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Monthly Archives: January 2012

Basic Guidelines for Introducing Solids

There’s one question I hear a lot, and it’s the same question I had before Isabella began eating solids- how do you know what to give her, and when?

Breastfeeding exclusively for the first 6 months of life is the best way to give your baby a strong immune system.  There’s nothing on earth like mother’s milk, and the benefits of exclusive breastfeeding for 6 full months (or more) are too many to list here.  If for some reason breastfeeding isn’t an option, it’s best to avoid a cows milk formula, as it’s one of the most common allergens and causes many babies to experience colic symptoms (not to mention a LOT more spitting up).  Solid foods (including rice cereal) are not nutritionally necessary before 6 months of age and can actually be harmful for your baby.

The first two years are a critical period in developing your child’s tastes and future eating habits.  This is a window of time in which children tend to be more open to trying new foods.  If fresh, flavorful, whole foods are all that are offered, they’ll be more likely to prefer those foods as they grow.  If highly processed foods full of sugar and additives are all that are offered, they’ll tend to prefer that.

Every baby is different, and their ability to accept and eat different foods varies.  Remember, it’s essential to introduce one food at a time, and only every few days.  Follow The 3-Day Rule: watch for reactions like sneezing, runny nose, rashes (particularly around the mouth or diaper area), changes in stools, or changes in mood.  If baby has a reaction, hold off on giving her that food for another month, then try again.

Certain foods are potentially irritating, meaning that they could cause a reaction in your baby’s sensitive and still developing digestive system.  This system is designed to introduce potentially irritating foods one at a time, when baby’s body is most likely to be ready for them.  There is news on the front of potentially allergenic foods (foods that are thought to encourage the development of allergies), so check out the information for yourself and do what seems best to you!  This list is by no means exhaustive, but it should give you an idea of what foods to introduce, and when.

6-9 Months

Steamed veggies blended with water are a great option, as well as raw pureed fruits.  Younger babies need their food to be a thinner consistency.

  • bananas
  • apples
  • peaches
  • pears
  • carrots
  • peas
  • winter and summer squash (pumpkin, zucchini, butternut, etc.)
  • sweet potatoes and yams
  • melons
  • avocado
  • cold or frozen berries in a mesh bag (fantastic for teething, very messy)
  • herbs and seasonings except for garlic (just go easy)

9-12 Months

Grains should not be offered before 8 or 9 months as baby’s digestive system hasn’t developed enough of the enzymes necessary to digest them.  When you do offer them, it’s best to soak them overnight and cooked for longer than suggested on the package.

This is a great time to introduce finger foods like puffed rice, cheerios, and soft fruits cut into small pieces.  Don’t expect your floors to stay clean, though.

  • brown rice
  • quinoa
  • oats (We do overnight oats a lot- simply mix oats and water or rice milk and leave in fridge overnight. Easy breakfast!)
  • millet
  • amaranth
  • yogurt
  • cottage cheese
  • cheese
  • egg yolk (That’s right- the yolk is ok.  It’s the whites that are allergenic for most babies.  This is a great way to get protein if you don’t do meat)
  • poultry
  • greens (spinach, kale, collards, chard, lettuce)
  • papaya
  • mango
  • kiwi
  • hemp milk (not a replacement for breast milk)
  • rice milk (not a replacement for breast milk)
  • coconut oil
  • butter
  • olive oil

12-18 Months

Baby’s desire to feed herself begins to increase, as do her caloric needs.  This is a great time to offer bulkier, higher calorie foods.  Begin to introduce potentially irritating foods and continue to watch for allergic reactions.

  • grapes
  • strawberries
  • onions
  • garlic
  • hummus
  • beans
  • broccoli and cauliflower
  • lentils
  • lemon and lime
  • tofu (closer to 18 months)
  • salmon (closer to 18 months)
  • goat’s milk
  • honey

18-24 Months

Begin adding more protein through slow-cooked meats and some nuts.

  • soy foods
  • fish
  • lamb
  • beef
  • whole eggs
  • almonds, cashews, walnuts, pecans, brazil nuts
  • nut butters from the above nuts

2+ Years

Cautiously add allergenic foods one by one, watching closely for signs of sensitivity.

