Beginning Solids: When Can Infants Eat Desk Meals?
Babies cannot live on milk forever. After all, they have to join the rest of us in eating solid foods. But how is it supposed to happen?
The baby food industry has fooled everyone. You don't need them. There is actually more research on commercial pet foods than commercial baby foods. With all mistakes, dog and cat nibbles must at least adhere to certain nutritional standards. Commercial baby food is just random stuff mixed in with enough pear or banana to taste sweet. And I'm not saying anything is wrong with pears, bananas, green beans or whatever that mix them up and toss in those bags. I'm just saying that it's not enough. With a little thought and innovation, you can do a lot better.
It's not as hard as people think. I mean these are people we feed. Little people but people. If you can feed yourself, you can feed a child. If you are reading this blog, you are likely feeding yourself nutrient-rich whole foods. Do the same for your baby only in smaller portions and with different textures. Because there are limitations:
Babies who start out with solids generally have no teeth.
Babies who start with solids are only used to drinking liquids. You have to get used to a completely different state of matter.
Babies who start with solids have yet to meet their genetic intelligence potential. In other words, they are completely useless.
So you can't just toss a steak in front of your seven month old and be done with it. They need a little more maintenance. Here's when and how to do it:
When to start solids
A good rule of thumb is to start a baby on solids when they show interest in solids. Don't force it on them. Let it develop organically. However, regardless of your interest, don't offer solids six months ago. Exclusive breast milk (or formula if you do) is so important.
Some people will recommend that you supplement a "slow-growing" breastfed child with solid foods after about four months, but I think this is a mistake. According to the WHO natal charts, breastfed babies grow “slower”, but this is normal. They grow the way they're supposed to grow, not the way the solid foods tell them to. In its own FAQ, the CDC recommends not using the CDC growth chart for breastfed babies, and acknowledges that the WHO chart shows how "infants should grow rather than just grow".
6 signs of development of readiness for solids
Your baby may be ready for solids if:
- Is at least six months old
- Can sit in a high chair without assistance
- Doubled her birth weight
- Has lost the tongue reflex (if she doesn't automatically spit food out on her tongue)
- Shows interest in what you eat
- Open your mouth when food comes near your face
Tip: Don't start solids if your baby has a cold. Congested noses can make it difficult to coordinate breathing and moving food around the mouth, and they can alter the taste of food and tune your baby off on something they might otherwise like.
She will have what you have
You can drop a few hundred dollars on the baby food machine and refillable bags and spend hours each week making your own goops and purees, or you can let your child nibble on what you have for dinner. After all, you eat good, nutritious food yourself, don't you? It's probably perfect for your baby.
Don't let me stop you from doing your own goop. This works for a lot of parents and is a great way to tweak exactly what your baby is getting. However, this is not the only way.
Early solids complement each other; they cannot replace breast milk. Always breastfeed or feed milk before offering solids. This way your baby won't fill up with food and will reject the milk he needs. This also automatically regulates how much food the baby will eat.
Breast milk is not just food. It is also rich in immunoregulatory components that shape and control the child's immune system. If you feed breast milk while introducing solid foods (in the same meal), your baby will learn to tolerate the foods and reduce the risk of allergies.
The perfect first meal
Here is the official line:
Give rice cereal as a first complementary feed. Make sure it is fortified with iron as iron fortified rice grains are the only way for an infant to get the iron they badly need to grow and thrive.
Does that sound ridiculous to others?
Do you know what's left of iron? Flesh. Sardines. Egg yolk. Liver. There are hundreds of foods that have more and better iron than rice cereal. When a food needs fortifying certain nutrients to be suitable for a child's early supplement diet, it isn't the perfect first food. It turns out that meat is probably the most important early complementary food in a child's diet if you only have to choose one. In a landmark study, carnivorous breastfed infants had larger heads, better zinc status, and better behavior than grain-eating breastfed infants at 12 months. It doesn't get any clearer, folks.
