When my daughter India was four months old, my husband and I packed her up and flew to Ireland for a family visit. One night at dinner, my grandmother asked why I hadn’t yet introduced solids into India’s diet. I told her that my pediatrician had recommended waiting until she was at least six months old, and her digestive system was more developed, and honestly, I had planned on waiting until she was a year. My grandmother was stunned.
“When your father was a baby I gave him beef shavings at six weeks, and when your brother was three months old I remember feeding him pureed chicken, and they survived.” I was speechless. Was the information I was using untrue?
In my mommy groups, the topic of solid foods (not to mention vaccinations and sleep issues), continues to be-be a hot-button issue. The website kellymom.com suggests that delaying the introduction of solids gives a baby’s digestive system time to mature, pointing out that enzyme development isn’t complete until nine months. The American Academy of Pediatrics’ guidelines recommends adding solids between four and six months. Pediatrician Alan Greene, MD says that some babies can start as early as three months. He also states, “Looking at a baby’s development is far more important than looking at a calendar to decide when is the right time to introduce solids.” My pediatrician, Dr. Paul Fleiss, seems to follow the same sentiment and encouraged me not to rush. “When India is ready, you’ll know.”
Okay, I can get on board with that, but when your baby is finally ready and able, what do you feed them? The jury is still out. Some doctors are adamant about rice cereal being numero uno and others suggest fruit. Dr. Fleiss discouraged me from starting with rice cereal (citing that it can be constipating), and to try bananas or sweet potatoes instead. Although bland, easily digestible foods are recommended as an intro to solids, I found that India’s palate was quite adventurous right from the start. I would offer her mashed banana and she would turn to whatever adult meal I had in front of me (recently it was a goat cheese quesadilla, with shallots and cilantro) and point incessantly.
Where did her adventurous palate come from? During my pregnancy I ate an eclectic mix of foods, so maybe she was already accustomed to curries and spices in the womb. Still, careful to follow doctor’s orders, I eased her into the culinary realm.
I was lucky, I enjoyed preparing meals for her, but was equally pleased when I could account for our entire household with just one dish. But what is a mom to do if she doesn’t enjoy cooking, isn’t skilled in the kitchen, or doesn’t have time to cook? Try a baby-food home-delivery service like Bohemian Baby. They deliver fresh, organic, consciously-made food in a cooler directly to your front door. Or pick up Super Baby Food, by Ruth Yaron, a comprehensive “baby-food bible” that will inspire you to throw on an apron and cook for the cause. Most importantly, make sure the food you’re feeding your little ones is organic, freshly made and offers a healthy balance of fruits, veggies, proteins and grains.
Eating, like yoga, can be a conscious and meditative event, and it starts with the way a baby learns to eat. Babies learn to chew by watching their caregivers. Eat with them and let them be in the room while you’re preparing meals. When you feed your baby, be present with them. Don’t talk on the phone, check emails, or watch TV. Connect with them, make eye contact. Help them when they need it. Have some fun.
If you’re worried about a mess, do what I do: take off their clothes, let them eat in a diaper and watch them immerse themselves in their yogurt, literally. When India was eight months old she sat on the floor, stripped down to her skivvies with a plum and proceeded to paint her whole body. It was pure magic, and afterwards she loved being hosed off. Take delight in their delight.
No one is perfect. We all have questions and doubts. From the moment I found out I was pregnant, I was suddenly overwhelmed with questions and the search for answers. The journey of parenthood is a long one. We make mistakes, and we learn and grow with our children as they grow. Food is just part of the journey and the way we introduce it will influence their relationship to food for the rest of their lives. Make the process a positive and conscious one. Do the best you can. Your baby will love you for it.