Let’s talk solids. What a fun new adventure! But… Different opinions on when to start weaning, how to go about it, which food to introduce first, how to prepare it all and how to prevent allergies; leave most moms overwhelmed and unsure.
For us starting solids has always been a fun, positive experience and I’m happy to say we have 3 fuss-free, healthy eaters. So, I’m sharing how we approach solids. Everything from preparing that 1st purée all the way to the finger foods Ava enjoys. Get that coffee moms, this one is lengthy BUT it’s all you need to know.
Let’s start at the beginning.
Life long food preferences are shaped in these 1st 6 months so be sure to establish a good meal plan that encourages healthy feeding habits from the get go! So, when should solids be introduced?
COMMON MISCONCEPTION #1:
My baby wakes more during the night to feed. It has to be time for solids. No! Not at all. Most babies go through sleep regression at one point or another and sleep patterns are only affected by food in extreme cases.
When a baby is ready differs and it’s up to mom to identify the signs that show your little one is ready. Age does play a role but should not be the only consideration. Most babies will be ready somewhere between 4 and 6 months. Don’t start before 17 weeks but also be careful not to wait too long after 6 months either. Sign to look out for include:
- Can baby sit, back supported in a feeding chair?
- Good head controls. Is baby able to turn his / her head away to show when they’ve eaten enough?
- Does your little one show an interest in food? Grabbing at whatever you are eating and trying to put it in his / her mouth.
- Keep an eye on baby’s weight gain and milk needs. For breastfeeding moms it could be that your baby isn’t gaining enough weight even though you are feeding on demand in an attempt to increase milk supply. For formula babes it could be that baby is still hungry and unsettled even after finishing an entire bottle.
Eliana and Lia was exclusively breastfed till 6 months but Ava WANTED and needed food at 5 months.
Now that you’ve identified your baby’s need for solids what’s next?
Approaching solids right!
There is no need to be anxious. Trust your instincts and your baby’s abilities and make this next step fun.
1. Start on a day when you and baby feel happy, healthy and relaxed.
2. Start with a small amount, gradually increasing portion size over time. We took things week-by-week.
3. Introduce new foods in the morning. Then you can monitor baby for signs of intolerance or discomfort during the day.
4. Never force your little one. If things don’t go according to plan or baby doesn’t show interest; take a step back, wait a few days and start again.
5. Be patient. Foodies differ, approaching food differently even from a young age.
6. Be friendly and encouraging. Praising baby when they do get that bite right.
7. Accept that the road ahead will be messy and include a fair amount of food waste but it’s okay! Your goal is to have baby sharing in family mealtime around his / her’s 1st birthday.
8. Make mealtime a positive experience. Smiling, looking baby in the eye and having him / her sit with the family when possible.
9. Also remember to always have water handy. No need for juice or tea. Cooled, boiled water does the trick.
Baby’s 1st food!
Allergy prevention has been a huge focus these past few years. With Eliana I was told to wait with certain food, now Ava can eat anything! These ever-changing studies make my head spin! But with food allergies on the increase latest research shows that delaying exposure to high risk foods actually increases the risk of allergens. Don’t be scared of any foods. Food allergies are actually not as common as believed. A lot of the time sensitivity to something is actually an intolerance that your little one should grow out of. Just introduce them with caution looking out for signs of intolerance such as a rash, vomiting, fussiness, extra mucus production, bloating, gas and foul smelling stools.
Gut sampling of sensitive foods are recommended by introducing very small amounts once or twice a week and increasing the amount as you see fit.
Here is a list of potential intolerance sensitive foods:
- Vegetables: Tomato, Carrot, Potato, Garlic, Onion, Pea
- Fruit: Citrus, Strawberries, Apples
- Nuts; Peanuts, Hazelnuts, Brazil Nuts
- Cereal: Grains can be difficult to digest due to the lack of the pancreatic enzyme AMYLASE.
