As a new parent I got excited about giving my little girl her very first taste of real food. I couldn’t wait to watch her face contort as she tried to figure out the new texture and flavor in her mouth. I think that is one of the things I looked forward to most when I was pregnant. The videos of babies eating would crack me up in anticipation.
But, as I learned, everyone seems to have a different opinion about when and how a baby should start solids.
Family and friends have to be the most opinionated bunch on the subject. We got oodles of “advice” about when and what to give her. From cereal in the last bottle once you bring her home so she can sleep through the night to give her kidney bean juice before you start solids so that you prepare her stomach. They would tell us, with the sincerest of faces, that anis tea would calm her stomach and cure colic and sugar on bananas would make her like it more. The advice just kept on coming. Even the ladies at the grocery store would comment on what I should introduce next after they got a close look at what I was buying. Where did these people get their ideas anyway?
Our pediatrician recommended the standard course of introductions. At four months we could introduce cereal, at six months we could start pureed food, and at nine months we could start solids. We tried. I pumped milk to mix it with cereal but she only spit it out. At first it was fun to try to get it in her mouth, but after a while it became frustrating for the both of us. It was clear that she didn’t want it, so I gave up and she just nursed. Later, I actually found out that the box that the cereal comes in has more nutritional value than the cereal itself, go figure. It is amazing how advertising makes you feel that cereal is the way to go. Then, six months came and went, and if she wasn’t in charge of what was going into her mouth, there was no way that it was going in there. She was happy eating pieces of bread and “teething biscuits,” so that is what we gave her. It wasn’t what I called nutrition, or how I had pictured it, but at least she was trying something new.
With so many suggestions, it was difficult for me to form my own opinion about how, when and what to feed my child. I decided to do some of my own research after I got sick of my head swimming with advice. A wonderful book titled My Child Won’t Eat! helped me figure out how I wanted to proceed. I learned the reasons why you should not give your child anything other than breast milk (or formula) for the first six months and how to introduce solids to a baby. The book also went into detail about caloric intake and weight percentages that can drive any new mom crazy. The key point of the book, however, was to watch your baby. The answer was so simple, and so true. Maya would point to what she wanted and when she was done, she would stop. Imagine that! If I listened, the session was fun. I got my faces and she got to explore. If I pushed her a little too far, the session would end in tears or a disaster of food all over the floor that my dogs would have to come and vacuum (not that they minded).
In the end, the method that is chosen for how to start solids doesn’t matter. The important thing is that all parties involved are having a good time. So if you like to make your own baby food and get off on the pureeing process, and your baby likes it, more power to the both of you. But, if you are like me and don’t want to spend any more time in the kitchen than you have to, there is nothing wrong with just giving your baby some of whatever you are eating. Your baby will tell you what works and what doesn’t; you just have to pay attention.