WHEN TO START?
Keeping in mind that baby’s primary source of nutrition will still be milk, most babies are ready to start solids anywhere from 6-8 months. From a digestive standpoint, there are many studies that show a benefit of waiting until at least 6 months. (This is also recommended by the WHO and the AAP). Before then, babies lack enzymes in the gut necessary to properly digest food and their guts are not fully sealed until then. This is by brilliant design though, and is normal! Those “leaky guts” are for a purpose – which is to allow nutrients & antibodies from breastmilk/formula to easily be absorbed into the bloodstream. If you introduce food too early, proteins from the food particles can escape the gut and get into the bloodstream. In some cases, this can cause the body to attack that specific protein, activating an allergic response the next time food is presented. “Rice cereal at 4 months to make baby sleep longer” is a very outdated practice and has been disproven by multiple medical studies. In fact, there is a good chance they’ll sleep worse due to gastrointestinal issues. (Babies do need an iron boost around 6-9 months, but we’ll talk about how to do that through whole foods in a later post.)
For exclusively breastfed babies, there are also many immune benefits to waiting until 6 months because it facilitates development of good bacteria in the gut. Infants that are exclusively breastfed for 3-4 months have a decreased risk of respiratory tract infections, ear infections, necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), allergies, celiac disease, type 1 diabetes, & gastrointestinal infection.
SIGNS YOUR BABY MIGHT BE READY FOR FOOD:
Sits with minimal assistance
Loss of tongue thrust reflex
Opens mouth when food comes toward face/willing to accept
Shows interest in food/attempts to grab (this often happens before 6 months just from a developmental standpoint. If baby is super eager, you can include them in meal times by sitting them at the table in a highchair or on your lap & giving them utensils/bowls to play with, or offer a breast milk popsicle.)
Things that we use that make it easier for us, or things I’d recommend doing before starting!
1. Be informed before you begin.
Know how you want to approach this fun milestone and how you want to do it. I highly recommend reading the “All Organic Baby Food Cookbook” by Leah Bodenbach (@bloomingmotherhood), for a great guide to introducing food to your baby. @westonaprice also has some good resources around this subject that align with my way of thinking
2. Make sure you’re certified in CPR.
This is actually something I recommend to all new parents before baby arrives, but especially before starting solids. You’ll learn things like the difference between gagging (a normal reflex when beginning food introduction, coughing, moving air, doesn’t require intervention) vs choking (requires intervention, no air movement, no coughing or crying). Taking a CPR course will give a peace of mind and sense of empowerment that is invaluable. Thrive Training Institute offers CPR courses online and covers choking as well. It’s a great, affordable option for parents! Use code PARSONS10 at checkout. (Link is in my bio!)
3. A highchair (with a footrest
This provides stability for baby while eating) – we love the IKEA Antilop high chairs because they are very affordable (I know there are many opinions on these but we personally have used and love them!), and many companies make accessories to make them ergonomically appropriate for baby (there are also easy ways to DIY this though! Think rolled towels for posture, exercise band for foot rest, etc).
(I prefer soft silicone spoons like pictured here for infants), bowls (if you’ll be doing purees), & bibs. I also like to have a cup to offer small amounts of water in between bites. Spoons, stainless steel bowls, and bibs are all linked in the baby section of my amazon shop!
5. A sink 😉
The least stressful cleanup for me is to just plop baby in the sink afterwards! I usually feed baby in just a diaper and that way I don’t have to worry about how “messy” they’re being.
6. I also recommend having something on hand to help baby in case they get a little backed up.
I personally have the Tamer roller from the doTERRA kids line and the “Easy Go” tonic from Organic Olivia so I’m ready to go in case any discomfort occurs.
7. Don’t stress!
Have fun with it, try not to compare your baby to anyone else’s (or even other siblings). If your baby doesn’t seem interested in a certain food at first, don’t count it out. Circle back to it and see if their palate has changed, or even offer different forms (puree, soft cooked, mashed). If baby doesn’t seem interested in food AT ALL, they might not be ready! Don’t force it. You can always back off and try again in a couple weeks.
Okay, let's break this down!! 💃 I brought my friend and fellow RN, Leah, on for a guest collab for this topic because I've never experienced allergies with my kids & she's completely reversed a severe egg allergy in hers. So she has experience AND can relate more to you mamas on this particular subject! 🥰 Thanks, Leah!
These 9 foods are what majority of food allergies are comprised of. Note: the quality of food you'll be introducing to your baby matters and has an impact on its relation to potential allergic reactions.
You don't have to introduce these foods exactly in this order (especially if there are reasons to hold off on one or more) but if you do, this is a considerate way of introducing them so there would be less likely of a reaction
*NOTE this is not medical advice or a personalized timeline for introducing allergens. Always consult with your health care provider*
If your baby already has underlying leaky gut symptoms like eczema, constipation, sensitivities, frequent illnesses or congestion, etc I would not recommend moving forward with ANY solids until some gut repair is underway. This will look different for every baby.
It is highly recommended to work with a professional if there is an initial reaction when you introduce any of these
Have Benadryl on hand in case of severe reaction (@Genexa has a dye-free Benadryl without all the yucky ingredients and strictly the active ingredient, Diphenhydramine HCI)
HOW TO INTRODUCE:
For each allergen, offer 1/4 tsp for at least 3 separate exposures
Increase the amount each time if no signs of reaction before moving on to introducing a new food
Note that your child may develop an allergy to foods unlisted, but they are not as common
Keep an allergen log with date and reaction for referencing
If you want more guidance on introducing allergens, you can head to @bloomingmotherhood to get on the waitlist for her course, Foundational First Foods (specifically for sensitive babies).
IDEAL FIRST FOODS
So many healing & nutrient rich properties.
The collagen strengthens gut lining(which helps prevent allergies), and contains all super absorbable nutrients.
You can easily (and affordably) make your own at home with some organic beef or chicken bones and a crock pot.
Soft boiled Egg Yolk
We make ours in the instant pot.
Place one cup of water in the insert, put eggs on the trivet, close and set the valve to seal. Set on manual for 2 minutes. When it beeps, leave the eggs for an additional 30 seconds, then promptly move to an ice bath for 1 minute.
Super rich in heme iron, which babies can be deficient in at this age.
Grass fed, organic ground beef
Wild caught, low mercury fish like salmon, sardines, anchovies, & cod
Roasted Sweet Potatoes
Baby led weaning or purees?
We do a bit of a hybrid! It truly depends on the baby. Some will reject purees and want to feed themselves.
Some have absolutely zero interest in feeding themselves. Just try each way and see what feels best.
For example -- with sweet potato, you can steam and offer it in the puree form, or you can slice into strips and roast in the oven until soft. For an avocado, you can offer a long slice, or mash into a puree.
Tip: When making purees, I batch prepare, freeze in ice cube trays, then pop out and store until I'm ready to use. Then you can easily heat up one cube of food when ready to serve, and explore with different mixtures as well!
Some other tips
We tend to hold off on fruit in the beginning stages for eating and while baby is developing their palate. If you start with starchy, sweet food, they can develop a preference for that.
Remember to use good quality fats when preparing baby's food – fat improves brain function and fuels the nervous system – grass fed butter, olive oil, coconut oil, and avocado oils are what we rotate through depending on need.
For premade baby food, we trust @serenitykids. They use grass fed and pasture raised meat and organic ingredients with no added preservatives. They also third party test their product for heavy metals and hold their foods to the European Union standards which are among the strictest in the world.
A good account to follow: @solidstarts