With my first baby, I carefully followed the little table in the book they gave me in the hospital that tells you exactly which food to start with, and in which order to introduce other foods. I sat Jack in his highchair and watched as he tongued back out the little spoonfuls of rice cereal mixed with breast milk that I patiently put into his mouth.
Then I scraped it off of his face and offered it again.
And all I got for my trouble was a baby so constipated that he broke a bunch of capillaries in his cheeks straining to go.
So, so sad.
These days, I really don’t have the time or the inclination to spoon feed a baby. And I don’t even think it’s the best way to go about it. So starting a baby on solid foods at our house looks a lot different now. A LOT different. And for me it works a lot better.
Disclaimer, disclaimer, disclaimer: My babies have all been healthy and free from conditions that might affect their eating, and my family doesn’t have a history of food allergies. Here’s where I’m supposed to tell you to ask your doctor, but, honestly, I don’t think all doctors are especially good at this part. So, how about, just trust your Mama gut. That’s what I do. I’m not saying you should do this. I’m just saying this is what *I* do.
So, here’s how I feed babies now:
1. I start when baby shows interest, not on a set timeline.
For most of my babies that has been around five months. Your babies may vary.
I don’t rely on baby being able to sit up, or sit in a high chair, because she’s mostly sitting on my lap anyway. (I do use a high chair, eventually.) I don’t rely on teeth coming in, because my babies don’t get teeth until they’re almost a year and they really, really want to eat solid food well before that.
2. No rice cereal.
‘Cause I do not want to do that again.
But no matter what, feeding babies makes me feel a bit like a mad scientist anyway. Or a potions master. Baby straining to go? More water, more nursing. Still? Peaches and bits of raisins. Uh oh. Overshot. Bananas!
3. I don’t use baby food.
I don’t use rice cereal, but I also mostly don’t use other baby foods either.
With my first, I puréed my own baby food and froze it in little trays, because I think that’s mandatory for all first time moms who ever read an attachment parenting book.
Then I had my second nineteen months later and I couldn’t even imagine a world in which I could have found a way to steam a sweet potato AND put it in the blender on the same day. So I bought jars of baby food. And she wouldn’t have anything to do with them. Even at six and seven and eight months. She just wasn’t interested.
So I kept nursing her and started offering her bits of my food. And THAT she liked. So that’s what we did. No baby food, and it was fine.
4. Baby eats what I eat.
At five or six months, or when they show an interest, I start them on tiny sips of broth off of my spoon, or a little fingerful of a soft fruit or vegetable I’m having.
Eventually, as baby is able to gum and swallow more, she gets a little of everything I’m eating. Meat, veggies, eggs, dairy, nuts, everything. After reading this article in the Wall Street Journal, I actually make a point of giving my kids highly allergenic foods, in case it does help to introduce them early.
My guess is that my kids just naturally don’t happen to have food allergies. My oldest, to whom I did not give peanuts as a baby doesn’t have a peanut allergy, and neither do my younger kids, who have been gumming peanut butter and jelly sandwiches since six months old.
So, maybe it helps with allergies, maybe not, but it IS cheaper, easier, and more convenient than baby food. Our babies and toddlers and kids just eat what we are eating.
I think it makes for an easier transition to solid food as well. Since my babies are breastfed, they are used to some of the tastes of the foods I usually eat, since the flavors come through in the breast milk. Table food is going to taste a lot more familiar to my baby than a single ingredient jar of squash, because I don’t eat a lot of squash baby food.
5. I think of table food as entertainment, not nourishment.
Here’s the best difference between how I fed my oldest and how I feed babies now: I don’t worry about it. At all.
I keep nursing my babies until somewhere between one and two, depending on the baby <cough, Frankie> and that’s where their most important nutrition is coming from.
With Jack, I kept track of how much he had eaten in a day. I sat with him in the high chair trying to get him to finish a serving of baby food, spoonful by spoonful.
I do not do that anymore. Babies who can’t feed themselves get to eat off of my plate, babies who can sit up in the high chair get some food of an appropriate size and consistency on their tray and they get to eat what they can get in their mouths themselves. Sometimes one of the big kids will want to spoon feed them, which is fine with me, but I don’t make a habit of doing it myself.
And they’ve all thrived. And are very tall. But again, that’s probably because all the men on both sides of the family are very tall. Still, no one around here is going hungry.
As long as baby is still nursing, I view eating solid food as something that keeps them busy, not as something that keeps them fed.
By the time they are weaned, my kids have all been eating quite well, all on their own.
6. The Frankie exception.
The Frankie exception is just to prove that you never know what you’re going to get. Even when you think you’ve done this enough times to know what you’re doing.
Frankie was a skinny baby. He didn’t like most anything, including solid foods, and had a lot of trouble with the consistency of foods. I would have happily just kept nursing him, but he weaned himself at a year. My only baby to do that. I didn’t want to try to figure out bottles and formula with baby number six, so we did do squeezie packets of baby food with him, because he would eat them. He also ate a lot of ice cream.
But, we kept offering him table food as well, and eventually we were able to make the switch. And he’s not at all particular about food or textures now.
Lulu is at the other end of the spectrum from Frankie, on all things, but also on solid foods. She can and will eat everything. She’s seven months now and happily eats chili and noodles and breakfast burritos and Hawaiian pizza.
And that’s it. Feeding solid food to a baby doesn’t have to be an ordeal, it really doesn’t have to be a thing at all. Unless you have a Frankie, in which case, you do what you have to do.
Here’s how we handle food with older kids: