Starting Solids the Easy Way, Feeding Babies Frugally Part III

This is the third in a four-part series on Feeding Babies Frugally.

Part I: The Early Months

Part II: Starting Solids: When and Why

Part IV: Make Your Own “Convenience Foods” for Babies

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People make too much of a fuss over baby foods. Ever since the baby food industry put so much effort into making and selling attractive foods, we  feel like we’re depriving our children if we don’t prepare something similar. But you can make good, nutritious food for your baby with a minimum of time. And if you train your baby to eat solid foods on her own, you will save yourself hours of time in the future.

I never enjoyed feeding my babies with a spoon. It occupied my hands and forced me to sit in one spot, making it harder to look after the older children. I have six children, so this was a biggie for me!

I remember the moment when I realized that kids can learn to eat with their fingers and a spoon at seven or eight months. All kids have to get through it, so why not start sooner than later? While they are safely strapped in and eating (or playing with the food), you can be chatting with them and cooking the next meal. How’s that for multitasking?

IMPORTANT NOTE: Babies have a strong gag mechanism that usually pushes up food that has gone down the wrong way. But never leave a baby unattended, in the highchair or out. Babies don’t make noise when they are choking.

Tips for starting solids:

  • For baby’s first solids, mash with a fork. Bananas and sweet potatoes are good choices. You will want to feed baby with a spoon for the first week or two until he gets the hang of swallowing.
  • Once baby enjoys textured, mashed foods from a spoon, cut soft foods into bite size pieces and place several on the high (or low) chair tray. Initially most of the food will end up in their hair and on the floor. If you don’t have a dog, spread old newspaper under the chair This learning stage is messy and the most time-consuming part of the process. Think of it as an investment in their future independence.
  • There’s no need to use a blender for a six-month-old’s food. Freezing ice-cube trays of blended foods can be helpful in a pinch and is preferable to purchased foods, but they are not necessary. Blending and freezing both cause food to lose vitamins.
  • Instead of preparing special food, cook for the family with baby in mind. Avoid salt, hard foods like nuts or raw carrots, overly sweet food like dried fruit. Add allergenic foods like eggs, fish and dairy after you have removed baby’s portion. Be especially cautious if you have allergies in the family.
  • Once they have tried a few different foods, offer a few types at each meal. This way baby can choose whatever meets his nutritional needs at the moment. Trust your baby. Sometimes they want more protein, sometimes more green vegetables. Mixing everything together in a soup means they are eating more or less the same thing all the time.
  • Don’t give up on a food because baby rejects it. Most babies will try a new food after seven or eight exposures, so keep putting it on the tray.
  • Avoid purchased snack foods, cereals, cookies and crackers even if they are marketed for babies. Sure it’s convenient, but your baby’s stomach is too small to fill up with unhealthy calories. Why let them develop a taste for the added salt and sugar?
  • If you are breastfeeding, nurse before and after solid foods, or whenever the baby wants, to preserve your supply. Look at the solids as an addition, not a replacement. Babies continue to get most of their calories from breastmilk through the first year of life. Breastmilk is higher in calories than most solid foods.
  • If your baby drinks formula feeding, gradually replace the formula with a variety of nutritious solids. The formula companies market heavily to parents of older babies, but formula doesn’t contain anything that can’t be gotten from solid foods. And it contains unhealthy sugars, fats and preservatives.
  • At nine or ten months give baby an unbreakable cup with a small amount of water. Sippy cups prolong the learning stage.

Look for more detail in Part IV. Make Your Own “Convenience Foods” for Babies.

Other posts in the series Feeding Babies Frugally:

Part I: The Early Months

Part II: Starting Solids: When and Why

If you enjoyed these posts you might also like:

Do You Admit to Guests that the Food Isn’t Great?

An expert’s recommendations on starting solids and jarred baby foods

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Comments

  1. Are you including plain Cheerios in the no-cereals category? Because I cannot think of a 8-12 month snack food I relied on more. I have yet to meet a baby who doesn’t like them, and they seem to have more going for them than, say, Bamba. (Plus fine motor practice!)

    I personally didn’t use jarred food because it seemed ridiculous to pay Beech Nut or Earth’s Best a premium to mash a banana (or sweet potato, etc) for me. What? Like I don’t have a banana and a fork? And in my experience one of the absolute best baby foods (healthy fats, calorie dense, high fiber) is avocado, which isn’t even available in jars.

    I do have to say, though, that I hate the first experience of solids–it’s a lot of effort and mess and there is so much I was told not to give my kids between 6 and 12 months (between the hyper allergy worries in the US and some slowness to give dairy on my part) it sucked any potential fun out of the situation.

  2. Thanks, Kate, for your comment. I’m strict about boxed cereals in my house because they are expensive and seem to disappear in minutes. Especially Cheerios, which are imported, and the plain ones are hard to find. They are easy though, and though they contain some sugar when you need something ready made they are better than many alternatives.

  3. It’s a nice idea about the cup, but not very practical for drinking outside of the house or even around the house. My son likes taking quick sips here and there and likes to have a drink in the car. I can’t see a cup being that practical for those settings.

    A sippy cup hasn’t hindered his learning how to drink from a regular cup and it’s definitely saved my sanity.

  4. Abbi,
    Thanks for your comment. You’re right that an regular cup isn’t practical in the car. My kids didn’t have sippy cups, and they still weren’t handy with regular cups till close to a year.

  5. On trips or in the car, I always let my babies use regular water bottles with built-in straws – like this one.

    For some reason, people were always surprised to see a six month old baby drinking with a straw…. :-)

  6. LOL, I had priced plain Cheerios in the four local supermarkets around here within 10 days of our arrival. My kids will not have anything to do with a typical “Israeli breakfast” (vegetables, eggs, etc.)–outside of the chocolate spread sandwich aspect, of course–and this is just part of the price of aliyah, for now. We mix 2/3 plain Cheerios with 1/3 another Cheerios (honey nut or multigrain, which have more sugar).

    I can imagine, though, if I had 3x the number of kids I’d have to rethink my position.

    Hey, would you do a post on healthy breakfast options that take five minutes or less? :) Ok, 10 minutes.

    • Kate, that post is already being written in my head. Breakfast cereal is like prepared baby food–good marketing changing healthy habits in order to make money.

  7. I heard that it’s a good idea to let your child get used to drinking from a straw cup. It’s supposedly better for the kids’ speach. We start that early because it makes it easy to bring along a drink for baby when you go out of the house. At the same time, I get them used to drinking from a regular cup although that always takes longer. One other thing I do is to get them used to sports bottles. There you can adjust the amount of water that comes out at once. This makes it easier for baby to drink.

    • BB, I used a straw cup with my older kids, but eventually stopped because the kind I was using was really hard to clean. I worried about the bacteria stuck in the straw. Don’t know about the speech theory.

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