Giving Your Baby a Solid Start
Krysten Vaughn’s baby is only 3 weeks old, but already she’s looking ahead to the day when her daughter will be ready for a big feeding milestone — solid foods. And like many parents, Vaughn wants to make her own baby food — both as a cost saving measure and as a way to prompt her entire family to eat healthier.
“My baby is just 3 weeks old but I’m staying home with her and have planned all along to make her food,” the Dallas-area mom said. “If we are eating good and fresh I figure it would be best to make sure she gets the good and fresh stuff as well.”
Ashley Gair, a pediatrician on the medical staff at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Plano, also cautions that starting solids should come after a conversation with your child’s doctor.
“It is always helpful speaking with your pediatrician prior to introducing solid foods,” she said. “Keep in mind that in general, most babies are ready for solid foods around 6 months of age.”
But age isn’t the only thing a parent should be looking for, Gair said, adding that “at this time they should have good head control, be able to sit with some help and open their mouths for food.”
But should this new food delivery method replace breast milk or formula? There is a common phrase among some experts: “Food before one is just for fun.” However, that phrase should probably be changed to “Food is mostly for fun before one,” since that food is teaching your child new developmental tricks, doctors say.
“When first introducing solid foods, keep in mind that you are trying to introduce your infant to a new way of taking food,” Gair said. “These solid foods are not a significant source of calories and are not designed to help your infant sleep through the night.”
Gair said that, for instance, the average jar of stage one baby food has about 30 calories, whereas an ounce of breast milk or formula has about 20 calories.
“I generally recommend starting with one ‘meal’ a day and offering that meal either one hour before or one hour after a regular feed,” Gair said.
And don’t expect baby to always love every new food he or she tries — or even to like the texture of solid food right away. Your baby may spit every single spoonful out that first feeding. If your baby doesn’t seem to be getting the hang of it, Gair said you might want to try again later.
“As with all developmental milestones, each infant will reach them at his or her own pace,” she said. “There is a wide range of normal. If, at first, your baby does not seem interested in taking solid foods, stop and wait a week or so and then try again.
“If your baby seems uninterested in a particular food, do not get discouraged,” Gair added. “Keep trying.” It takes many rejections of a particular food before you can say they do not like it.
And if you’re like the Vaughn family and want to make your own baby food, it’s “fairly easy,” Gair said.
“Clean the fruits/vegetables as you normally would,” she said. “Remember that stage 1 foods are liquidy. I describe them as ‘soup-like’ to my families.
“If you steam vegetables first, you can puree them with either the water from the steam process or breast milk or formula,” Gair recommended. “There is no proven benefit to starting vegetables first and then adding fruits. In fact, fruits are sometimes easier to puree and mash than veggies.”
Ruth Yaron, the author of a baby food cookbook titled “Super Baby Food,” likes avocado and bananas for first foods. Both, she writes, can be fork mashed and thinned easily with breast milk, formula or water — and even combined together for a healthy first-year meal. Later, she adds, “at about 7 months old you may add a half-teaspoon of organic, virgin coconut oil to this meal for a nutritional boost.”
Kid-friendly recipe site Weelicious.com even offers a course for new moms interested in making their own food that discusses not only great recipes but also proper storage of homemade baby food and what kind of tools you might need, all led by experts.
But most of all, Dr. Gair wants you to know that this new milestone should be enjoyable for your family. “Just remember to have fun with it, and your baby will have fun with it, too,” she said.
A solid start may help your baby stay on the healthy track, but learn how you and your baby can stay healthy together by reading some mom and baby fitness tips from our experts.