By Lisa Hewitt, Holistic Nutritionist for Moms + Babes
It is a very special milestone for a mother when her baby is ready for solid food! Unfortunately, with all the conflicting information about the ideal strategy for food introductions or the polarizing opinions about which baby-food menu is the healthiest, many mamas find themselves overwhelmed rather than experiencing what should be a relaxed and joyful adventure.
So let’s get to the heart of starting solids and look at some of the most important aspects of inspired infant nutrition and wellness!
When to Start
It is ideal to wait until baby is (approximately) 6-months of age before starting solids. This allows their digestive system to mature enough reducing the potential for food allergies or sensitivities to develop.
Signs of Readiness
- Can hold head up and sit up without support.
- Shows a desire to participate in mealtime - may grab food and put in mouth.
- Lost tongue-thrust reflex – does not automatically push solids out of mouth with tongue.
- “Pincer” grasp developing – holds food between thumb and forefinger rather than whole hand.
Which Foods First
This is the question I have the hardest time answering since every baby and family are so unique! It’s nearly impossible to find a universal answer. We all have different lineage, physiology, preferences, and certainly individual priorities therefore what is best for someone else’s baby might not be best for yours.
What I do know for sure is that choosing first foods with absolute care, matters. Foods that are nutritionally-rich and that baby's body can handle without strain or upset. Clean ingredients, ideally organic, are also very important for babies since their little bodies struggle to process the chemical load on or in conventionally grown food.
The nutritional profile in breastmilk offers us implicit wisdom and should be included as a first point of reference when seeking guidance for first foods. It reveals the very nutrients that babies needs to thrive and grow, and also those that will provide protection along the way.
So where do we start?
With gentle ingredients and simple, nutrient-dense foods given in fairly small amounts to begin with. Once baby is digesting well or if they are genuinely eager for more and are showing no signs of irritation, you can move on to more complex foods or combinations. The first 6 – 8 weeks however, it is ideal to progress cautiously while following baby’s authentic lead.
Favourite First Foods
There is no better way to spark a love of healthy food than by exposing babies to wholesome ingredients early on! Keep your baby menu fresh, vibrant, and real!
Our family favoured a more plant-based approach when starting solids (until around 9-months) however many of the parents I work with resonate with traditional foods for their baby which I heartedly appreciate. For more information, please go to www.healthybrightbeginnings.com.
The following foods most closely resemble the nutrition provided by mama’s milk and also contain easy to absorb vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, and healthy bacteria to properly nourish baby between 6 – 12 months of age:
- Butternut Squash
- Steamed Spinach or Leafy Greens
- Steamed Vegetables (all of them!)
- Steamed Apple or Berries
- Sweet Potato
- Bone Broth (traditionally made)
- Ghee, grass-fed or coconut butter
- Fermented Foods
- Egg Yolk (not the white)
This list may not be suitable for all babies and is not listed in order of preference or importance.
Food before one is just for fun!
Some babies are ravenous little eaters from the start, while others take months to warm up to the idea! Your baby’s digestive system will go through a considerable adjustment period and needs a little space to warm up therefore the following information is only a guideline.
When babies have breast or bottle they know when they are hungry or full. The same goes for solid food therefore it is best to follow and respect their cues.
- 6 – 7 months, 1 x day, 1+ TBSP per meal. May be every second day to begin with.
- 7 – 9 months, 2 x day, 2+ TBSP per meal.
- 9 – 12 months, 3 x day, 2+ TBSP per meal.
What Mama Needs to Know
There is very little change to the breastfeeding routine upon starting solids; breastmilk or formula is a baby’s primary source of nutrition until approximately 12-months of age. As food intake increases your breastmilk will naturally adapt, both nutritionally and in production. The process will be gentle and gradual, and will be unique to every baby. Trust your body Mama – your milk is gold!
Babies don’t associate hunger cues with food yet. To avoid frustration or stress at mealtime it is ideal to offer breast or bottle first, followed by solids. Around 10-months of age (this will vary) you can begin to offer food first – use your intuition – no one knows your baby better than you do.
Lastly, be patient Sweet Mama! It can take up to 20 times before baby will start to enjoy a new food. Let them be little, and let them love food! One day at a time.
Lisa Hewitt is the soul-filled Holistic Nutritionist (and Mama!) at Bright Beginnings with a special focus + love for inspired infant nutrition. Please join her for Holistic Food Introductions 5-part ebook series at www.healthybrightbeginnings.com.