- Meat: Beef
- Fish: Crab, Shrimp, Mussels, Tuna
- Sundry: Sesame Seed, Soy, Yeast, White Bean, Coconut
PLEASE NOTE, THESE SHOULD NOT BE EXCLUDED! Our Ava hasn’t reacted to any of them, Eliana was dairy sensitive till about 2 years old and Lia still struggles with a runny nose when she eats bananas. This is merely a list to assist in identifying possible high risk foods.
COMMON MISCONCEPTION #2:
Honey is a healthy sugar alternative for babies. Definitely NOT! Honey can not be given to a baby younger than 12 months. Honey can contain spores of a bacterium called Clostridium botulinum, which can germinate in a baby’s immature digestive system and cause infant botulism, a rare but potentially fatal illness.
So what can we start with?
COMMON MISCONCEPTION #3:
Now that baby is eating, milk isn’t as important anymore. Not true at all! Milk stays an important source of nutrition all throughout baby’s 1st year and if you decide to stop breastfeeding when introducing solids, you’ll definitely need to still provide baby with an appropriate formula. For the 1st 7 weeks of solids milk feeds stay the same. You’ll just be adding food to the menu, gradually increasing portions and meals.
Our starter foods of choice has always been sweet potato, pear, butternut, mango and pumpkin. These “soft”, easily digestible options proved gentlest on our girls tummies seeing as they had only been exposed to breastmilk before. We made sure these 1st foods were runny and fed to Ava with a soft spoon.
This is how we introduced those 1st bites.
Week 1: 1 teaspoon of sweet potato in the morning, around 8am.
Week 2: 1 teaspoon of pear in the morning. 1 teaspoon of sweet potato late afternoon, around 4:30pm.
Week 3: 1 teaspoon of butternut in the morning. 1 teaspoon of pear midday, 12:00. 1 teaspoon of sweet potato late afternoon, around 4:30pm.
Week 4: 2 teaspoons of pawpaw in the morning. 2 teaspoons of pear midday, 12:00. 2 teaspoons of sweet potato late afternoon, around 4:30pm.
Week 5: 3 teaspoons of mango in the morning. 3 teaspoons of butternut midday, 12:00. 3 teaspoons of sweet potato late afternoon, around 4:30pm.
Week 6: 4 teaspoons of pumpkin in the morning. 4 teaspoons of pawpaw midday, 12:00. 4 teaspoons of sweet potato late afternoon, around 4:30pm.
Week 7: No signs of intolerance or poor indigestion? Let baby’s appetite lead you. Be adventurous and include as much variety as possible.
I used this handy Baby Meal / Day Planner to keep track of Ava’s routine.
Click on the link below to download and print your own.
More tasty foods we tried:
Avocado Pear, Peeled Baby Marrow, Hubbard Squash, Beetroot, Parsnip. Peaches, Prunes, Dates, Guava, Grapes, Litchi, Apples, Kiwi, Figs, Blueberries… There are too many to mention! Have a look at our January Book Club review, Weaning Sense. It’s a fantastic read on solids and includes loads of delicious recipes to try.
Boost nutritional content by adding good, plant based fats like nut butters, coconut oil and olive paste to daily meals (1/2 – 1 teaspoon). These also helped when the 1st signs of constipation appeared. I still add olive oil to any meal if I notice a hardening in Ava’s stools.
A word on dairy…
COMMON MISCONCEPTION #4:
NO DAIRY before 12 months.This is true and false.
Yes, cows milk for drinking should only be given to babies over a year. Yogurt and cheese however, can be given beforehand making for convenient snack options. If baby doesn’t show any reaction to these; full cream cow’s milk can be used to prepare porridge and other baby food but still not to drink on its own. We waited until Ava was 9 months old before introducing dairy. Now she loves yogurt, cheese and the occasional sweet potato custard for dessert.
We waited till after 8 months before including meat and complex proteins to Ava’s diet. There is still a fair amount of research showing high concentrations of protein at a young age can place strain on a little one’s kidneys and even lead to adult obesity. It was a personal choice to wait. We started with chicken.
