After spending our first few months together as my child’s only food source—breastfeeding on demand, pumping around the clock, preparing bottle after bottle—I was thrilled when the pediatrician announced that Noah was ready to start solid foods at his four month check up. I had gotten a fancy baby food maker at my shower and I was totally READY for this. Or so I thought…
Realizing it was time to start solids
Just before said check up, I noticed Noah was very interested in others eating. When my husband and I ate dinner, he stared intently as the forks moved around our plates and into our mouths. Whenever I snacked with him on my lap or hip, he desperately swiped at my fork or spoon. But he was also exhibiting some important, but less obvious, signs of readiness. He was holding his head steady while sitting up (assisted) in his seat and being less spastic about tongue movement while welcoming incoming spoon-like motions with a wide open mouth. All of these signs, which typically occur between four and six months (though allllll babes develop at their own pace—my youngest is four months and nowhere near as ready—so make sure to speak with you ped before intro’ing solids), showed me he might be ready to try some first bites.
Where do we start?
Great! So what do babies this young eat?! I took to the internet to figure out some suggested foods for his age, along with preparation and storage guidance. My pediatrician suggested fresh fruits and vegetables (rather than starches or cereals) and since we don’t have any family history of allergies, we were advised we didn’t have to follow the ‘three days in a row’ rule. I started with some basic fruits and veggies that were seasonal and readily available nearby: apples, sweet potatoes, and butternut squash. For the first few batches, I used my fancy baby food maker to steam and puree his meals. But after a few weeks, I wanted to start expanding his palate with different foods and spices…and I was determined to limit the amount of ‘extra work’ I’d have to do by making sure he was eating nutritious meals.
Side note: I was a huge proponent of making my own meals. I don’t order in often so it seemed strange to use ‘pre-made’ meals and baby foods for my little one. WELL, homemade is wonderful if you’ve got the time, the patience, and the imagination.
The new homemade
While I did much of my own cooking, I also started using Little Spoon for flavors that either weren’t easily accessible to me via my local grocery store or that I hadn’t even thought of. Mangos, for example, were an instant hit and are still a staple in Noah’s diet (thank you Little Spoon!) but were not in season near me at the time and sometimes impossible to find at our grocers. Little Spoon has tons of different blends with mango—including their single-ingredient Mango Babyblend so I was able to continue to make some mixes myself with a little short cut.
Little Spoon also helped introduce ingredients like turmeric, cinnamon, flaxseed, and hemp that I would never have used on my own. All these ingredients sounded great but were intimidating for me to figure out how to prep for and pair myself. By the time Noah was 6½ months old he was eating two to three meals per day without too much pickiness.
Hitting speed bumps
Don’t get me wrong, there can be speed bumps in this journey. Lots of them. My first—and one we still battle with at nearly two years old—is teething. When your babe is teething, it’s super common for them to become irritable and avoid eating for the most part. It hurts! They’re in pain—things are moving and shifting, poking through their gums and it’s just awful. Try to be patient during this time. It doesn’t mean they hate their meals, but they may need to take a break from certain flavors (like citrus and tomato) and textures.
Another issue we ran into was some stomach upset. Again, totally 100% normal when starting solids (or switching formulas, trying new foods and flavors, even when you change up your own diet while exclusively breast-feeding!) But still unpleasant. Tummy troubles (in the form of constipation, gassiness and/or diarrhea) happened with some foods like greens and bananas. When starting out, try to take a mental note (if not physical if you have the time and patience) of side effects in your baby when they try new foods for about 24 hours afterwards. It’s easy to limit certain foods (like kale and broccoli) if they cause some upset rather than cutting them out completely. Adjustment periods are not the same as allergies! You definitely want to let your little one’s body figure it out before you take away nutritious ingredients altogether. And there are actually Little Spoon blends that help with digestion like their Quinoa Raspberry Pear Coconut Milk Vanilla Date Wheat Germ Oil. They even have a constipation remedy, Poopie Power, that it’s easy to stir into a bottle or puree for some relief.
There’s always tomorrow
Last, but certainly not least is ‘rejection’. I put that in quotations because I feel like true rejection is quite rare. Like regular full grown adults, our baby wasn’t a fan of every single thing we ate—he had a mind and taste buds of his own! I say this to emphasize that it was a journey. It involved lots of spitting out, funny faces, head shaking, throwing—all with foods that he came to love and still enjoys to this day! Be patient with your little one and don’t take ‘no’ for an answer, at least not without trying again down the line, or at another temperature, or mixed with different flavors and/or spices. Chances are your little one will need to try a few things a few times before they make up their minds so don’t assume they don’t like it or aren’t ready 🙂
Overall, I found that starting solids should be FUN! Your babe is likely still on breastmilk or formula, so their eating is more for development and exploration than sustenance in the beginning. Try lots of different things, keep it light-hearted, have an open mind, and let them explore.