LONG before Isay turned six months old, my wife and I had already discussed getting her on solid food. The little bunny had been exclusively breastfeeding before that and it was time to amp up her feeding time.
(Note: She still breastfeeds. When my wife is at work, she nurses expressed milk from the bottle. We are hoping this lasts as long as it can. The benefits have been invaluable, to say the least. We always tell friends and family how, during a flu epidemic that rocked the house, Isay was the only one untouched.)
We had previously spoken to Isay’s pedia and read up on every available literature we could get our hands on. We went through everything we learned and deciced to begin the next chapter of Isay’s life.
Isay had also given hints that she was ready for solids. Each time the wife and I would have our meals, Isay would look inquisitively and mimic our mouths’ chewing motions.
That really got us stoked about getting her on solids.
We’ve been at it for two months now and it has gone pretty smooth.
Here are the things we did to get started:
Purchase equipment and tools for feeding. Feeding bowls, rubber spoons, food warmers (it’s actually a bottle warmer but we use it for food. To warm bottles, we go old school by dropping a bottle in a cup of hot water), a blender, a mini juicer, bibs and a booster seat. These are enough to get you started.
Stock up on fruits and vegetables. Based on all the information we had gathered, the best way to start babies on solids is to go natural.
You have to start with one fruit or one vegetable at a time, though. A major concern when introducing solids to babies is food allergies. And the only way to pick up on what food causes allergic reactions to your baby is to get them on a single type of food over a period of time (in our case, 5 to 7 days). To speed up the allergy learning curve, here’s a technique we tried:
Start with a fruit or vegetable. Go at it for about five days. If your baby doesn’t develop allergies, that’s safe. Try another one for the same period of time. Once you get to two or three fruits and/or vegetables, you can begin mixing each with other food types. If the baby develops an allergy along the way, then it’s the newly introduced food that caused it.
For example: Go five days or so with potato. Then five days or so with squash. Then five days or so with apples. Then try carrots and potato. If there’s an allergic reaction there, it’s probably the carrots. Then go squash and brown rice. Then apples and bananas.
Doing that, we were able to grow a long list of food types that Isay can now freely eat:
- Sweet potato
- Brown rice
We usually mix Isay’s breakfast food with milk and cereal. For cereals, we try to stay away from those that are sweetened. And we also try to go organic if we can.
Puree everything. At the start, help your baby by not challenging her chewing powers just yet.
After months of nibbling on every object she can get her hands on and mimicking our chewing motion, Isay pretty much had an idea what to do with food shoveled into her mouth. Still, she had exclusively been nursing milk for all of her life until that first time we sat her on a booster seat for her first solid meal. So pureed food made it easier for her to “chew” and swallow.
Stock up on bottled food, too. But go as natural as possible. My wife and I both have jobs and we still prefer to go hands-on with the little one. There is about a three- to four-hour stretch a day when we yield caring duties to a house help, but for 20 hours a day, we take care of Isay ourselves. Still, work can take its toll and there will be times when preparing food (a job my wife prefers to do exclusively) might need to take a backseat.
So in these cases, it is always handy to have a Plan B.
Check the bottled food you buy, though. Make sure it is as natural and organic as possible. Also, try it yourself to make sure the flavor isn’t too strong that it will alter your baby’s taste perception (you don’t want the little bugger to be hooked on sweet or salty food this early).
Feeding a baby solid during the first few months can be a challenge. If your baby isn’t ready for it, there is no harm in putting off solids by a couple of weeks. But once you get started, it makes a helluva bonding opportunity. And it is always rewarding to scrape off that last tiny spoonful of fruit or vegetable paste and feed it to your baby.
Plus, it can be a lot of fun too.
There are many ways to ease the challenges of solid-feeding your baby:
- Start with really soft food before working your way up to a thicker paste. It’s easier on the bundle of joy and you reduce gag moments.
- Make sure you have everything ready before you start feeding. Bibs, wet towel, dry towel and whatever else you need. You don’t want to cut a feeding to fetch a towel or something. It could lead to your baby getting distracted by something else.
- Have a nursing bottle of water nearby. After a few spoons, never forget to give your baby a few drops of water. It helps her swallow whatever food particles stuck in her mouth.
- Be patient. Remember that this is her first time at something new. Until you sat her and fed her her first spoon of solid food, your baby had been getting nourishment either from a bottle or her mom’s breasts. Remember how it sucked when your uncle or older cousin would lose patience while trying to teach you basketball?
- Do not feed her when she’s sleepy. You’ll get absolutely nowhere. We try to make Isay’s feeding hours flexible so that if she’s sleepy, we put off the solids and go with milk first.
- Talk to her! Babies enjoy having a “conversation” with you during meals.
The way we split our parental duties, my wife does the preparation for Isay’s food. She prepares the fruits and vegetables, purees or blends them and then packs them into little plastic cups (with lids) before putting them inside the fridge. I, on the other hand, warm those cups, add oatmeal/cereal to them (for breakfast only) and handle the feeding part.
It’s been a lot of fun. Isay has been eating more and more solids with each passing day. Right now, we have her at twice-a-days and we’re looking forward to when we can go three full meals a day with the little wonder. The fact that she still breastfeeds is an added blessing. We hope she continues enjoying her veggies so we can nourish her properly. I’m really dreading the day when she’d prefer junk food over healthy treats.
But for now, I’m gonna enjoy sharing breakfast with my baby girl.
If you dads out there have any other questions on solid-feeding, just drop a line at the comments section below.