Introducing Solids

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When

Medically, it is advisable to start solids only after the 6th month as babies need to develop the right set of skills and physique to match eating from a spoon, chewing, swallowing and all not to mention that their digestive tracts mature at 6 months, allowing them to handle more complex foods other than formula or breastmilk.



However, some babies mature faster in terms of milestones and physique, showing signs of interest in food as well as ability to handle eating from the spoon. The general consensus is that the closer your baby is to the 6th month, the easier it will be to introduce solids. Baby will be able to swallow and well, there would be less problems internally with their digestive tract.


Introductory solid food feeding is simple – apply the four-day rule and only single foods at one time to check for allergies. After four days of eating one food, you can proceed to another single food OR a mix of pre-test foods.

How

The process is quite simple – you’ll need something to freeze the purees – either ice cube trays or special babyfood cubes – and then equipment to steam and then blend/mash the food items you’re cooking up. With ice cube trays, you’ll have to make sure that you cover them while as they are freezing to avoid cross contamination. This is one of the reasons why I chose to freeze the purees in baby cubes and storage containers meant for weaning. Baby cubes come with an attached lid, making them hard to lose and best of it, they have measurements on the side – 70ml (2 oz) and 35ml (1 oz).

For the blending and steaming, you don’t have to get a special gadget (unless someone gave it to you as a gift as in my case). You can opt for those bamboo steamers and stainless steel bowls to steam your fruit and veg in – they are cheap and easy to fit in a wok. For blending, a regular blending or chopper will do just fine; just make sure to wash them well if you intend on using them for other purposes. Handblenders are great option as you can use them for making western soups and most mummies will even use them on congee and porridges! Babies don’t need to eat pureed food forever so consider this when you’re thinking of making a sizeable purpose of kitchen equipment.


With preparation of fruits and vegetable, be sure to wash them a few times to get rid of the excess dirt and sand (particularly common with leafy veg like spinach) orpesticide (fruits like cherries, apples, etc). After washing, fruits and veg need to be roughly diced up into manageable pieces. The rule is this – the bigger it is, the longer it’ll take to cook. So cubing vegetable and fruits especially tough ones like pumpkin, potato, sweet potato and carrots are definitely a most. Do note that some fruits need to be peeled such as peaches. Fruits usually take about five minutes of steaming – steaming is important because of all the cooking methods, it is the one that helps retain most of the food’s nutrients plus you can use the excess water in the pureeing process (with the exception of spinach and carrots because of the nitrate content) – while vegetables can take anywhere between 10-15 minutes depending on the item.

How to know if your vegetable is cooked? When it’s soft. Take a fork and pierce the vegetable. If it’s easy for the prongs to sink it, it’s cook. If not, steam it for a little longer. When they are done, blend them with a blender or food processor. How smooth depends on not so much the age but how long your baby has been on solid food. Babies who started solid food early may develop a preference for lumpier textures earlier than babies who have just begun solid food – logic, really. The general rule is to introduce lumpier and SOFT textures sometime nearing the eight month when they are used to eating from a spoon, familiar with smooth texture and are ready to take their jaws to the next step.
pesticide (fruits like cherries, apples, etc). After washing, fruits and veg need to be roughly diced up into manageable pieces. The rule is this – the bigger it is, the longer it’ll take to cook. So cubing vegetable and fruits especially tough ones like pumpkin, potato, sweet potato and carrots are definitely a most. Do note that some fruits need to be peeled such as peaches. Fruits usually take about five minutes of steaming – steaming is important because of all the cooking methods, it is the one that helps retain most of the food’s nutrients plus you can use the excess water in the pureeing process (with the exception of spinach and carrots because of the nitrate content) – while vegetables can take anywhere between 10-15 minutes depending on the item.


How to know if your vegetable is cooked? When it’s soft. Take a fork and pierce the vegetable. If it’s easy for the prongs to sink it, it’s cook. If not, steam it for a little longer. When they are done, blend them with a blender or food processor. How smooth depends on not so much the age but how long your baby has been on solid food. Babies who started solid food early may develop a preference for lumpier textures earlier than babies who have just begun solid food – logic, really. The general rule is to introduce lumpier and SOFT textures sometime nearing the eight month when they are used to eating from a spoon, familiar with smooth texture and are ready to take their jaws to the next step.



Things to look out for

What to introduce when
I started off by alternating a grain, veg and fruit per four-day cycle and would mix two ingredients together after the first three items to give Eva variety as well as ensure that her bowel movements are regular. For an idea on what to give when, do refer to the weaning food list here.



Constipation
Doctors classify constipation as hardness of stool so if your baby is pooing once every three days but the texture is soft like play dough, that’s not constipation. It’s consider as normal bowel movement. If baby is passing out hard, pellet-like stool, now, that is a sign to step up the fiber intake, especially if pooping times are accompanied by crying and blood (very bad sign of constipation).

NOTE that a red face is not a sign of constipation as babies learn how to control their bowel muscles at this stage so going a bit red at the toilet is fine.
Normal bowel movements for a baby on solids is like an adult – anywhere from three times a day to once every three days.


How to avoid constipation? The formula is simple – just make sure your kiddo gets more servings of fruit and vegthan meat and grains as well as ample water. Insoluble and soluble fiber is important and a lot of Asian mummies make the mistake of giving less fruits but more grain and meat. Somehow I noticed that the food pyramid here is wrong (I bought a can of Quaker Oats recently and saw that the base of the food pyramid printed on the can is filled with grains whereas I remember clearly in Switzerland and from reading, that the base ought to be veg and fruits!).

Anyway, for info, poo inducing fruits are peach, pear, papaya, prune/plum (prunes are dried up plums just as how raisins are dried up grapes) and peas. Apples and bananas are constipating. When babies first start solids, give fruits on an alternate basis as you’d be cycling through the four day rule with new food items (at least once every two to three days). But once babies are established on solids, meaning they are eating at least two meals a day, you should be giving fruits at least once a day. For toddler, that means eating up to five servings of fruit and veg a day – more than grains and meat also.


Allergies
The four day rule comes in for this. You basically offer the same food (doesn’t matter how you cook it) for for four days and see what happens. If baby has no rash or poo
issues like diarrhoea, then it’s a green light item. Allergies are characterized by a rash or break out of hives around the mouth (oral allergy) or all over the body and/or the bottom as well as diarrhoea and sometimes vomiting. Usually acidic foods like citrus and tomato will cause a rash to break out on the bottom as it changes the composition of poo and pee so you would have to take a step back and stop offering the “offensive” ingredient until later. If there is a family history of allergies – doesn’t matter if it’s from your husband or you – opt to give the item later. The golden rule is the later it is, the better it’ll be.



Top allergens are eggs, soy, dairy, strawberries, nuts, seafood and many Western/European nutritionists will tell you to wait until baby is at least 1 to 2 years old, especially for things like nuts.