Start smoothly, progress to lumpy
At six months, a baby can only eat smooth or semi-solid. Gradually increase the firmness of the foods on offer over time. After 10 months, the baby should be eating “lumpy” foods, if only because this is a critical window for getting used to the texture. If you miss the window and just continue with smooth purees, the child may develop problems with the choice later.
Baby-guided weaning is a method of introducing solids that does not require a spoon until the baby can use the spoon by himself. At 6 months of age, the child is offered soft, chopped foods like bananas, ripe avocados, boiled sweet potatoes, etc. and experiments with whatever they want – under the careful supervision of their parents, of course. The whole process is guided by the baby's curiosity.
The idea behind this is that because no parent sneaks into extra bites after they're full, they can better regulate their self-feeding and eventually spot satiety marks. With baby-guided weaning, the little ones also have the opportunity to practice their fine motor skills by grabbing the food and putting it in their own mouth.
If you are concerned about chewing first, there are infant self-feeders with handles that can help. (Get the silicone – the kind with the mesh are a pain to clean.)
What does this have to do with weaning? The idea is that over a period of months as your baby consumes more and more food, they will become less and less dependent on breast milk or formula and will eventually rely entirely on solid foods for nutrition.
Introduce peanuts … Careful
Recent research shows that exposure of infants to peanut products as an early feed supplement tends to reduce rather than increase the risk of peanut allergy. There is a complete protocol for determining which infants are eligible for early exposure Make sure you do this with the understanding of your pediatrician.
With all of that out of the way, now is the fun part. I will post some dishes and recipes that little babies can eat.
The really cool thing about babies who come from breast milk is that they like almost anything. You are ready for it. They offer them chicken liver pate and they will eat that up. If they don't like it, at least they will try (but they will probably like it).
An infant has no preconceived notions about food. You are too young to be influenced by your peers or advertising. They just groomed, so they don't have the chemically altered sweet tooth of the average American kid. They are relatively pure beings, motivated almost entirely by nutrients and calories. And so you don't have to worry about “calories” or carbohydrates for your little baby, calories are nutrients for growing babies and children. They need the pure calorie mass to grow and build their bodies.
What seems to work best as the first solid food item is soft, shredded red meat. Perhaps a food roast or thigh that has been cooked fragile, then chopped, shredded, and dipped in a small broth or even breast milk to soften it.
How to introduce eggs to the baby
Mash a banana.
Boil an egg until soft and pierce the egg yolks that are still running; Drain the egg yolks into the banana.
Serve it up. Tastes good, very nutritious. Tons of choline, decent protein, and if you can get a good quality egg, it will have most of the B vitamins, selenium, iodine, and even omega-3 fatty acids an infant needs.
Mash the sardines (preferably with the bones and skin) with the oil (if real olive oil). Good iron, calcium, protein, selenium and omega-3 fatty acids.
The Crown Prince's smoked oysters in olive oil are fantastic, BPA-free, and an excellent source of zinc, iron, protein, B-12, and omega-3 fatty acids. Probably iodine too. Great texture for beginners; Just make sure you cut off the hard part that is usually attached to the shell. Since shellfish allergies are relatively common, ask your pediatrician if you should start slowly to watch for a reaction and skip oysters for now if you have clam allergies in your family.
Mashed potatoes (or sweet potatoes)
I never hear of mashed potatoes given to babies as weaning food, and I'm not sure why. Potatoes are actually pretty nutritious when it comes to starch. They have complete protein and a nice distribution of minerals. Plus, you can sneak all sorts of things like egg yolks, meat, seafood, and pureed vegetables. Mash with some breast milk or broth to make it smooth and creamy.
There's not much research on white potatoes as a complementary food, but sweet potato-based food supplements have distinct advantages over grain-based infant formula, including lower phytate (which binds to minerals and prevents them from being absorbed) and higher vitamin A, especially if you also feed meat.
Canned cod are the smoothest and creamiest I've ever tried. Highly recommended and a fantastic source of vitamin A (preformed animal version), DHA (important for babies' brains) and vitamin D (you can expose your baby to sunlight within reasonable limits, but vitamin D in food is also helpful) . A little goes a long way – one tablespoon at a time is enough to get started.