How do I know baby has eaten enough? Look out for baby’s feeding cues:
YES, MORE PLEASE…
1. Baby looks at and reaches out to food.
2. Turns to spoon for a bite.
3. Opens his / her mouth to eat.
4. Your little one is happy and excited.
NO, I’M DONE THANKS…
1. Starts eating slowly.
2. Loses interest in food.
3. Turns his / her head away.
4. Keeps lips closed.
We had ourselves a little “over-eater” with Ava eating herself into a stomach ache every mealtime. No closing her mouth or turning away until the plate was polished. So, I use her age as a guideline for how much she’ll probably eat, 1 teaspoon per month of age. But this is not a rule! Sometimes she’ll eat more and sometimes less. Keeping an eye on her hunger cues is the most important thing. Also remember to have water ready – babies can confuse hunger with thirst. I offer Ava a sip of water before more food.
Preparing baby’s food:
- Always wash food well before preparing them for baby.
- Steaming is still your healthiest option keeping most of the nutritional value. (Look out for our baby food appliances review Wednesday).
- Buy organic and free-range when possible – no chemicals, insecticides and other nasties.
STEP 1: Steam. Although baby food prep can be done in various ways.
STEP 2: Purée. Add baby’s milk, appropriate oils or the liquid used to prepare the food to get the desired purée consistency.
STEP 3: Freeze. Scoop your puréed baby food into ice trays, cover well and freeze.
Making your own baby food has loads of benefits. Firstly, it’s more economical, you can provide baby with a wider range of flavour and texture options. Baby learns to eat Mommy’s food and you know exactly what goes into every meal. Giving food separately also teaches baby about different tastes and helps combat fussy eating.
Frozen foods can later be combined to create yummy variations for baby to enjoy.
Some foods might become thick and starchy when frozen. Just a a few drops of canola, olive or avocado oil to better the consistency. Milk also works well.
1. No fast foods.
2. No sweets.
3. No added salt or sugar.
1. Include iron rich food sources as soon as possible and you may want to consider an iron supplement if your baby is older than 6 months and still breastfeeding. We give all our girls 5ml of Floradix Iron Tonic daily. Including 400 UI Vit D is also recommended but we don’t.
2. Introduce new food one at a time and at least 3 days apart.
3. It’s tempting to start with fancy combinations but rather prepare and introduce food separately at first – let your little one learn what different foods taste like. Expose baby to an array of colours and flavours. When you and your little become more confident, move on to yummy combinations, adding herbs and even some spices.
4. Introduce “gassy” foods (Green Beans, Spinach, Broccoli, Cauliflower) and strong flavours a little later.
Changes after 8 months:
Now that baby is use to eating don’t just stick to smooth purées. Textures should become coarser and food can have lumps and pieces. Rather use a fork to mash baby’s food. All fruits and veggies can be given now. Meat is introduced as well as egg yolk (whites too if baby doesn’t show signs of egg sensitivity). Remember all the yummy plant proteins such as lentils, chick peas, seeds, pulses and beans too. We also started giving Ava oats and other porridges at 8 months.
Although milk is still important, food intake needs will increase. Snacks in the shape of finger foods are important.
Don’t be scared of finger foods!
Some parents skip purées altogether. Opting for baby-led weaning from day one so there really isn’t any reason to postpone finger foods. If your baby is showing increased independence, interest in exploring food and is able to sit unsupported while picking up and bring food to their mouth. It’s TIME! Even if there isn’t a tooth in sight – Those little gums can chew!
A list of finger foods to try:
1. Cut up omelettes and scrambled egg.
2. Steamed butternut and sweet potato fingers.
3. Peeled cucumbers cut length ways.
4. Soft fruits like watermelon, mango, pawpaw, peach, figs and kiwi. Peeled and cut. Banana should be cut length ways too.
