The introduction of solid foods was a very exciting event in our house. We love food and were so excited about having our little people join us at meal times. Before starting we talked about it for a few weeks and studied a few of our favourite resources to get an understanding of the key guidelines for introducing foods, which foods to introduce when, and how to minimize the risk of allergies, food reactions and autoimmunity.
It was an exciting and very messy journey but we loved it.. and so did our kids.
My first experience was with my son… 4 years ago now. I felt it was a really special occasion the first time we prepared something other than breast milk for him and we couldn’t wait to see his reaction. It had made it easier that in the lead up, we had been given him little wooden spoons to play with which he thoroughly enjoyed putting in his mouth. It wasn’t hard to get him excited about the little spoons again, this time with something exciting on them.
We kept the same routine when we were preparing him for food, I would bring him into the kitchen with me and show him what I am doing as I boil, steam, bake or puree. He wants to see, touch and taste everything. I would get out his little bib (with little scoop bucket at the bottom to catch all the falling bits) and he would flap his arms and legs wildly and gurgle with excitement. He knew what was coming. As soon as I got near him with the bowl and spoon, he would reach out and grab it. He was one strong little man.. and still is actually. It took a lot of effort to pry the bowl or the spoon from his chubby little hands. He would put his hands in it, rubs it all around, screech with excitement, meanwhile little hand covered in muck were flailing around flicking bits of food around and rubbing it all over his face, eyes, clothes and hair.
It was the messiest time of the day.. and my experience didn’t seem to help with my daughter the second time around. It was still messy and exciting and awesome.
I still remember the very first time I fed him, I did so with little thought to much else. I were just so excited, that once that little bowl and food was ready to go, we just got straight in there. We just sat on his playmat and started. It wasn’t until I was in the shower afterwards pulling out the glug from my hair, washing both mine and his clothes and wiping down the floor, the mat and some toys that just happened to be within range; that I realized this was going to be a pretty crazy time of day.
The second time, I was prepared and approached it with military precision. Both he and I were wearing minimal clothing and I had my hair tied back, bandana in place trying to cover of much as possible. I cleared the mat, moved everything out of reach and had both a wet cloth and teatowel at the ready. Did it help? Mmm maybe a little. Was it any cleaner? Not a chance. We hopped straight into the shower afterwards. Maybe we should have just eaten in the shower?
I remember wondering how much food he was actually getting into his mouth; we both seem to wear so much of it and his bib was always covered in residue. His excitement made it all worthwhile though and I looked forward to it as much as he did … despite the mess. Summer was much easier; we just ate outside and then hosed down afterwards.
I bought the most awesome highchair which attaches to the table and I used it for both my kids, I even bought a second one for my parents house and we took it with us whenever we travelled. It was perfect for us as we started out in such a tiny apartment, we really didn’t have room for another chair.
So, how do you know when is the right time to start solids?
6 months is around about the time that solids are usually introduced, some people start earlier but I read quite extensively about a baby’s stomach development and although they may be showing signs of readiness, their little digestive systems (even after the age of 6 months) are still underdeveloped – especially with regard to breaking down carbohydrates. It’s really important to wait until at least 6 months before offering anything other than breast-milk and then start slowly and trial new foods for 4 days before moving onto the next. It’s important to start with foods that are easy for their little systems whilst being as nutrient dense as possible.
For a lot of people, our list of foods is probably going to come as quite a shock. We’ve had quite a few strange looks and some odd comment from people who seem to think we are pretty ‘out there’ in our thinking. I’m surprised really to find so much resistance to good nourishing foods whilst there is widespread acceptance of feeding babies and young children highly processed junk.
So, in order of introduction, here is our list of first foods:
- Egg Yolk
- Raw Liver
- Fermented Cod Liver Oil
- Pumpkin, Sweet potato, Carrot, Parsnips
- Avocado and Banana
Are you freaked out yet? It’s ok. That’s the reaction we get most of the time; but its only because the vast majority of people are being told to rush out and buy Iron fortified Rice Cereal. Excuse me while I take a moment to scream and rip my hair out. I find this appalling. On what planet does it make sense for your babies’ first food to be a highly processed, man made product with virtually zero nutritional value? It just doesn’t make any sense to me at all.
Chris Kresser (The Healthy Baby Code) says:
“A baby’s digestive system is also immature and allows large particles of food to be absorbed. If these particles get into the bloodstream, they can cause an immune reaction (manifesting as asthma, food allergies, respiratory allergies, skin conditions, etc.).
Also, babies have limited enzyme production, which is necessary for the digestion of foods. It takes up to 28 months, around the time when the molar teeth are completely developed, for carbohydrate digesting enzymes like amylase to become fully functional. Babies do produce pepsin and proteolytic enzymes, as well as digestive juices (hydrochloric acid) that allow them to digest protein and fat. (This explains why proteins and fats should always be the first foods introduced after six months.)”
“Egg yolk, brain and liver are all exceptionally rich sources of the fat-soluble vitamins A and D, cholesterol and a wide range of other nutrients that babies will require for development of the brain and nervous system. They are easily digested, and are well known as first foods in most traditional cultures and even up until 50 years or so ago were commonly used in ours. “ [Jude Blereau – Author of Wholefood for Children]
And while egg yolks are excellent sources of nutrition for growing babies, the egg white should not be given before one year of age. The white contains difficult to digest proteins that your baby will not be able to easily break down, so feeding whites too soon can increase the risk of food allergies.
So how do you do it?
Place one egg into a saucepan of boiling water and cook for 3 minutes, a little longer if the egg is a large one. Cut the top off the egg and poke the yolk so that it runs out into a bowl or if possible, scoop out the egg yolk and discard the white. Serve the yolk stand alone to your baby for 4 days – if there are no adverse reactions, you can continue to add a cooked yolk each day to vegetable purees and liver.
The liver is pretty easy too, we have organic (grass fed) beef livers that have been minced in our freezer. I just shave off a small amount of frozen raw liver into the egg yolk or vegetable puree. The warmth of the egg or the veggies will lightly cook the liver. Super easy. If you are wondering whether my kids freaked out? They didn’t. They loved it.
Since I was 8 months old I’ve always eaten at the table with my family, it was a big deal for my parents and food has always been a large part of our culture. It felt the same for me when I was bringing our children to the table, their excitement most certainly matched my own. Our intention is to assist our children to consistently make excellent food choices as they grow up, until then, we are giving them the absolute best start possible.
Feel free to share your thoughts on first foods and how you went introducing solids. It’s certainly a fun time and I would love to hear from you.