Introducing Solids to Baby? A Quick Guide and a Few Recipes.

Introducing Baby to Solids -- Recipes

When I started my baby on solids, it was hard to decide what to feed her. Like all mums, I wanted to make sure I was giving her the best possible food while at the same time trying to offer her a wide variety of them. When my baby was still around 4 months old, I bought a few books and read through, as I wanted to start on the ‘right foot’.

The book that I’ve been recommending and which I still use till now, with my 2 year old, is Food Babies Love by Emily Dupuche. It’s a real treasure and I must say it really helped me with my baby.

I’ve had many mums telling me about problems they have faced when feeding their babies like:

  • salt needs to be added for baby to eat
  • baby is a very fussy eater
  • baby doesn’t eat veggies
  • baby doesn’t self-feed
  • baby only wants to drink milk
  • baby is eating pureed food even after 1 year old and is still drinking milk from a bottle.

I must admit I have been very lucky for not having had to deal with the above listed issues. And till now, my little girl is a happy eater and will eat her fruits, veggies, meat, pulses, leafy greens, all dairy and everything really. Well, I don’t offer her chocolate, fruit juice, lollies, sweets. Im sure she’d be more than happy to eat those too.

How do you know your baby is ready for solids?

It is now advised to give baby solids when he around 6 months old; ‘around’ is important as some babies are ready a little before that time and some babies a little after (This booklet from Department of Health WA website is quite handy). Too early (before 4 months) is a problem as your baby’s digestive system is not ready yet and too late (after 6 months) might make it harder for baby to accept new tastes and textures.

You will know baby is ready when he starts to be interested in what you are eating and when he starts to follow your spoon to your mouth! Baby must be able to hold his head steady and should not push the food out when you offer it to him. If he does, it doesn’t matter, try again after a few days or in a week.

Why is it important to make sure baby is eating the correct texture according to his age?

Offering solids at around 6 months of age is very important for three main reasons:

  • After 6 months baby’s iron store starts to decrease and the iron in breast milk and formula is not sufficient to keep the store to the required normal level.
  • The muscles used for chewing are the muscles used for speech development. So developing those muscles is important. (You can read more about it here)
  • It is also important for baby to taste a variety of food so that he does not become a fussy eater.

Many mums say things like ‘my husband doesn’t like cabbage that’s why my little one is refusing to eat it’ or ‘I’m allergic to egg, so I cannot give it to my baby as he/she may be allergic too’. This is simply not true. You will know if baby doesn’t like a specific food if you have given it to him more than 10 times and he has refused it. If baby refuses to eat something once, you have to try again another time, maybe another week and then you will be surprised to see that baby might eat it. They are now discovering tastes and do not know what they like or don’t like.

Concerning allergies: it has been found that giving some foods late to babies can increase the risk of food allergies. If you are introducing a new food, it is always best to introduce it during the day, and to then monitor baby closely to see if there is any allergic reaction. When introducing new foods, also make sure you introduce one at a time; in case of an allergic reaction you will know exactly what your baby has eaten.

 

A note on Food Babies Love by Emily Dupuche

Food Babies Love is full of yummy recipes for when babies first start solids to when they can self-feed; I tasted all the food that I cooked from the book and also at times finished them off for my baby. I started my baby with some pumpkin puree and then followed the book’s advice to when to move to different kinds of foods; since then it has been a great journey.

In her 184 pages of inspiring recipes, Emily has put together some delicious recipes, which can also be adapted for toddlers. The ingredients are easily available or can be substituted by usual pantry staples. Some of the recipes can even be used for the whole family or when you are having friends over for tea (like the zucchini slice, the savoury muffins or the sweet ones).

Introducing Solids - recipes

A Few Recipes For When You Start (from Food Babies Love)

Pumpkin Puree (Suitable for freezing; Makes about 1 cup)

Ingredient:

  • 200 grms Butternut pumpkin, peeled, deseeded, and roughly chopped (Any type of pumpkin can also be used)
  • Water for cooking

Method:

Place pumpkin in a small saucepan with a tight fitting lid and barely cover with water. Cover and cook over low heat for 8 – 10 mins or until pumpkin is soft. Strain, reserving a little of the cooking liquid.

Use a stick blender to puree, adding a little cooking water to help thin down the puree and make it smooth.

