How can it be possible that Hattie and Joe are old enough to start solids? Weren’t they only just born a couple of weeks ago? This incredulity regarding the passage of time partially explains why it took me a while to get my head around feeding solids: it still feels like Hattie and Joe and I have only just got to grips with breastfeeding, so it’s very odd to think that they’re now big enough to handle actual food.
Like most things related to the care of babies, guidance about when to start solids can vary quite considerably. Many people are steadfast in their conviction that you shouldn’t start before a baby is six months old – a position that is endorsed by the World Health Organisation, and often quoted by people who are really keen to preach the ‘breast is best’ dogma (*cough*attachment parenting types*cough*).
However, it’s worth remembering that WHO recommendations are made for people everywhere, not just in the Western world, and in many developing countries there is a significant lack of access to healthy, safe food options for infants, which is why breast milk would be the best option for those infants. The situation is not the same when a baby is being raised in a country with ready access to clean water and safe food, and so the ‘nothing but boob before six months’ philosophy doesn’t necessarily have to be practised like a religion. Plunket now acknowledges that many babies are ready for food – and hungry for it – before six months, so it recommends watching for a baby’s signs of readiness (being hungrier than usual after feeds, starting to wake more at night – although this can also be for many, many other reasons, trying to put every single object into their mouths, and taking a huge interest in watching people eat), and starting to feed solids if the signs are present and the baby is at least four months old.
Joe was showing signs of readiness for a couple of weeks before we started: he was watching every mouthful of food I ate, in the manner of a drooling cocker spaniel, and if there was any food or drink within reach he was trying to grab it. Sadly, this has meant the end of my pleasant ‘snacking while breastfeeding’ habit; I can barely even have a sip of water without him unlatching and watching me intently. We delayed starting solids because he and Hattie were under the weather with their first cold, but once things had settled down, we went for it.
Here is Joe’s first mouthful of food – pumpkin purée and breast milk:
It blew his mind:
He quickly decided that eating was great fun:
Since then we’ve been working our way through the recommended list of stage one fruit and vegetables: carrot, potato, kumara (sweet potato), apple, pear, peach, banana… Joe has happily eaten them all, although he invariably pulls this face when he tries something for the first time:
I fed them some meat for the first time last night: puréed beef mince, mixed into their vegetable medley. Apparently it’s pretty important for babies to have meat, in order to obtain sufficient iron – the iron stores that they’re born with are significantly diminished by the time they’re six months old, and they can’t get enough through breast milk alone. This contradicts the twee “food before one is just for fun” mantra that is often quoted by breast obsessives: babies actually need food.
I’ve only included photos of Joe in this post because he’s a very eager diner. His sister is not hugely interested yet, although I’m including her in each meal and offering her a few spoonfuls: sometimes she’s totally disinterested, but sometimes she deigns to lap delicately at a spoonful of pear, or carrot. I suspect that she just might not like the spoon in her mouth, so when our high chairs arrive I’m going to let them both be a lot more hands-on, along baby-led weaning lines (where you don’t worry about puréeing much at all, and instead watch your infant like a hawk to make sure they don’t choke). Joe will eat everything so far, and often tries to grab the spoon and feed himself. This is what happens when he does that:
I know that some people find it a bit of a faff to start feeding solids – all that puréeing and carrying on – and I’m sure that this was one of the reasons why I was (subconsciously) reluctant to get cracking. Breast feeding is so easy for us, requiring no preparation – and I’m lazy. However, making baby food is actually quite good fun. The process has become easier after my friend Kirsty lent me this fantastic Phillips Avent Steamer Blender:
It makes it quick and easy to whip up a purée, and you can then freeze any excess in this other very helpful device:
That’s the Mumi & Bubi Solids Starter Kit, which enables you to freeze portions easily and just decant the ones that you need (I freeze batches and then decant them and store them in the freezer in zip lock bags). I then just defrost whatever portions I need for the next meal.
So far, Hattie and Joe are having a meal after their breakfast feed, and another meal as part of their end-of-the-day routine (now feed – meal – bath – top-up feed – bed).
Oh – and they’re right about the impact that introducing solids has on nappies…