Disclaimer: I am not a (medical) doctor, this is only our journey with food. Please seek professional advice in tailoring your plan for your baby’s first solid foods.
At the mothers group workshops run by the family services hub the maternal health nurse taught us how to make Farex rice cereal so we could see what the most widely used first baby food looks like. The nurse carried the bowl of grey mush around, saying “don’t get too close, you don’t want to smell it!”
Gross. Why would I serve this to my babe after she has been watching and smelling the colourful array of delicious foods on our plates for the last few months?
We learnt at uni that smell and taste are inextricably linked. If your food smells like crap it’s going to taste pretty crap. After seeing so much disordered eating walk through my clinic I want my baby’s first adventures with food to create a life long love of putting in the most nourishing foods in her itty bitty body. It may not seem important but a baby creates millions of brain pathways in his first year of life that lay the foundation for all his future knowledge, every lesson he learns through life will sprout from his first experiences. That’s why everything excites him so much right now, his brain is growing like crazy. Bless him.
Aside from the gross smell, there is no nutritional value in Farex or other baby cereals that you can’t get in meat, vegetables and fruit, in fact the ingredients are actually difficult for your baby to digest.
Cyndi O’Meara (Changing Habits) was concerned about the ‘iron fortification’ in packaged baby foods – “what kind of iron? The iron in kale, spinach or other foods, or the iron shillings in my car? Those who have seen me talk may remember this, that the iron added into your food (not naturally present) can be extracted using a magnet. Yes, you heard right. I have done so myself. I crushed iron fortified cereal and removed the iron shillings with a magnet. It concerns me of how a 4 month old baby would metabolise this.”
At mothers group they did mention that first foods should ideally be introduced at 6 months of age. Yay mothers group!
Food can be a beautiful experience of nourishing body and mind and sharing love with family. Or it can be a chore or an obsession. We have started creating a healthy association for Little Lou even though she isn’t eating yet. From 3 months old she sat up at the table with us for meals and we talk about all the colours on our plate and she giggles and flaps her arms and legs excitedly as we ohhhh and ahhhh over our meal. We don’t multitask while we eat – no phones, TV, books – we all sit at the table and she watches us make eye contact and talk about our day and engage with her over shared love and food. This association is important – for the rest of her life her meals should represent love and joy.
After six months the nutrients that your beautiful little vampire sucked from you in the womb start to wear down and your baby needs more iron and zinc, which comes from meat, seafood and green vegetables (notice there is no need for grains. Baby cereals are heavily marketed – don’t fall for the hype).
They don’t need fruit early on, it’s up to you – they can develop a sweet tooth and then you’ll struggle to get meat and vegetables into them later on but generally this isn’t an issue because kids have an innate preference for foods that are nutritionally awesome for them; they haven’t been manipulated by clever marketing and social pressures yet so they will eat even those healthy foods you think are “icky”. And dirt – they love eating dirt! (They aren’t dumb little critters, dirt is full of iodine and millions of antioxidants). At a recent ABA workshop I went to on First Foods for Babies, one of the mums confessed that she had to add puréed apple to everything her baby eats because she started on fruit and he would only eat sweet food from then on (which is fine!)
This is our journey with Little Lou’s first foods. I am passionate about food and passionate about brain and body development so I hope you can find something in here that will suit your little family. Always remember: just do what works for you at every given moment.
The rule is food is for fun until they are one. Breastmilk still provides the bulk of nutrition until 12 months old. It is recommended by the World Health Organisation and the ABA to continue breast milk until 2 years and beyond. Formula does not have the immune-protective benefits of boobie milk and it has some nasty ingredients that you won’t find in fruits and vegetables, so full steam ahead with real foods once you can ditch the bottle.
We will focus on textures, colours and flavours in this first year (not just sweet and savoury but spicy, sour, and bitter too) because food is not for nutrition at this stage. We are just playing for now! Breast feed before a meal so they don’t fill up on food and still get enough of that liquid gold. Some babies like to “wash down” their food with boobie milk after a meal too – this may be an intuitive way of protecting the baby from bugs in the food that the boobie milk will kill.
Introduce only one new food for a few days so you can tell if it upsets her. Keep an eye out for skin rashes, unusual fussiness, and changed frequency or consistency of bowel movements.
Here is a list of Little Lou’s first foods:
Leftover chop bones
Egg yolk (the whites can cause allergies so we will probably wait for these at 1 year old)
Yoghurt kefir (coconut)
Puréed fish and fish chunks
Puréed meat, mince and small meat chunks
Purée broccoli with leafy greens and pear
Grated raw carrot
Strips of omelette
Fermented vegetable juice
…Whatever we are eating!!
*never give your baby honey because it can be toxic and cause paralysis
See our Food Journal for more tips on cooking for brand new babes.
Your little babe has the rest of his life to eat so don’t rush him and remember that real food is always better so check the labels of packaged baby foods or just steam some veggies.