Life With Nine Kids

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Child Led Solid Food

I was just thinking I should blog about Beatrice starting solid food and drinking from a cup when a friend asked me about starting solids with her first baby. So yay for me, I'm now encouraged and inspired to talk about babies...I know it's really hard to get me to do that! Ha!

Beatrice officially started solids in the past three weeks or so; she will be nine months old in three days. I delay solids as long as possible -that pretty much means until my baby keeps grabbing my food and smacking their lips until I give in. Here is a very detailed page about why it's good to delay. (That link is at, it is a great site! Check it out further when you have the time. All kinds of awesome information there.)
Here's a snippet: 
Gastric acid and pepsin are secreted at birth and increase toward adult values over the following 3 to 4 months. The pancreatic enzyme amylase does not reach adequate levels for digestion of starches until around 6 months, and carbohydrate enzymes such as maltase, isomaltase, and sucrase do not reach adult levels until around 7 months. Young infants also have low levels of lipase and bile salts, so fat digestion does not reach adult levels until 6-9 months.
 If you don't know why rice cereal is really bad for babies please read/watch this. Rice cereal is a terrible first food and has no place in a child's diet. Brown rice shouldn't be introduced as a first food because it is harder and more complex to digest as a first food. Soft fruits and veggies are best.  

 I have no desire to fill my baby up with solids in hopes they will be hungry less often, or sleep better, or for any other outdated reason. The goal many parents have had in the past (and to a large extent today) is to tank young babies up so they would sleep all night. This isn't good for many reasons. The coolest thing though is that Breastmilk is actually a sleep aid for babies! Mother's milk is ever changing and is actually different at different times of the day!

-My baby must first sit up on their own which is one sign of readiness.
-Around 6 months old (but sometimes 5 months old)  I usually notice my little ones: smacking their lips, watching food go into my mouth, looking REALLY interested in food and grabbing for it. Once the interest starts it gradually grows. Babies are smart and aware; they have been watching people eat since birth.
-The first food I usually give is between 6-8 months old. It's generally avocado or banana mashed up really fine on a spoon by me. If they gag or push food out of their mouth with their tongue that shows they are not ready. I'll try again some days later if they still seem like they really want solid food and keep grabbing and/or smacking their lips.
-I give peeled apples to suck on as an introduction to tastes and texture. A small amount of apple pulp that they suck and gum out may help with solid food swallowing practice. I gave one to Beatrice at seven months old.
-Babies will slowly start to learn a chewing motion with their mouth and learn to swallow solids. They ALWAYS gag a little at first because it's brand new, but I see gagging as a sign of not being ready too. There is a difference between a baby gagging and a baby learning to swallow solids and I watch for that.
 -I will not sit and shovel drippy food into my child's mouth as they drool it out and force feed it back to them. I choose a child led method.
-If my baby is interested in food but gags at food I'll just continue to let them gnaw on peeled apples.

 Moving Forward
 I breastfeed my baby before feeding solids so that my supply stays up ( I want my baby getting her calories from my milk instead of filling up on baby food). I do not want my infant skipping nursing sessions! This isn't as much as an issue when they first start tasting and trying foods, but could be an issue later when they can actually make meals or snacks out of solid foods.

 Once they are "into food" I give strawberries to gnaw on under careful supervision. If my baby doesn't have any teeth yet then they are not likely to bite off big hunks very often. This is a new sensitization, texture, flavor and they love it! Strawberries are a big joy for my babies, I think they just love the firm but soft edible texture. (Warning: wash them well and buy organic when you can, unfortunately strawberries tend to be very heavily sprayed. Pay attention to your baby -strawberries can give some babies a diaper rash. None of mine have trouble.)
 I give my babies baby teething biscuits/baby cookies to chew on, which aren't the best as I don't feel wheat is all that great on the system but it keeps babies super occupied and happy and they don't tend to eat much of it anyway. I buy organic whole grain varieties.  I like this kind -carrot and ginger. Even though rice cereal is a no-no and above I said brown rice isn't a good first food either, I still give these whole grain organic brown rice puffs on occasion, it is not filling and she doesn't eat it all at first anyway (most of it ends up on her bib or me). But it's super entertaining for her and it teaches her brand new chewing and swallowing motions with added texture. I make sure everything I give like that is sugar free and organic. This is sweetened with fruit juice which does add "sugar" and is totally unneeded at this age, but like I said it's totally occupying! And it definitely teaches chewing safely, so I see it as a learning tool. I'm also able to make breakfast for the other kids because she's so entertained.

