient-rich diet, including plenty of fat, protein and fiber. Some of William's daily staples are: 1/4 avocado, twice a day. 1 serving whole oats or brown rice a day. 1/8 tsp. flax oil a day. 1 serving iron-fortified baby cereal (brown rice, oatmeal or multigrain) each day, used as thickener. Approx 3 Tbsp. whole milk yogurt a day. In addition, a variety of fruits, veggies, etc.
In my next post I'll give you the recipes for some of William's favorite combinations. Until then, remember to play with your food!