Saturday, January 24, 2009

My Solid Experience

So my mommy friends and I joke about the extent of research we all did on breastfeeding, formula, bottles, etc. (baby's source of nutrition for max 18-24 months) compared to the total and complete lack of research we did on feeding our kiddos solid foods.

I think it's because formula and especially breastfeeding are such different means of eating that they are mysterious, difficult and therefore need lots of investigating. Solids on the other hand, are something we eat every day, so how hard complicated can feeding them be?? Ha!

When little C's pediatrician waltzed into his 4 month checkup and cheerfully announced, "all right, it's time for some solid food!" I was like a deer in the headlights . We were just getting the whole liquid diet thing down and now you're telling me there's more?!?!

Being completely oblivious to any research/info/anything on introducing solids other than the perpetual rumor that rice cereal would help our little guy sleep through the night, I followed my pediatricians advice and marched straight to HEB to get little C some baby rice. I was actually very excited because the little guy wasn't sleeping through the night at all and according to everyone I talked to, rice cereal was the answer to our prayers! So I got home, mixed it according to the box instructions, plopped my tiny little four month old in his Bumbo seat (we didn't even have a high chair yet!) and proceeded to hold his head up with my hand so I could feed him a liquidy, soupy mess of 'rice cereal' (for the record, 4 parts breastmilk/formula and 1 part cereal is just NOT's milk with dust in it).

It was the dumbest thing I've ever done....he was so.NOT.ready. But the doctor said to keep it up once a day (and I was holding out hope for the ever elusive full night of sleep), so I kept it up, and even added in new cereal every few days like oatmeal and barley per the dr's orders. Every meal felt like a waste of time since he would get maybe a half an ounce of food and the rest would end up in his lap, but I kept it up for three whole weeks before I finally threw my hands up in frustration! He was hating meal time, I was hating meal time, he was breaking out from something (I thought it was all the liquid that would end up on his neck after eating, but it turned out it was a reaction to the barley cereal) and he still wasn't sleeping through the night. This was not the solid experience I had hoped for - either I was doing something wrong or there had to be another alternative!

I decided to do a little research. Got some books, spent some time on the Internet, talked to a lactation consultant and wouldn't cha know it, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends solids be introduced between 4 and 6 months depending on your individual child's readiness. Also, for the record, the AAP recommend starting solids at 6 months for years and years. It's just been a relatively recent change in the books because someone decided they needed to cover their bases for that handful of kids that are actually ready at four months.

I can't speak for everyone, but our little guy wasn't 'ready' until 5 and a half months, and I am of the opinion that too many mom's rush their kids into solids before they are ready for a variety of reasons ranging from 'the dr. said so' (this wuold be us), to excitement to start a new step, to hoping the solid food will help Junior sleep through the night (this was also us, but from my personal experience, solids DO NOT make your child sleep through the night). Anyway, more about readiness later...

The other part about starting solid foods that kills me is the 'cereal' American doctors and Gerber convince you that you have to start with. While rice cereal does have a relatively low probability of allergic reaction, it's nutritionally void and has a tendency to constipate babies (that's why you mix it with something uber nutritious like formula or breastmilk). Second, the other grains on the market (namely barley) contain gluten - a VERY common allergen among babies. As a result, most doctors in the UK and Europe recommend starting with fruits, vegetables and even meats that have a lower likelihood of allergic reaction and are choc-full of nutrients and fiber (to keep things running smoothly :). Plus formula-flavored solids hold no interest to a lot of kiddos once the novelty of eating upright out of a spoon has worn off. New and interesting flavors and textures, on the other hand, will keep most kids immensely more interested in (and therefore more likely to eat) their supper.

So, armed with my new knowledge on baby food, we backed off for about 6 weeks and started again just before Little C turned 6 months old. This time, we started MY way....with home made baked and pureed sweet potatoes. They were a hit!! HE gobbled up 2 whole ounces with nary a spec left in the bowl. Complete 180 from our initial experience with 'solids' (I use the term loosely because like I said before, the food was by all accounts liquid).