  I do not feed my babies very often (if ever) from a spoon and jar the old fashioned way. Not only is it messy and time consuming, I believe shoveling food into a baby is not the best way for a child to self regulate food intake and learn to feed themselves. Also, I'm lazy! So I encourage self feeding with this silicone feeder: 

This looks like it is filled with fresh mashed carrot. The one I actually have is from Target and is a little different (open tip instead of holes throughout). This brand is by Kidsme.
 Beatrice LOVES this thing! And she never overeats because she is feeding herself; I am not stuffing food into her mouth. Young baby feedings often include the baby pushing food out of their mouths while you are wiping it off the baby's lips and chin with the spoon. The excess is re-feed it to them over and over until it is finally gone. Gradually a baby will learn to accept the food and eagerly open their mouths, but I would like to encourage parents to make sure they are not overfeeding their baby or feeding too early. Baby shouldn't be pushing food out with their tongue, a baby should be a willing participant of the experience and very engaged in this new eating thing!

 I use resealable organic baby food pouches for convenience and squirt a little in the feeder pictured above. You can also stuff it with cooked fresh veggies or fruits. You could make your own baby food puree if you want, and a lot of moms do these days. I don't make my own because organic baby food is a  cheaper faster option for me. (I buy in bulk and get Subscribe and Save deals from Amazon.) My babies are only on baby food periodically to learn about tastes and texture and when we travel or run errands. One pouch tends to last me for days when they are young. Then all too soon it's off to the big stuff!

Ditching the pureed stuff
Once they start chomping down everything in sight (and with or without teeth they may do this sooner than you think!) I just feed them what I'm eating off my plate: Avocado, banana, mashed up sweet potato, cooked carrots, mashed potato, mashed up broccoli, cantaloupe, mango, asparagus, lintels, beans. Last night I was popping peas into Beatrice's mouth off my dinner plate and eating the skin for her. She was the cutest little baby bird ever! Eventually heavier things (oatmeal, eggs, noodles, whole grain brown rice, meats, fats, more grains) wiggle their way into their diet. I think eggs are a fabulous food. If you let your child lead they will be squealing and pawing for your plate. They will quickly realize there are LOTS of foods to try! So I don't mess with expensive messy baby food for long, or the time it takes to puree and freeze my own.
 Babies learn super fast to feed themselves when they are ready for solids and can grab food. They will simply chew (or gum rather) up their food. Eventually they will want a spoon! Everett didn't have teeth until after his first birthday! But the kid still ate everything. Even chicken in tiny pieces. He loved cooked carrots. At first I cut them up into bites that I would feed him but after that he became an avid eater, so I just gave him a cooked baby carrot stick cut in half for him to feed himself . For me it seems that somewhere between 14 and 18 months old I needed to make sure my baby eats well before bedtime or they may wake hungry for more than a breastmilk only feeding.

Cucumber: My new go-to finger food
 Recently we gave Beatrice a slice of cucumber with the skin peeled off (we left a little skin on one side for a better grip). She went nuts for it! They are so mild, cooling, full of moisture, easy to suck on, and they break apart slowly. Cucumbers are actually packed with many vitamins and minerals. Beatrice makes cute talking and "ahuuah!" babbling noises every time I'm in the kitchen with her and she won't stop until I get cucumber out! She asks for it like crazy! Yesterday she nom-nomed through at least 10 cucumber circles! (When it gets too gnawed down and small we just replace it with another.)