  • Cow’s milk (Other dairy products like yogurt, cheese, and cottage cheese are easier to digest because they are cultured.)
  • peanuts
  • gluten (wheat, rye, barley, spelt)

There are two resources I found incredibly helpful as I introduced solids to Isabella.  One is The Baby Book by Dr. Sears– it’s basically the bible on all things baby-related.  The other is The Whole Life Nutrition Cookbook by Alissa Segersten and Tom Malterre, MS, CN, which includes a very conservative schedule for food introduction.  Check out their website for tons of great vegan recipes.


Getting Started: What You Need

There’s a lot of money to be made off of new parents.  When I registered for my baby shower, I remember feeling overwhelmed by the amount of junk they sell which, after doing this for a year, I realize most parents probably  don’t really need.  I would put baby food processors in that category.  There are several brands of food processors that are marketed especially for baby food.  They come with a handful of little jars and a whole bunch of accessories and they’re just plain cute.  When I first saw one (before Izzy was born) I campaigned unsuccessfully for weeks to convince Stephen we needed it.

But here’s the thing- they only make 6 jars of food at a time (my daughter can eat that much in a single day), and they’re pretty much good for one thing- baby food.  Unless you’re a seriously busy parent who only wants to blend up a minuscule amount of food at a time, this just doesn’t make sense.  I’ve found it’s easier to devote an afternoon to making big batches of food that will last 2-4 weeks.  And realistically, a baby only needs to eat pureed food for 6-12 months.  I think it’s much more cost effective to just get a food processor that you can keep using.

So what do you need to make baby food?

For preparing:

Double boiler or steamer basket  Steaming is the simplest way to cook food while maintaining nutritional content.

Food processor  Unfortunately, most blenders just don’t do the job.  We spent $30 on a basic Black and Decker food processor and have really liked it.

For storing:

There are several different ways to store baby food.  I now freeze it in used baby food jars, but for a while I froze the food in ice cube trays and then transferred them to plastic baggies.  That way annoying because it’s extra steps, the cubes get stuck together in the bags, and it’s hard to take them with you when you go places.  I think using jars is a million times easier because the food is ready to go as is.  Some of my jars I got from a friend, and some I collected myself by buying a couple jars a week.

Did I miss anything?  Let me know in the comments.

Why make your own baby food?

Any grocery store worth it’s salt will offer a dozen different brands of baby food.  You can get organic brands for just a little more money even at generic grocery stores, and they come in zillions of different flavors and packages.  So why make your own?

  • Save cash.  This was one of my big motivators for making my own baby food.  You might think, hey, a $1.29 jar of baby food, that’s not so bad.  But it adds up fast.  My daughter has been known to put away 8 or more jars of baby food in one day.  At $1.29 a jar, that’s $10.32 a day, or $72.24 a week.  I usually spend less than half that on ingredients for food that will last her over 2 weeks.
  • Know exactly what’s in it.  Personally, I just find baby food out of the jar a little unsettling.  I can see the ingredient list- I know what they say is in there.  Even if it says there’s no preservatives, chemicals, dyes, or factory worker’s hair, I just feel better seeing the whole foods go into my blender with my own eyes.
  • Offer more interesting food.  The baby food at your local grocery store is pretty dull.  You’ll see ingredients like apples, carrots, peas, sweet potatoes, chicken, turkey, oats, and rice… and those are all great.  I’m just saying that none of them have amaranth, quinoa, bulger, dragonfruit, starfruit, kiwi, bok choy, kale, or purple cauliflower.
  • Offer fresher food.  The fruit in that apple-banana-blueberry blend you just picked up was probably harvested several weeks ago.  It was pureed, then packaged, then sat in a warehouse, then traveled in a truck for a few days, and has been sitting on the shelf at your grocery store for who knows how long.  And chances are they’ve added something to preserve the food during this process.  Sure, it’s safe to eat.  But would you want to?  I know I wouldn’t.
  • Offer more flavorful food.  Babies are perfectly able to eat- and enjoy- a variety of herbs and spices.  Anyone who has taste-tested a jar of baby food knows that the vast majority of it is pretty bland.  And if you expose your kids to interesting flavors early in life, they’re that much more likely to enjoy a variety of foods later in life, instead of being that annoying kid that refuses to eat anything but white bread and chicken nuggets.
  • It’s not as hard or time consuming as you might think.  Sure… you can get totally carried away and make all kinds of gourmet madness for your baby (like I often do) but you don’t have to.  But many of my staple recipes (and Isabella’s favorites) take just minutes to prepare and jar.  Making your own baby food can take as much or as little time as you want.
  • It’s fun.
Why do you make your own baby food?  If you’ve thought about it but haven’t tried it yet, what’s stopping you?