And at the ripe old age of 8 months, even waiting until almost 6 months to start our introduction schedule, and going VERY slowly and following the 4-day wait rule, the munchkin has now been introduced to:

Acorn Squash
Butternut Squash
Egg Yolk
Garbanzo Beans
Green Beans
Kidney Beans
Lima Beans
Brown Rice
Summer Squash
Sweet Potato
Wheat Germ
Yogurt (Plain Full-Fat)
And the occasional Cheerio, Puff, or Teething Biscuit

He's quite the eater too. Other than avocado and blueberries, he's pretty much scarfed down anything we shoved in his direction. And so far only one allergic reaction to Barley when he was 4 and half months old - he broke out all over his mouth and neck and anywhere the cereal touched his face. Early food allergies are really common and most babies grow out of them by the time they are a year or two old, and since he initially reacted so young, I thought I'd test the waters again this week, but no such luck. After two bites, he broke out all over his mouth anywhere the cereal touched.

Meal time is about to get even more exciting too, because at eight months, we can try some harder-to-digest foods like beef, broccoli, cauliflower and raspberries (among other things). I'm also going to start adding some spices to his foods. I've been sneaking in pinches of cinnamon and nutmeg here and there, but now I can add some stronger flavors like garlic, onion and herbs and even a touch of butter, sugar and oil (in moderation) .

I've made almost all of the little man's baby food and I highly recommend it. The taste difference between the stuff I make Little C and the jarred food is night and day! I don't ever mind eating his left-overs, but that pasty stuff from the jar is DISGUSTING. I wouldn't touch it with a 10 foot pole, and I feel strongly that if I don't want to eat it, why should I make my child?

And yes, I know, the organic factor is out there with jars now, but I buy organic produce when I can. I personally believe variety of nutrients is more important than organic, so he's had some pesticide-laden produce once or twice, but on the whole, most everything I make him is organic. Also, there are a lot of semi-home made options like pureeing canned beans (central market organic beans rule..just rinse and puree!), and using fresh-frozen vegetables (central mkt corn, peas and cut gream beans) or organic all natural jarred apples sauce (again, central market brand rocks) that save you time and money, but still allow you to feed your baby wholesome organic food.

We didn't even purchase any fancy baby-food making product because I wanted to see how committed to the process I would be. We do have a food processor that was a wedding present, and that has been very helpful, but for anyone interested in trying it, a blender or food mill would work just as well (and in a lot of instances a fork and some patience is sufficient for single portions).

Since I am lucky enough to have the food processor, I make 2 month supplies at each go. I started using plain ice cube trays, but I recently purchased 4 sets of these trays from Kid Co. They come in sets of 2, they are BPA free and each tray comes with a lid (so no more saran wrap for me! That's good knews because saran wrap and I have an extremely torrid relationship). They retail for $9.99 at Babies R Us.

The basic drill is clean, cut, cook, puree and freeze. For more specific instructions, checkout This website is F-A-N-tastic and one I refer to almost daily - you can see some great articles on readiness for solids, samples schedules for introducing solids, allergy information, recipes and so much more. There are a ton of books and cookbooks and gadgets out there, but this website is pretty extensive and it's a great place to start if you are interested but not sure what to invest in or how to get going. Besides, it's FREE, and you can't beat free!

So that's been my experience with solids. Like so many other aspects of raising a baby, what's right for us isn't right for everyone, but I would encourage any mom reading this to do some research on what IS right for your child. Doctors are fantastic resources, but don't rely on them to be your only resource....he he he....that reminds me, one of these days I'll have to get back on my soap box for my immunization experience :)....but until then I'll put my box away for tonight and get to bed. Here's a goofy pic of our happy eater for your viewing pleasure. Goodnight!


Allison said...

Very informative :)

It always amazes me how many of my patients' parents have done absolutely NO reading or research when it comes to raising a baby. I am a NURSE and I guarantee that if and when we ever have kids I will be reading everything I can get my hands on. I mean, geez, I read four dog books before bringing home our puppy...

Ali and Eric said...

Gina - I love your blog. You really help the clueless - like me! Be ready for all my questions once the little one arrives.