Now about 2 months into our solids journey, I’ve learned a lot, let go of a lot of expectations, and cleaned up a looooot of food out of my sweet babe’s hair and rolls.
It’s no secret that I enjoy cooking and learning about nutrition, so when I say this journey has been FUN, I mean it. Today, I thought I’d share the ins and outs of our journey thus far so you can learn from my mistakes, get some fun meal ideas, and hopefully find some helpful resources.
Of course, I am not a doctor. Do not take any of my experience as medical advice.
Starting with purees
To begin, we did something a little controversial, and that is…purees. We actually started these when Theo was 5.5 months, because he was so excited about food, grabbing it off our plates, sitting up well with support, and working on a tooth. We started with just simple fruit and vegetable purees with no lumps. For ease and convenience, we occasionally used the PC Organics pouches, but I mostly made homemade purees by steaming organic or local produce, cooling, and blending or mashing it with a little bit of water or breastmilk as needed for the right consistency.
Besides fruit and veggies, the only other food we tried at this beginning stage was oatmeal. I used Bob’s Red Mill rolled oats and blended them into basically a flour. I added 2 tablespoons of that to 1/2 cup of boiling water and whisked for 30 seconds before reducing the heat and whisking occasionally for 5 minutes. I added a bit of breastmilk and served Theo with a spoon, also letting him try to feed himself. However…he hated it. How could this be my baby?! Even now, at 7 months, he is not a fan of oatmeal. I think it must be a texture thing, that he’s not used to the lumps, but I am hoping he grows to like it.
His first poop post-solids was unfortunately not great. I remember him crying quite a bit for a while after that first meal, and then his first few poops had a bit of blood in them and lots of mucus. We avoided oatmeal for a month to see if that was the culprit, and his bowel movements improved substantially. But more on that in the “Allergies” section.
We see a naturopathic paediatrician for Theo, and she had recommended that we start with just fruit and vegetables until Theo got a tooth. So, even after Theo had turned 6 months, we stuck to fruit and veggies, but this time cut them into pinky-length-and-width strips that Theo could grab and feed himself with. Some were soft enough to be served without any kind of cooking or mashing, such as ripe watermelon, banana, mango, peach, and cucumber, but others needed to be steamed or roasted. And, as a first-time mom, you best believe I overcooked that produce! Examples of produce I steamed for Theo are broccoli, cauliflower, sweet potato/regular potato, zucchini, carrot, apple, pear, green bean, asparagus, and more.
Theo’s favourites? I find it depends on the day. If he’s really hungry, he’ll eat pretty much any fruit or vegetable! But he definitely doesn’t like any mushy purees or really strong tastes, like pineapple (which we pureed) and spinach (which I sautéed with olive oil, lemon, and garlic). If he strongly dislikes something, I’ll take it off the menu for at least a week before trying again.
He LOVES cauliflower, zucchini, and avocado. Those have probably been his favourite foods so far.
Because I am allergic to dairy, Theo hasn’t had a drop of dairy in utero or in my breastmilk. So, given both that and genetics, it’s quite likely that he will struggle with at least a sensitivity to dairy or lactose intolerance, though we are praying otherwise. We’ve also just found that Theo is a sensitive kid in general, prone to diaper rash, eczema, and tummy troubles. For about a month in his second month of life, he was having mucusy, green, bloody poops. They had been previously healthy looking, so this change prompted some questioning. I realized that, for the first month of Theo’s life, I hadn’t eaten any eggs, and these new funky bowel movements had appeared as I started eating them again. Upon our paediatricians advice, I cut out eggs, and Theo’s poops swiftly returned to normal. So it would seem that he unfortunately has an allergy to eggs, at least currently. This is something we hope to work with our naturopath to correct.
It’s also meant that we’ve taken a different approach to introducing common allergens. Since we’ve noticed that Theo has a sensitive gut, we’re introducing new foods slowly and cautiously – hence why we started with just fruits and veggies. Now we’ve added some grains, including organic wheat, oats again (which he seems to be tolerating better), whole grain teff, and buckwheat. We’ve also added some healthy fats, like olive and coconut oil, and flax seeds, which seem to have helped with satiety. In a few weeks, we’ll try some meats and nut butters and other protein foods. We won’t introduce dairy or eggs into his diet for several more months, after seeing how some of these other less high-risk foods go.
Breastfeeding and solids
One thing I had no idea about before I started researching was how to fit solids in with breastfeeding. I knew that breastmilk was supposed to make up the majority of your baby’s diet until about 1 year of age, but how much of the majority? And how would I ensure that Theo was getting both enough breastmilk and food?
Well, first of all, I learned the term “food before 1 is just for fun”, which gets thrown around a lot, and there are certainly differing opinions on the truth of this, hence adding to my frustration about baby advice and how one expert says one thing and another says the totally opposite thing. I’ve found this to be the case for just about every question I’ve had when it comes to Theo. But that’s another blog post for another day.
