One of my most requested posts is about how we worked on introducing solids to our daughter. I’ve been a bit hesitatant to post about it for a few reasons. First, as a first time mom, I don’t feel authoratitive on the subject. While we have found what works for our baby and our family, I truly believe there are a number of different ways to approach food with your little one. Second, feeding is a serious business. We’ve had our own scary moments and feelings of overwhelm and I am not a feeding therapist or physician so I don’t feel qualified to expound on the technical aspects of feeding. Further, Lilly eats like a one year old at nine months so I know our feeding strategy and techniques are not the norm and I don’t want to lead other parents astray – or make anyone feel as though they need to be further along than they are in the feeding process. Thirdly, everything changes so fast by the time I was ready to write about purees we had already moved on to true solids! But I do think that there is much to be said about feeding and the content of our baby’s food so I decided to write this post in hopes of sharing our own experience as it’s happened thus far.
It feels as though everything accelerated after Lillian turned six months old and we moved to Florida (more on that soon) but specifically in the eating department. Food was a true turning point for us with our high needs baby who became much more content and satiated with the experience. I had offered a little taste of sweet potato at Thanksgiving and let her suck on a piece of cantaloupe in December so she had tasted food without truly eating at four and five months respectively. However, we decided to hold off on truly introducing solids until six months per the WHO recommendation that babies ingest breastmilk exclusively for their first six months of life. As you know, I am a strong proponent of “fed is best” and am only quoting this directly – for me the gist is formula or breastmilk for the first six months of life with solids coming in at six months of age.
I used the Babycook from BÉABA (a French company) to puree her first meal. We decided on avocado because of its smooth texture and high fat content. After pureeing, we mixed just the amount she would be ingesting with breastmilk (can’t waste a drop!). We used these bowls, this spoon, this catch-all bib, and this high chair. If you’re short on space, we also feed her in the Bumbo seat. Shortly after ingesting the avocado she broke out into hives. Our pediatrician said avocado is an extremely low allergen food and that it was highly unlikely that she was reacting to it so it may have been her detergent or something else. Nevertheless, we waited to reintroduce avocado for a couple weeks – there’s only so much my mama heart can handle!
Every three days we introduced a new puree. This is similar to the French who believe that introducing vegetables before fruits is important. As Karen Le Billon, author of French Kids Eat Everything explains, “The FSP (French Society of Pediatrics) tells parents: children’s appetite diminishes around the age of 2 years old. This is when ‘neophobia’ (fear of new foods) tends to appear (in about 3 out of 4 children). It’s important to maintain the “4 meals per day” structure to the eating routine, without forcing kids to eat. So before the ages of 2 and 3, French parents are eager to introduce their child to lots of flavors, textures, and tastes.” For us, sweet potato came next, then carrots, then butternut squash, green beans, kale, beets, broccoli, lentils, black beans and the list just expanded from there. We held off on peas which the French believe can be challenging to digest this early on.
I began to combine produce once she had successfully eaten them so she would get used to more complex flavors. I also added olive oil, salt, pepper, oregano, thyme, rosemary, paprika, roasted garlic, tarragon, cinammon, nutmeg, onion powder, basil, bone broth, and coconut oil to different purees just to keep introducing new flavors as well. If she didn’t have a dairy intolerance, I would also have used grass-fed unsalted butter. I have heard ghee is a good option as well but I’m a good Francophile and say give me butter or give me…butter. We also served her vegetable bouillon and bone broth in her bottle, particularly if she seemed like she was coming down with something. I would freeze the purees in these trays for on Sundays when I meal prepped for our family so we all had food for the week. I found this book, this book, and this book useful for coming up with more inspired ideas when I was feeling like her meals were getting too repetitive.