5. Add homemade hummus and yogurt as a dipping sauce to veggie sticks and fruits.
6. Cauliflower and broccoli florets, asparagus and baby carrots – all steamed.
7. Stirfried veggies.
8. Thick slices of avocado.
9. Dried mango strips.
10.Chicken, turkey or lamb cooked into manageable pieces.
11. Mini meatballs, cut up patties or fish cakes.
12. Fish cakes
13. Grated cheese.
14. Toast fingers with a dippy egg. Rusks and teething biscuits.
15. Rice cakes, rice balls and puffs.
16. Baby pancakes and muffins.
17. Pasta twists, shells and bows
Finger foods should easily be squashed between your fingers to lower the risk of choking. Consider steaming harder fruits and veggies like carrots, apples etc.
Place “hard fruit” eg. apple and pear in a “fresh food feeder“. Any food can be placed inside actually. Our favourite is by Haakaa and available locally from Hey Kiwi. Made from 100% food grade silicone the Haakaa fresh food feeder is more hygienic than other similar feeders. It will also last longer, is easier to clean and harbours less bacteria and foul smells than other mesh material types.It also doubles as a teether! Simply turn your feeder upside down and and let baby chew and suck on the other end.
Risky finger foods:
1. Whole nuts or seeds
3. Whole grapes and blueberries, rather peel, pip and cut in quaters.
4. Small dried fruits like rasins is better for older kids and toddlers.
Once again, take things slow, relax about the mess and give baby this valuable opportunity to learn and experiment.
Baby must be sitting when eating finger foods and should never be left unattended. Choking is always a possibility.
Water is so important and next to breastmilk, it’s still the only thing Ava drinks at (almost) 10 months. Ava uses her sippy-cup like a pro.
While having a go at finger food we also decided it would be a good time to expose her to drinking from cups and glasses too. We assist but she’s actually taken to it quite easily.
We prefer glass and stainless steal options to plastic. One of our favourite brands is Pura Stainless. These bottles are non-toxic, plastic-free and grows with baby simply by swapping out the lid with different spout options. We bought our tiny glass tumblers from Faithful to Nature.
Ava handles her sippy cup like a pro and this bottles has survived many a throw downs!
After the 1st few months of solids, the routine changes quite a bit…
Now that Ava’s eating more, her schedule has changed. Breakfast and lunch has stayed the same but with the addition of snack time at 09:30 am. Supper has also moved a little later to 05:50pm but with afternoon snack time at 04:00pm.
I’ve included this updated Baby Meal / Day Planner for your own use. It’s been very helpful (especially for dad) reminding us what to have ready and keeping track of Ava’s day.
Click on the link below to download and print your own.
Meal time “hardware”.
Include different spoons, table wear, placemats, serviettes and more. Ensure that every meal is something exciting to look forward too even for you too mama. Some of our favourite products include:
Our beautiful wooden feeding chair:
Friends of our gave us this gorgeous wooden baby chair when Eliana was little. We still treasure it today and hope to one day feed our grandbabies in there too. Any feeding chair providing good back support will do.
Pretty bibs to keep baby clean.
Disposable bibs, silicone bibs, fabric bibs and fancy bibs. There really are more than enough to choose from. Fabric bibs are still our 1st choice and all the ones seen below are by local mama-maker brand, Schnooky Pie, Wolf Wolf and By Roeline & Co.
A variety of dinnerware!
Plates, bowls, cups and food trays. The design options are endless and once again I enjoy adding a bit of pretty to our food dates by investing in gorgeous kids tableware.
I fell in love with the forest illustrations from the Pyrelle dinnerset. (You may recall this name from Sophie la Girafe). If you’re into Peter Rabbit, Mr. Men, Astrix and Moomin ; be sure to visit their online store by clicking here.
Don’t think these sets are just for toddlers. Ava enjoys the beautiful surprise pictures at the bottom of the bowl, cup or plate too and this set works just as well as any other “baby feeding set”. Why waste money on small crockery that baby will outgrow in a blink of an eye?