Frozen and fresh fruits
Fresh fruit is ideal, of course, but it helps to have frozen fruit on hand. You can take it out, chop it up and let it thaw a little so it has the right texture. You can feed it whole when your baby is older and can handle larger chunks. You can mash it and mix it with soft-boiled egg yolks.
Wild blueberries, cherries, mangoes, oranges, large frozen strawberries (great for teething), peaches, melons, and even figs are fantastic choices and provide important vitamin C. Keep an eye on them as you eat smaller fruits that it can in the windpipe get stuck.
Of course, high in fat. Start with simply unsweetened. Some brands of yogurt, especially those marketed to children, contain more sugar than a can of soda.
Salmon and salmon roe
Baby needs these omega-3s, this selenium, this protein, these B vitamins, this astaxanthin, everything. Salmon is incredible for the developing brain. Poach the salmon until tender.
Liver and liver pate
Free-range chicken livers are the mildest of all livers. It's also the highest iron and the lowest retinol, so it can be given to babies a little more often than beef liver.
I know a lot of parents whose children love liver pate. Perfect texture; You can even mix it with rice cereal to "strengthen" it.
When there's no reason to suspect an egg allergy, scrambled eggs are an easy snack. Make them Gordon Ramsay style for a creamy, smooth texture.
Onions are a great source of inulin, a type of prebiotic fiber that can, in some ways, emulate the prebiotics found in breast milk. If a baby learns to love onions, they will likely love other types of spicy foods too.
I am not saying you are giving your child a smoked turkey drumstick. However, if you cook some beef thighs or an oxtail until the meat falls off the bone, the leftover bone with some gristle and soft meat is the perfect thing for your teething baby to gnaw on. The meat is soft enough that it can be chewed to an acceptable size, and there isn't enough of it to risk real choking. Besides, you're there to see them.
Better rice granola
Average parents start their kids with rice cereal: dry rice cereal that you mix with milk or formula until it's soft enough to suckle. They'll put this stuff in the baby's bottles. They'll spoon it into their gaping throat. It's boring and basically sheer strength and replenishes it. Now I have nothing against strength for children. As I've always said, babies need calories and can use the glucose. I would never recommend babies to be on strict keto or anything (although there are people who do that and seem to report good things). But there's so much more you can cram into this mild pulp to make it taste better and provide essential nutrients.
- Egg yolk.
- Chicken or beef liver.
- Potatoes, sweet potatoes, or winter squash (balance some of the rice with these other starch sources).
- Braised roast.
- Minced meat.
- Boiled carrots.
- Salmon roe.
- Green beans.
Congee is a great vehicle. If you are concerned about the consistency of these additives, just mix them together until you have the right texture.
Fish sauce: Add a touch of fish sauce to your foods to provide glutamate, which will help baby love food.
Get a hand blender: The easiest way in the world to puree or roughly chop food into the right texture. That's a good one.
Get 4 ounce mason jars: Very practical for storing and serving food.
Make a habit of making bone broth and keeping it on hand: Broth is the tie that holds everything together. Do you want to make rice cereal? Broth makes it more nutritious. Would you like to puree vegetables? Broth makes it more nutritious and tastes better than water. Would you like to stew some meat until it's soft enough for a baby to eat? Broth beats water again.
These are just a few of the things you can feed your baby when he's solid. And you know what? It wouldn't be such a bad list of foods to choose from when feeding yourself.
Let's hear from you now. What did you feed your babies when introducing solids? What would you do differently?
Tell us below!
Thanks for reading everyone.
About the author
Mark Sisson is the founder of Marks Daily Apple, godfather of the Primal Food and Lifestyle movement, and the New York Times best-selling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, which describes how he combines the keto diet with an original lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is also the author of numerous other books, including The Primal Blueprint, which is credited with the growth of the Primal / Paleo movement in 2009. After three decades of researching and educating people about why food is the key component to achieving optimal wellbeing, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real food company, the Primal / Paleo, Keto and Whole30 friendly kitchen staples manufactures.
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