I have come to believe and understand that, really, every baby is different, but 6 months old is a good average for when babies are ready to start solids. Breastmilk contains very little iron, and a lot of research shows that babies need more of this important nutrient around 6 months. Starting solids around 6 months also allows babies to learn to chew and swallow food, experiencing a variety of tastes and textures. But not all babies’ guts are necessarily ready to digest solid food the second they turn 6 months, so I’ve found it important to remember that every little human is different and food is not one-size-fits-all.
Given that it’s best for breastmilk to take up 90-95% of daily calories still at 6 months, I always breastfeed Theo first and then prep his meal, sitting down to eat about 30 minutes after he’s finished a feed. This helps to ensure that he doesn’t fill up too much on food, keeps my milk supply up, and gets enough milk.
Initially researching water intake, I was not sold on giving Theo any water at this age. Breastmilk really provides all the hydration he needs, and I just didn’t see the need for it. At each meal, I would offer him a chance to practice using an open cup and to take small sips of water, but that would only amount to about 1 ounce per day. However, when Theo had a bad spell with constipation a few weeks ago, I figured upping his water intake to 2 ounces could help move things along, and several mom friends told me that water really helped their little ones. We still ensure that he’s not drinking more than 2 ounces per day, though, to avoid electrolyte imbalances or displacing important nutrition from breastmilk.
Choking vs. gagging
It seems everyone’s biggest worry when it comes to baby-led weaning and finger foods is that baby will choke; and this has definitely been my biggest worry too. The only reason I was comfortable with it is because research shows that it poses no greater risk for choking than spoon-feeding purees when the food is prepared correctly. Theo DEFINITELY gags, but that is normal behaviour for babies when eating purees or finger foods! They’re getting used to brand new tastes and textures, so it makes sense. Those first few gags can be scary to see, especially if you’re not sure what gagging looks like vs. choking. This is a great resource to get comfortable with that.
As I mentioned earlier, I currently offer Theo solids about 30 minutes after he’s had a full feed of breastmilk. For us, a typical schedule looks like this:
7:30am – Morning wake and breastmilk
8:15am – Solids/”breakfast”
9:30am – First nap
10:30am – Wake from nap and breastmilk
11:15am – Solids/”Lunch”
1:00pm – Breastmilk
1:30pm – Second nap
3:30pm – Wake from nap and breastmilk
4:15pm – Solids/”snack”
5:30pm – Cluster feed
6pm – Solids/”dinner”
7pm – Last milk before bed
But this isn’t the only way to do it.
Here are a few of the staple recipes for 6-8 months+ that I have developed that we have been loving so far! If you try one of these out, I would love to hear what you think!
“BREADED” ZUCCHINI STRIPS
1 zucchini, preferably organic or local, ends cut off and cut in half horizontally, then cut into 6 strips per half lengthwise
Roughly 1/3 cup organic, first cold-pressed, extra virgin olive oil
Roughly 1/3 cup nutritional yeast
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a small baking tray with parchment paper.
- Pour olive oil onto a plate. Sprinkle the nutritional yeast onto a separate plate.
- Roll a zucchini strip in the olive oil to coat. Then roll in the nutritional yeast. Place on the prepared tray. Repeat with the remaining zucchini strips.
- Bake until soft inside and golden-brown, 25-30 minutes. Cool before serving to your baby (or eating yourself; trust me when I say these are delicious!).
BABY BANANA BREAD
2 cups quick oats, preferably organic*
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 cups water or breastmilk or formula
1 ripe banana, preferably organic, mashed
1 tablespoon organic, cold-pressed coconut oil, melted, plus more for greasing the pan
- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Grease an 8×8 rimmed baking pan with coconut oil.
- In a medium bowl, mix the oats with the baking powder, and then add the water or milk. Mix in the mashed banana and melted coconut oil and stir until a clumpy batter forms.
- Pour the mix into your baking pan. Bake until firm, about 30-35 minutes.
- Chill in the fridge, then cut into rectangles to serve. This is also delicious with a thin spread of nut butter!
*Note: I have tried this with rolled oats, and it didn’t hold together very well for me.
1 cup frozen strawberry, mango, pineapple, and peach mix, thawed
1/4 cup breastmilk or formula
- Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth, adding water or breastmilk to reach desired consistency.
- Offer baby a spoon for self feeding or use as a dip with steamed fruit.
And I’m sure you’ve already heard of it, but you can’t go wrong with Solid Starts. I reference their articles a lot for guidance on how to cut/prepare single-ingredient foods based on Theo’s age. They have information on every food you could imagine!
For sample schedules and meal timing, I’ve really liked A Mother Far From Home.