As an advocate for real, healthy, local foods, I was dreading introducing solids to my son. I just couldn’t imagine having his first food be processed cereal. I’d also seen jarred baby food and was completely grossed out by it. Nobody could tell me that those were the best choice for my son’s health; my instincts said we needed to take a different route. After discussing the topic of introducing solids with some twitter friends, I got recommendations for two books that I love and recommend to all parents:
- Baby-Led Weaning by Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett (recommended by @FreeChildhood)
- Real Food for Mother and Baby by Nina Planck (recommended by @ToniRaquel)
What I learned was basic- to allow Joshua to choose what he would eat and what he didn’t want to eat; to allow him to feed himself; to offer him plenty of healthy foods to choose from; to put away the food mill and spoon; most importantly, to relax!
Instead of giving bland cereal as a first food, I looked to the season. Joshua turned six months in September: apple season. It has always felt appropriate to me that Joshua was a spring baby, and it seemed fitting that Joshua’s first food was applesauce. Homemade, chunky applesauce made from apples grown on the farm where I grew up, that I picked as I walked through the orchard with my mother and carried Joshua on my back. While processed cereal didn’t feel right, applesauce sure did. I spooned a small bit of applesauce into a bowl for Joshua and allowed him to squish it between his fingers to his heart’s content. He wiped it in his hair and it got on his bib and on the floor. Not much made it into his mouth, but that didn’t matter. Breast milk supplies all of the nutrition he needs, and solids at six months are about learning: taste, texture, aroma and hand-eye coordination.
Cold apple slices quickly became a favorite for my teething baby.
Now nine months old, Joshua has sampled all of the following (in no particular order):
- Fruits: apples, applesauce, banana, avocado, blueberries, raspberries, cranberry-applesauce, dried papaya
- Veggies: butternut squash, potatoes, broccoli, sweet potatoes, carrots, snap peas, green beans, corn, green squash, cucumber, vegetable broth, salsa, tomato sauce, (sometimes veggies were topped with olive oil or butter)
- Meats: beef (steak, ground beef), pork (pork chop/roast, sausage), turkey (roasted and ground), chicken, salmon, haddock, scrambeled eggs
- Dairy: cream-top yogurt (banana, blueberry and peach flavored), sour cream, cheddar cheese, monterey jack cheese, American cheese, cream cheese, butter
- Bread/grains: toast, pizza crust, whole wheat tortilla, bagel, pasta with and without tomato sauce, Italian bread, pancakes, stuffing, organic puffs and teether biscuits
And most certainly other foods that I’ve forgotten to mention. At his nine-month check-up, his doctor was impressed that we don’t buy baby food and told me to continue to introduce foods using the baby-led approach. The doctor said most advice about solids including which foods to offer in which order are based on old wive’s tales and not on sound science, and that holding off on introducing foods such as meats can deprive babies of essential nutrients (like iron, which is more easily absorbed from breastmilk and meats than from fortified cereals). The only foods he said to wait on are peanuts and peanut butter, honey and cow’s milk. (For safety information on introducing solids, see the books listed above.)
Joshua loves to feed himself and while this approach is messy, it has been a perfect fit for our family.