That’s unless you’re spoiling yourself (and your little one) with a Baby Le Crueset set. These are stunning! Yes, they are a splurge and can break or chip when dropped but sometimes adorableness wins over practicality. Besides, I’ll keep Ava’s set as a family heirloom for her to use with her kids…
Our collection of spoons grows as Ava develops. Starting with soft, silicone spoons to specially designed toddler cutlery. All have a purpose.
Ava’s curiosity and independent spirit had her wanting to self-feed from a very young age. The ChooMee Dip ‘n Spoon available from Kids Cargo gives her the freedom to do just that – or at least try to. Ava simply dips this spoon into her bowl. Food gets caught inside the spoon openings and she instinctively sucks the food off the soft flat head of the spoon.
The flexible neck makes it easy for her to manoeuvre around her bowl too.
Our fabric serviette collection.
Mealtime is messy so having a damp cloth (or damp fabric serviette) close by helps.
The brighter and sillier, the better! Include all the colours of the rainbow. some educational and others just because. It will keep your little one’s attention and work like a charm for years to come.
Currently we are obsessed with our Popsiebelle.com set. These fabric placemats keeps are easy to clean and provide loads to look at. Ava gets lost in the black and white illustrations while Eliana comes up with the most elaborate dinner time stories inspired by her placemat of choice for the evening. Lia’s favourite is the rocking Zebra, or is it a white horse wrapped in a black and red ribbon…? She still hasn’t decided.
I don’t know if any of these really work BUT Ava sure enjoys eating out of them and so did our other girls.
And then, Ava’s best Christmas gift from grandpa…
Her Marcus & Marcus meal set. No need to ever worry about Ava’s food, no matter where we go. They have the perfect solutions for traveling with baby food. Easy wipe clean silicone bibs, collapsable baby bowls, playful feeding spoon dispenser and silicone spoons Ava likes chewing on for hours after she’s finished eating.
The thermal food jar is a MUST! This stainless steel, leak proof, 350 ml jar keeps food hot for up to 5 hours or cold for 7+. It’s so handy, I actually need to get Lia and Eliana their own ones too! No more “hangry” kids while we’re on the go; warm food anywhere, anytime you need it.
The cute feeding spoon dispenser is another winning product. Especially for those mamas hating a mess. Simply heat and squeeze! Convenient when out and about as well as at home.
REMEMBER: Have fun!
Babies want to explore and learn new things. So, make use of their inherent abilities to ensure that meal time is a fun, positive experience. Play with food and develop a love for breakfast, dinner and supper!
Soon, your little one will be eating independently and shared mommy-and-me dates will be a thing of the past, so don’t forget to treasure the now.
Now lets get eating!
Choose between Marcus the Lion, Pokey the Pig, Lola the Giraffe, Ollie the Elephant and Willo the Whale.
How to enter:
- Please leave a comment below telling us which colour (blue or pink) thermal jar and spoon you would like to win.
- Also be sure to follow @marcusandmarcus_sa and @justamamma on Instagram.
- Bonus entry: Share this post on Facebook by clicking on the share button below.
3 ways of entering means you’ll have 3 chances of winning!
- Only entries via Instagram, Facebook and comments left below will be considered.
- Instagram and Facebook is in no way responsible or associated with this giveaway.
- Competition only open to South African residents residing in South Africa.
- Winner must be 18+ years old.
- Competition closes on the 14th of May 2018. The winner will be picked at random and announced on the 16th of May 2018.
- This prize is not exchangeable or refundable.
- Please enter valid email and contact info. If we can not get hold of you within 48 hours a new winner will be chosen.
- The greatest care will be taken when mailing your prize but Just a Mamma and Marcus & Marcus do not accept any responsibility for lost, stolen or damaged goods.
PHOTO CREDIT | Anje-Ilana Nel Madison and West.
Special thanks to Sr. Maryna Botha of the Garsfontein Baby Clinic for always providing the best information and advice and especially for helping us make solids easy and a parenting highlight with all three our girls. Any mamas in need of a guardian angel… Sr. Maryna has been ours for the past 6 years.