Eating solid food for the first time is one of the many milestones of a child’s life. So much so that we Indians commemorate this occasion in our place of worship with the blessings of the elders. Having helped two boys cross this important threshold, I have had starkly different experiences. This article hopes to make your journey with your baby stress-free and enjoyable.
If you’re blessed with a munchkin who is transitioning beautifully to solids from the milk-based diet, then I would suggest moving on to a different page of my website as this article is not meant for you. But, on the contrary, if you’re about to start weaning your baby and are gathering information, then stay a little longer. If your initial attempts have left you baffled, then stay till the end. Introducing solids was a challenge with my firstborn. But, with my younger son, who has just reached the 20-month-old threshold, I must say the journey has been rewarding and stress-free. Hence, all you moms and concerned dads, I will start by suggesting what to avoid when you first embark on this road.
Don’t, as yet
Scour the internet for first baby food recipes, save them on your mobile, or take printouts
Now is not the time. All you need to know is that the food must be mushy or bite-sized and not too spicy. Also, in case your baby has allergies, that also needs to be considered. We shall not cook, boil, and roast veggies and fruits for the baby to try in the beginning. Save some precious time. Go to the grocery store or pharmacy and pick out several baby food ready to consume packets. The basic rule of thumb should be cover all the colours - applesauce, peaches, mangoes, blueberries, sweet potatoes, the list is endless. Go crazy!
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Every day try one and see what he/ she enjoys. Also, just take out 1-2 tablespoons for the first time. I have often taken a little and smeared it on his lips for him to lick and taste the flavour. No use pouring more than a little. Save the rest.
Purchase containers for storing and freezing baby food
Again, I have been there and bought the best quality boxes and containers for storing pureed veggies and fruits. I had watched the most viewed videos and followed the best-rated recipes and filled my freezer with baby food. Unfortunately, I hadn’t considered the fact that my baby might refuse the whole batch of puree or maybe he was not yet ready to try that particular food. Even though the internet promised a very high success rate, we failed. I would advise you to try the store-bought puree first and then, when you are sure that you want to prepare the same at home, go and get yourself those must-have jars/ boxes and pouches.
Judge the quantity your baby accepts
I am aware of the pressure one feels when the quantity of food your baby consumes falls short of the standards published by the baby growth/ development websites. When you see other babies enjoying and eating everything you had carefully selected, bought and prepared for your child but was rejected, the frustration is tangible. When I had our second child, I promised myself I will not put myself through the same drill I had earlier. So, whenever anyone, my mom, neighbours, friends asked me about his solid food intake, I said that he eats in small portions and I have learnt to be content with his progress. My suggestion for you is that you shall have good days, but many bad days in between, so be happy if your baby tried something new each day if it is even one bite or a smear.
Now that we have addressed our things to avoid, let’s talk about what we can do to make baby weaning as stress-free as possible.
At first, do
Buy store-bought ready to eat baby food
There are many options and countless good brands in this category. Ella’s Kitchen, Heinz Nature, Gerber’s Organic Biologique, PC Organics, Love Child’s Organic, Go-Go Squeeze Fruit Sauce, are some of the ones I have tried and the baby also enjoyed over the last year. Just remember, when you shop please note the right age for the food, go through the ingredients to check for allergies as well as any probable choking hazard warnings. Like I said at the beginning of the article, these are stress-free and safe ways to introduce new foods. Also, they are very handy and most do not need to be heated/ warmed up before use. Just refrigerate and dispose of as per package instructions.
Build a platter for the baby to try
Sounds difficult? No, I will not suggest anything that you cannot follow every day. I have a six-year-old, whose school lunch I have to prepare every morning. While I do this, I keep putting aside food the baby can try that day. A random example, I am packing fries, noodles, and orange slices for the school lunch amongst other stuff, I simply apportion a few fries, little noodles, and two slices of oranges for the baby. The next day, it is probably fried rice, chicken nuggets, and grapes. Same approach. If you don't have a school-goer, you might have to pack an office lunch for yourself or your husband. Throughout the day, I follow the same strategy to build a buffet platter for the little one from whatever I am cooking for the rest of the family. So, if he decides to throw all of it away, I can just be amused and clean up.
Know the foods that save the day
Now, I will share the few food items that have got my back while I tried and explored new food for the baby. Oats, cheese, eggs, bananas and yoghurt have excellent nutritional value, at the same time are filling and easy to digest. None of these need to be prepared for the baby alone. A new mom needs these in her diet and that is from where I sourced these for the baby. Every morning, I took (almost) instant flavoured oats for breakfast as they are an excellent source of fibre and helped me stay full longer. I would share a few spoonfuls with the baby every day keeping in mind the texture was mushy and no risk of choking was present. Cheese cut in bite-sized pieces is also very good for the baby (be adventurous and try the marble cheese slabs, cheddar cheese slices, cow cheese, cheese strips). Eggs prepared without any black pepper can be very easily shared with the baby. Be it scrambled or an omelette or poached eggs, change it from day to day and they enjoy the different textures. Moms need it too. We all know that bananas are the easiest to carry and consume. Finally yoghurt, be it greek or simple whole milk flavoured yoghurt, both my sons love them. We always have a tub or bottle lying around in the fridge for family consumption. I do understand if the baby is lactose-intolerant, these suggestions will not work and we will have to find substitutes in soya and almond milk-based products.
Enjoy family mealtime
It is not possible to eat together every meal given the different routines followed by school-goers and ones that go to the office. So, we try to eat dinner as a family and put the baby in his high chair so that he can see, seek and taste what we are having. Finger foods come handy during family meals as I put a few fries or pieces of naan on his food tray to keep him engaged. I have realized that every child, whether he is a foodie or picky-eater, is curious when everyone sits together to have a meal. There is a higher chance of them trying something new when they see others enjoying that food. So, every opportunity I get - my son tackling his lunch, my husband drinking his tea or me eating my breakfast, I keep the baby at arm’s length so that his interest is piqued.
Remember that taste is pivotal
I don’t know why baby food websites often skip mentioning this very important point. Babies are bite-sized humans and hence, like us, they too like tasty food. I missed this important point while weaning or rather struggling to wean my older son. This time, I let the baby taste anything and everything it showed interest in. Maybe, it was a smear from the roasted chicken wings, lentil soup, roasted veggies, a few grains of rice from the biryani, the crust of a fish fry, the gravy from mutton, the sauce from the chilly chicken, we let him taste and decide if he wanted more or not. A quick tip, if accidentally the baby tastes something hot/ spicy, grab something from the fridge like cold milk or yoghurt or cream or custard and put it in his mouth. It will relieve the burning sensation and all will be well again. Happy adventures!
Use supplements, when in doubt
While the baby was experimenting with different foods, I was not sure if he was getting all the required vitamins important for his development like Vitamin D3. Hence, as soon as he turned one, we started giving him a multivitamin so that we could continue our journey of exploring new foods without any concern. Of course, if you have been able to adapt a wholesome diet, this would not be necessary.
I want you to know that now my six-yeas-old also tries a lot of new foods and enjoys them. So I wonder if I could have just relaxed and let time do its thing. Every child has his own pace and no magic recipe, superfood, or clever tricks can hasten the process. As a mom of two boys (with very different types of appetites), I can assure you that your child will find his/ her way to wholesome food and nutrition. I hope to save some of the unnecessary stress and anxiety, that we moms happen to pile on ourselves and let the transition happen organically over time.
I am not a dietician or nutritionist and hence, have no certification to give suggestions on a baby diet. These are my personal experience based tips and suggestions.