Starting My Baby on Solids

FOOD! It's funny how determining when's the right time to start feeding a baby solid food has become a topic of hot debate. Surprisingly, as a vegan mum I haven't received much pressure to get Beth started on solids. However, I know a lot of mums who have! But what is the right age? How much is enough food? And when should your baby stop drinking breast milk?

With all these questions and many differing opinions out there it's no wonder mums are confused. Well, I am here just to shed a little light on the topic and share some of my own personal experiences.

Bethany enjoying a sip of my freshly made beetroot, carrot and apple juice. 

Bethany enjoying a sip of my freshly made beetroot, carrot and apple juice. 

Bethany was exclusively breastfed until around seven months old. Prior to this, I gave her tastes of mango, apple and watermelon, but she was more interested in playing with her food than eating it.

Bethany loving banana!

Bethany loving banana!

At eight months, she started showing true signs of interest i.e. opening her mouth when I ate food, reaching out for food and putting it in her mouth. When I noticed this, I started offering her tastes of food throughout the day, to get her used to the textures and taste. 

I soon progressed to giving her food three times a day at breakfast, lunch and dinner. Sometimes she would be interested, and other times she wouldn't. 

Great first foods are: 

  • large pineapple pieces
  • ripe spotty banana with no green tip, if unripe it will constipate your baby - cut a whole banana into a mini banana so it looks like an ice cream (see picture right)
  • mashed avocado
  • mashed mango  
  • pieces of apple and pear
  • mandarin chunks 
  • cherry tomatoes 
  • coconut
  • a drink of organic coconut water

Tips: Always supervise, keep foods plain and simple (no added oil, salt or sugar) and make sure you cut food so that it's big enough to be held in your little one's hand. 

Beth's favourite food at 8 months old was plain banana and cooked butternut mashed with raw mango. 

I now share my morning smoothies with Beth which mainly contain bananas, chia seeds, filtered or coconut water and organic barley grass juice powder - sometimes even frozen mango. I taught her one morning to suck out of the straw on a sippy cup. I recommend buying a sippy cup. Less mess than a cup or mason jar (believe it or not!). In the above photo, I took the lid off the sippy cup and let her drink the green smoothie out of the cup - hence the mess. 

 

What approach did I take?

I opted for a mix of baby-led weaning and pureed foods for getting Bethany started on solid foods. I did this because I wanted her to learn to feed herself and to get her used to liquid and mashed textures. 

I don't think there is a specific age for a baby to be introduced to solids. Every baby is different and will show different signs at different ages. I do however think a five-month-old baby is too young.  

If he can’t pick up food, get it in his mouth, and chew it without choking, then he’s just not ready for solids, and his tummy probably isn’t ready, either.
— La Leche League International

It's important to wait until your child's digestive track is mature and ready for solid foods. Sure, you may get food in, but the tounge thrust is there for a reason - to protect his or her digestive tract. Here is a why it's a good reason to wait:

Two words: allergies and enzymes. If a baby has anything besides your milk before the lining of his intestines becomes pretty well sealed against allergens at around six months, some of those substances can slip through the intestinal walls into the bloodstream. Your baby’s body reads them as invading forces and produces antibodies against them. Problems such as eczema can result.

Enzymes are what we use to break down foods for digestion, but babies aren’t born with the enzyme levels they’ll need as adults. Why should they be? They’re eating the most digestible food in the world - their mothers’ milk. Give a baby something else before he starts producing adult-type enzymes at around six months, and you’re more likely to see upset tummies, diarrhea, smelly gas, and a baby who swallows food but can’t use it well.
— La Leche League International
Bethany loved this smoothie which contained half an organic beetroot

Bethany loved this smoothie which contained half an organic beetroot

By waiting until your child is ready to eat, you also avoid baby cereals - which are processed starches with little nutritional value anyway. The only reason people recommend them is for the fortified iron - but most breastfed babies don't need that much iron (La Leche League Int). Too much iron causes constipation, therefore increasing infection and microscopic bleeding. Why I say most is that some babies are an exception. If your baby's cord was cut before it stopped pulsing, he would have missed out on up to a third of his intended blood volume. He should be fine for the first six months of his life, but when he starts solids it's best to look for iron-rich plant-based foods such a beetroot, organic prunes, molases and dark leafy green vegetables (La Leche League Int). Even though Bethany's cord was cut after it stopped pulsing, I sometimes add beetroot including its leaves and other leafy greens to Bethany's smoothies. Another exception is if your baby has started solids prematurely (iron stores can drop from some foods binding with iron in breastmilk before a baby has a chance to absorb it) or if your baby was born prematurely (La Leche League Int). 

It's important to remember breastmilk should always be one of the main sources of nutrition for the first year of a baby's life. If you keep that in mind, feeding your baby will be a lot more enjoyable. Especially when they decide not to eat or if they go on an eating strike which can happen anywhere around eight months (those darn teeth!). I aim to breastfed Beth until she self-weans (around two years old). I will do another blog post soon on extended breastfeeding. 

 

PLANT-BASED BABY

Bethany will be eating exactly what we eat a home - a plant-based and mainly organic diet. This is essentially a vegan diet - no animal products and their by-products (milk, eggs, animal flesh and bones).

I encourage you to read the books I recommend on my FAQ page to understand plant-based nutrition. There is so much misinformation in today's society thanks to the dairy and meat industry, which are making a tonne of money off making families sick. 

We will not be feeding Bethany cows milk. She does not need dairy. It doesn't make any sense to feed a child milk from another species. The dairy industry promotes milk for building strong bones and teeth. This is not true.

In order to absorb calcium, the body needs similar amounts of magnesium. Cows milk contains only small amounts of magnesium. Without it, the body can only absorb 25 percent of the calcium content. The remainder of the calcium then causes problems (atherosclerotic plaques, kidney stones, gout, arthritis, etc.) (Deborah Sellmeyer, M.D, 2001).

It is time to sacrifice our sacred cows. Reason must prevail. Professional societies, doctors and government agencies need to stand up and do their duty, so that children being born today do not face tragedies that otherwise could be prevented.
— T. Colin Campbell, PHD

 

 

 

In the photos above Beth is eating one of her favourite foods - fresh coconut pudding! Here is the recipe:

Fresh Coconut Pudding

1/4 cup fresh young coconut meat or mature coconut meat if you can't source fresh young coconut 

In a high-speed blender, I use the Optimum, blend the coconut meat. If using mature coconut meat, add coconut water. To achieve a smooth texture you can gradually add more coconut water. 

Serve by itself, or added into other foods such as mashed banana, cooked pumpkin, or avocado. It's not just baby food - serve on top of a smoothie bowl or raw granola cereal. 

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