As a dietetics major in undergrad, we were well-versed in maternal and infant nutrition since this was one of our core requirements come our senior year in the program. We learned about theories behind maternal nutrition throughout pregnancy and postpartum, as well as what baby needs to thrive. What was always hammered into our Maternal and Infant Nutrition course was that baby should know how to support her own head, have an interest in the food of those around her, and be 6 months old.
Six months, six months, six months!
Baby’s iron stores are only good enough to last 6 months out of the womb (as well as zinc, protein, vitamins B and D), so by the time baby reaches 6 months of age, iron-fortified cereal has long been the recommendation as a first food for baby for as long as I can remember. Breastmilk alone is nutritionally complete for the first 6 months of life. I also learned early exposure to solid foods can have a negative impact on baby, mostly because baby’s gut hasn’t fully matured enough to handle solid foods without possible inflammation, allergies, constipation, and/or diarrhea. However, before I even had Jia, I noticed on my Facebook newsfeed that a lot of my friends were starting their babies on solid foods right around the 4 month mark. Despite all of the adorable pictures of babies with food all over their faces, in my head I questioned this since it went against what I learned all those years back in college.
Reasons I’d encountered were:
- an older family member or parent thought the baby would sleep better at night
- the cereal given in bottles would alleviate reflux/colic, as directed by pediatrician
- parent thought the baby seemed hungry after feedings
- parent just felt like their baby was old enough
Then, I had Jia. At her 4 month appointment, we went in for a follow-up for her soy/dairy intolerance. At the end of our appointment, our pediatrician said, “Normally I would be starting her on solid foods right now, but because of her soy and dairy allergies I want to hold off.” I actually breathed a gigantic sigh of relief – I wasn’t at all comfortable starting her so early. But I thought to myself, Why were the rules changing?
So, I went to where I knew to look: the American Academy of Pediatrics.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends waiting to introduce solid foods until infants are between 4 and 6 months old. – aap.org
The rules hadn’t changed drastically, but they did change.
Continuing my search, a 2010 article from the Maternal and Child Health Journal titled, “Introduction of Solid Food to Young Infants” states that exclusively breastfed babies should not start solid foods until they are 6 months old, while formula-fed babies should be started between 4 and 6 months.
We introduced Jia to solids at 5 months & 1 week old. She’d been experiencing teething symptoms, no longer sleeping through the night, often crying and screaming until she nursed at night. Jeff and I’d been going back and forth between Tylenol doses and Hyland’s Teething Tablets still unsure what would settle her. I went ahead and tried solids because of the AAP’s recommendation and that of our pediatrician to allay her discomfort and trouble sleeping. After two nights, she was back to sleeping. Not sure if it was because she was really ready to eat solids to keep her full at night (the pediatrician said she was requiring nighttime feedings due to increased calorie requirements) or if her gums just coincidentally started feeling some relief.
which food first?
Yet another change is to the traditional solid-food sequence! Back in the day in dietetics, we learned introduction of solids should go in this order: iron-fortified cereal, vegetables, fruits, meats. Veggies were always before fruits, for fear of baby developing a sweet-tooth (or sweet-gum, ha). Nowadays, it’s a free-for-all. Though they say that single-grain cereals are usually started first, the AAP states “there is no medical evidence that introducing solid foods in any particular order has an advantage for your baby,” and that “babies are born with a preference for sweets…the order of introducing foods does not change this.” Even though, I’m more comfortable starting a few vegetables before I introduce fruits to Jia.
what we did: (keep in mind, each food should be tried individually for a couple days to watch for allergic reaction before the next)
- Happy Bellies Organic Baby Oatmeal (1 Tbsp day 1, 1.5 Tbsp day 2, 2 Tbsp day 3)
- Freshly mashed avocado
- Frozen peas that were microwaved in water, water drained, peas mashed then mixed with a little breastmilk (the skin of the peas bothered me, the milk helped with consistency)
- Fresh peeled organic carrots (carrots are on the Dirty Dozen list of foods you should eat organically, due to pesticide content. See source below) steamed in our rice cooker then mashed. Jia – not a fan on day 1, and day 2 she kept having problems keeping carrots down. We’ll revisit carrots.
- Mashed banana with a tad of breastmilk
- Beets, peeled and steamed (vacuum-sealed from the grocery store), mixed with oatmeal
- Blueberries – mashed by hand
- Pears – pureed with a food processor
Once Jia was OK (two poops that were OK, about 2 days) with the fruit/veggie, I would mix. Example: once she was ok with banana, I mixed banana and avocado, beets and blueberries, etc.
To mash, so far for the majority of Jia’s venture into solid foods, I have been using Nuk’s Mash & Serve Bowl that we got from our Amazon.com Baby Registry. I was looking for something simple and would “upgrade” to a more intricate baby food making contraption if this one didn’t work. So far it is getting the job done, it washes out easily, and using Munchkin’s White Hot Safety Spoons, the food was easy to scrape out of the grooves of the bowl. My MIL lent us her Cuisinart Food Processor which worked really well with the pears, so I’ll probably keep using that for my homemade foods. My favorite bib for solid food feeding has been Modern-Twist’s Baby Bucket Bib. It’s made of food-grade silicone so it is buttery soft and is SUCH a breeze to rinse and clean mashed up food, and can be rolled up and thrown into a diaper bag for food on the go. Jia loves to grab it and suck food off of it when she’s done. I LOVE it. Sometimes I put the Bibbitec Ultimate Baby Bib on her for extra mess protection – it’s like a smock for eating. I also got the Baby Bjorn Soft Bib, which is much more rigid, definitely not even close as soft. It has a cute little “pearl” necklace detail, but if given the choice, I’ll grab for the Modern Twist bib. To serve Jia’s little portions and to keep them portioned in the fridge or if on the go, I love the Wean Green Wean Cubes. They’re made of glass, so no harmful PVCs, phthalates or BPA, the lids snap on very securely with a reassuring *click* and they’re the perfect size. I also have the Oxo Tot Baby Food Freezer Trays for our mixes. I haven’t poked them out of their freezer pods yet but they’re nicely sized 3/4 oz. cubes and the trays are BPA/phthalate free! The lid slides on (so it always fits onto the tray) and has a little lip at the top and bottom if you want to take out just one cube and leave the remaining cubes intact.
American Academy of Pediatrics (http://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/Pages/Starting-Solids-Too-Early-May-Increase-Obesity-Risk.aspx)
Maternal and Child Health Journal (http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10995-010-0669-5/fulltext.html)
Dirty Dozen – Organic.org (http://www.organic.org/articles/showarticle/article-214)