Set aside 2 tsp of pureed pumpkin and freeze the remaining puree in an ice cube tray.

 

Sweet Potato Puree (Suitable for freezing; Makes about 1 cup)

 Ingredient:

  • 250 grms sweet potato, peeled and diced into rough 1cm pieces (about ½ a medium sweet potato or 1 cup chopped)
  • Water for cooking

Method:

Place sweet potato in a small saucepan with a tight fitting lid and barely cover with water. Cover and cook over low heat for 15 mins or until soft. Strain, reserving a little of the cooking liquid.

Alternatively, place sweet potato in the top of a double steamer and steam for 15 – 20 mins or until tender.

Use a stick blender to puree, adding a little of the cooking water to help thin down the puree and make it smooth.

Set aside 2 tsp of pureed sweet potato for baby’s meal and freeze the remaining puree in an ice cube tray.

 

Banana (Suitable for freezing; Makes about 1 cup) Introducing solids -- recipes

 Ingredient:

  • ½ ripe banana that’s not too ripe and certainly not under-ripe and chalky

Method:

Mashed banana is a great first food for baby but can cause constipation so keep an eye on the nappy and cut down if required.

Peel banana and mash with a fork. Offer to baby mixed with a little of their regular milk and a teaspoon of rice cereal.

 

Stone Fruits (Suitable for freezing; Makes about 1 cup)

Ingredient:

  • 4 – 6 fresh stone fruits, peeled and stones removed (try apricots, peaches, nectarines but choose one variety at a time)

Method:

These are great as purees added to meat dishes, as flavour additives to natural yoghurts or simply peeled as a terrific finger food for babies to suck on – sweet and sticky! Just make sure the fruit is ripe as you don’t want any sourness to turn your baby off.

If using fresh fruit, simply puree with stick blender.

For a cooked version, place the fruit in a small saucepan with a sprinkling of water and cook with a lid on over low heat for 10 mins or until soft.

Puree cooked fruit using a stick blender.

Set aside a few teaspoons for your baby’s meal and freeze remaining puree in an ice cube tray.

 

Other foods you can puree and give baby are: carrot, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, turnip, peas, potato, pear, apple, avocado (just mashed) and many more. If you are using corn, make sure you remove all the husks (by passing it through a fine sieve) before giving it to baby.

 

Freezing Baby food

  • Freeze food straightaway as soon as it is cool.
  • Throw away leftovers; don’t refreeze it. Bacteria and contamination are your worse enemies.
  • After thawing, make sure your food is heated thoroughly and then allow it to cool down before offering to baby. Mix it well and make sure it is at the right temperature.

 

Wish all mums good luck on this food journey which is going to be a melting pot of emotions for both baby and themselves!

Have you tried other recipes when introducing solids to your baby? Want to share?

 

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Is Your Child Eating Too Much Salt?

Kids Eat too much salt

Whenever I eat at my parents’ or at the in-laws’, I always think the food has too much salt. And what’s worrying is that I’m the only one! Everyone keeps telling me I have a problem with my taste buds! You know what? I found out that I DID! It was my taste buds because I wasn’t used to eating that much salt in food. It’s all relative: my parents and in laws find the salt level ‘normal’ but for me it is not. It’s all a question of being used to salt. That’s why I am so amazed when mums tell me they add salt to their babies’ food when they start on solids, as early as 5 to 6 months old! They argue they want to make sure the baby likes the food by making it more tasty. What they do not know, unfortunately, is that babies do not need additional salt and they are the ones who are getting them used to that taste!

The Health Foundation in Australia recommends that an adult consumes less than 6 grams of salt a day, that’s about 1 teaspoon. And we are talking here not only about salt that we add to food when cooking but also to hidden salt in all the foods that we eat. The Health Foundation aims at reducing premature death and suffering from heart, stroke, and blood vessel disease in Australia. It warns about the high intake of salt which can increase blood pressure and lead to a high risk of many other diseases. It is alarming to know that the average Australian consumes about 9 grams of salt everyday. I don’t always check the labels of food products that I buy but I always try to buy healthy food and avoid processed food and take aways as these are so high in salt.