The Next Step
The week before we moved, we stayed with my brother and sister in law and Lilly tried puffs for the first time. Seeing her capacity to eat them made me realize she could probably eat softer pieces of food in addition to purees. (I have since learned baby’s guts can’t really handle grains this early so we have cut back on those.) She had already had egg yolk from over easy eggs so I felt ready to introduce the whole egg. Scrambled eggs chopped into tiny pieces were a huge success which bolstered my confidence. Next, I tried avocado cut into baby led weaning style strips that she would grasp with her fist and shove into her mouth with gusto. I continued to introduce soft foods in this manner and was so surprised to see her eating everything and chewing with her gums. She still doesn’t have teeth (although one just broke through the gums!) and now eats much less soft foods with equal ease which I do not think is necessarily the norm or the experience for many. This was also around the time (7 months) that I introduced pouches since we were in the middle of a move and I didn’t have the ability to make purees myself. After much research, I found that Plum Organics had no additives and their color combinations with spices aligned with what we had already been doing.
Tout le Alimentaire (All the Food!)
When we arrived in Florida, Lilly grabbed an orange slice and just started gnawing on it. She ended up sucking the juice and small pieces of pulp off of several slices and this is when I knew we were officially eating the real stuff. Next came pieces of watermelon and then I introduced ground turkey seasoned with a dash of chili powder, garlic, kosher salt, pepper and oregano. I began cooking my regular meal prep foods from our CSA and just cutting everything into very small pieces that she could ingest whole if it so happened. My rule was if it can go down whole safely, it can be on her tray. Over time this has become more lax since I can see her chewing with her gums but I keep everything soft and easily gnashed. Although baby led weaning appeals to me still, after a very scary incident where she bit off quite literally more than she could chew of a cooked carrot, and after reading this article about the physiological capabilities of babies to move food through their mouth, I realized that just because she can bite a large piece doesn’t mean she knows what to do with it once its in her mouth. I still cut strips for very soft foods but anything that would be hard to gnash into smaller bits gets cut up into small, but graspable pieces.
Feeding Like the French
After very much enjoying Bringing up Bébé, I was excited to read this similar book about how the French feed their children. Unsurprisingly, most of what I ready already aligned with what we were doing. She eats what we are eating. No special requests or “kid food.” My mom was the same way and inspired a life long love of eating so I am trying to remain constant in this practice. I am aware that we have what many may consider an unusually open eater. But the book speaks at length about how the French government has actually studied how we learn to like food and that it can take upward of 20 introductions before a new food is a liked one. There have definitely been foods she’s less pleased with (bananas and oatmeal in particular), but I keep giving them to her regularly in the hopes that prolonged exposure will foster an acquired taste. I give her a lot of foods that seem odd for a baby like anchovies and sardines, bone marrow, terrines, all the meat and fish that we enjoy in our home, pickled vegetables, kimchi, guacamole with jalepenos, you get the idea. Some French favorites have been coq au vin, boeuf bourguignon, ratatouille and duck confit. Due to her dairy intoleralance, I haven’t been able to introduce all the soft cheeses, yogurt, creme fraiche and butter that I would like but that will come in due time.,
As far as scheduling, much like the French, we don’t really snack. I might give her some puffs in a pinch for entertainment purposes (such as a long car ride) but really we stick to three meals a day and goûter (a sweet snack of fruit compote or fruit between lunch and dinner). Unlike Americans, the French don’t use snacks as a distraction or a reward and never use any sort of penal language around food. Of course in an ideal world I would never use food as a distraction but parenthood is all about survival so we do the best we can. France has the lowest rate of childhood obesity in the developed world by a long shot so I think this type of schedule has teeth so to speak. We eat our meals together as a family whenever possible to encourage her to see mealtime as an event worth being a part of and we dine out very often so that she adapts to that, too!
I hope this answers your questions about how we are feeding. As with all parenting decisions, I feel this is a highly personal choice and this is what works well for us given our particularly baby, our own food preferences and ideologies, and the way in which we hope to inspire her lifelong love of eating. Bon appetit!