For the under one crowd, babies with no teeth, or when I'm not supervising very well: The Mesh Feeder
 I also put fresh food into this great contraption. It's a mesh version of the feeder pictured above. For me the silicone ones (as pictured above) is best suited for actual pureed baby food and this mesh one is better for whole chunks of food they puree on their own from biting down and gumming on it. I think it's a bit more messy to use, but they feed themselves and it's great for bigger chunks of cooked carrots, banana, cantaloupe, brown rice, beans, strawberry and anything else you want to load it with. I will still likely use a mesh one with Beatrice even though we are using the other right now. Other babies gave them a run for their money and I need to replace it. I've been using these for nearly every baby for years and years. I love this product because it makes any chunk of food instantly super safe for baby!

Drinking ~ Cups
 I read a long time ago that babies can go on a nursing strike and if they do they can be cup fed pumped milk. I couldn't even imagine a nursing strike with any of my eager and very attached-to-me nursing babies... but lo and behold we had one. When Penelope (now 7 years old) was a very young baby she went on a nursing strike. She was hungry and refused to nurse. There are all sorts of reasons babies can go on strike. So just like everyone recommends I pumped my milk and fed her from a cup. I was amazed, flabbergasted, stunned... it was magic. Babies, very small babies, can drink from cups.  Check out this precious video of a newborn baby drinking expressed breastmilk from a cup.

 By the way, if you are reading this and are in need of, or are just curious about, alternative feeding methods that go beyond just using a bottle (Cup, dropper, syringe, and links with various methods) check out this link: Tools for Feeding: Alternative Feeding Methods – Bottles & More

 So Penelope was fed from a cup until her nursing strike ended (2 days) and from then on I always taught my babies to drink from cups at around 6-8 months old, basically when solids started up.
What I do is hold a cup to their lip and slowly tilt it. They start to make a mouthy suck gesture when water hits their mouth, and I very slowly try to not let too much fall out. A clear glass cup works best for me to see better. They usually cough and choke at first in surprise, but after only a handful of tries they get used to sucking it in slowly and stopping the flow themselves. Most people never know that young babies are perfectly capable of drinking from a cup. There is no need to ever use bottles if you don't want to. (Juice is junk food to babies and should not be given.)

Teaching Beatrice to drink from a cup
A few weeks ago Beatrice was grabbing for my water and making cute curious noises that mean 'give it to me!' so I let her try it. After a few attempts over two days she got the hang of it and loves a cool little drink now. And water is tasty! She looks so happy when she asks for it and after she drinks it! I really just love watching her learn the muscle control of sucking it in and pushing it out of her mouth to prevent herself from choking. Babies learn so fast!

Food I don't ever give under one year:
Citrus - can cause bad rashes, best to wait until 12 months or older (learned that one the hard way!)
Honey- can contain botulism spores recommend to wait until at least after age 1. I usually wait a bit longer and we generally only use it in smoothies so it's a trivial amount anyway.
Animal milk- Not for the first year. I'm not sure when I introduce it. I guess it's by yogurt at about 14 months of age. 
Juice- Has no place in a young child's diet. Unless it's a smoothie made from frozen fruit mixed with a little juice for blending, or fresh squeezed fruit and veggie juice my babies never drink juice.

Corn Chips?
Eventually our babies go all crazy and want everything they see us eat. Last night it was organic corn chips. It's not going to hurt her, but it's not "real" food either. After her arms flapped like a bird and her bright blue eyes begged, I finally met her little baby squeals and grunts with the magic of a corn chip. She nom-nomed it right down and started asking for more. No teeth, no choking or gagging...just a baby sucking and nibbling on a corn chip against her mother's better judgement. And she pulverized it and asked for more. I gave her a sweet drink of fresh water which she appreciated. Perfect example that babies learn FAST when they are ready. We also come from a long line of food lovers, so it figures.


Broody Me said...

A really lovely informative post. Thanks for sharing this fantastic advice x

Mom of a bunch of great kids... said...

You are welcome! Thanks for commenting! :)