There is now evidence that a high intake of salt in children also influences their blood pressure and can lead them to develop many diseases later in life such as high blood pressure, osteoporosis and even obesity. How children eat when they are young heavily influences their food choices and likings in later life. If they have been used to eating salty food, this is what they will like later in life. It is better for them not to be encouraged to develop a preference for salt when they are little in order to avoid exposing them to all the health risks related to high salt intake. Children should rather be encouraged to eat healthy snacks such as fresh fruits, dried fruits, fresh vegetable sticks and yoghurt. Their food should be cooked without salt if possible. There is already natural salt in vegetables and the taste of other foods such as meat, chicken, etc. can be enhanced by adding spices and herbs. I have tried it and it does work. It is all a question of getting used to eating less salt or no salt at all. If you do it gradually then very soon you will find it hard to eat out or to buy take away!

According to the Health Foundation and other health institutions this is how much salt children can eat per day in order to stay healthy and to avoid risks linked to over-consumption of salt.

Age Maximum Salt Intake
0-6 months <1g / day
6-12 months 1g / day
1-3 years 2g / day
4-6 years 3g / day
7-10 years 5g / day
11 years and above 6g / day

Babies’ kidneys are too immature to deal with added salt and anyway, they require very tiny amount daily. Both breast milk and baby formula consist of that required amount of salt and do not need any added salt to their food. When babies start on solids, although their food may taste very bland to us (remember it’s all a question of being used to salt), salt must not be added. As far as possible it is best to feed baby home made food and avoid processed food as even sauces and other stocks contain too much added salt. 75% of our salt intake come from the ready-made and processed foods. It is always important to check the nutritional information on food products that you plan to give your children and choose those with low salt content. Be mindful of products such as bread, baked beans, crisps, olives, cheese and even biscuits which already contain salt. When choosing breakfast cereals, make sure you are choosing one which has a low salt level. I used the recommendations of Choice Magazine for my baby. It compares various products and lists their salt and sugar levels.

When eating out, be mindful what you are feeding your child. A large portion of chips can contain over 1g of salt and 4 slices of bread can provide 2g of salt; so in only one meal your child can eat much more salt that he is required to eat over a few days!You can use the following as a guide: food containing more than 0.6g of sodium per 100g is considered as high in salt.

Making sure your child doesn’t eat too much salt means you’re also trying to ensure that he doesn’t develop a taste for salty food; this will makes him less likely to eat too much salt as an adult. As mentioned earlier, if you are already giving your child too much salt, just decrease it gradually. It would be a good idea to do it for the family as a whole at the same time. The whole family will benefit from it. It makes so much sense that salt is often referred to as the slow poison and we definitely don’t want that for us nor for our kids, do we?

Sleep Training Baby: some tips

Baby self settles
One cannot imagine the importance of sleep until he/she is deprived of it. First time parents know exactly what I’m saying here. The first six months following the birth of my daughter, I was totally sleep deprived and nothing seemed enjoyable anymore. I was so tired all the time. Everyday I secretly prayed for my baby to sleep at night so that we could both be happy and healthy. I continuously told myself one day she would just start to sleep by herself. I never heard about self-settling, never heard about sleep props, never heard about growth spurts and couldn’t even imagine of her being able to put herself to sleep.

Then we discovered Ngala (an organisation in Western Australia), which helps parents whose babies have sleep issues, among others. I learnt how sleep patterns vary according to baby’s age, about sleep schedules, sleep routines and the whole lot! I started to read extensively about ‘sleep’ and with some advice from a friend and the help of my husband, we managed to train our baby to self settle. Some research and organisations support using self-settling techniques, particularly after three to four months old, when baby has developed the circadian rhythm. On the other hand, there is also research that totally condemn it (Read about what Sarah Ockwell-Smith has to say). I believe it’s up to the parents to decide what works best for their baby as each baby is different. Some babies do not even need to be taught self-settling techniques, some take quite long to learn it and some would start to do it straight away.

Although she could self soothe, it took my baby almost 19 months to start to sleep through the night. I could only have a decent night sleep after 19 months following her birth! That may seem surreal to some while I’m certain that even after 19 months many babies (and parents) still wake up at night. It will definitely help parents to read about self-settling techniques, sleep props and growth spurts. There are numerous websites out there but I can suggest some I have used and which I still go back to.
Ngala website

The secret of Good Sleepers PDF from Ngala

Raising Children website

Baby Centre Australia website

To this date however I still wonder if I have done the right thing. Would you recommend using self-settling techniques?