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First Solids

Experts give contradictory advice on when what, and how to offer solid food to your baby. Who do you believe?

Chances are that you were given solid foods way too early, and you may still be suffering from the effects. Current evidence suggests that most food allergies and digestive problems stem from the first year of life, and I'm quite sure that excessively early solids are connected. Unfortunately some people have heard about this and gone too far the other way.

Before 3 months of age a baby is totally unable to digest anything except milk. Anything else you give him will go straight through him, so don't waste your time.

If you wait much past 8 months to introduce your baby to solid foods you will miss a "window of opportunity". There is a chewing reflex which hits a peak at 7 months and then subsides. This is a survival instinct much like the suckling reflex at birth. It coincides with a babies natural desire to eat solid food, and if your child sits with you when you eat, he will probably steal from your plate around this time.

The wisest mothers let their child tell them when he is ready, and "go with the flow". A child who has a chewing reflex, the ability and inclination to grab a handful of mashed potato and enjoy it...is ready.

Many mothers will tell you that they are proud of their ability to provide all their child's needs from breast milk until their baby is a year old or more. I commend this, but they miss the point of the first solid foods. They are not designed to replace the milk nutritionally but to practice on, so that when the child DOES need to get his nutrition from solid food, he is able to do so safely.

Babies who are given formula milk definitely do need other nutrition from about 6 months onwards, and many babies are simply so hungry that milk does not satisfy them no matter how often it is given. Then you will have to step in before they are able to help themselves, and provide something suitable on a spoon.

If your baby, who has previously been contented with his milk, suddenly starts wanting more milk, more often, is waking at night more instead of less, yet seems still fussy after a milk feed, he may need something more. If your baby is formula fed and takes more than 8oz of milk at one feed, it is definitely time to offer solid food.

It is considered normal to offer baby cereal, known in North America as Pablum, as a first weaning food. It is totally unnecessary. The manufacturers claim that it is nutritionally perfect. As we have established, the object of these first offerings has nothing to do with nutrition, and everything to do with keeping it in the mouth, and swallowing it without choking. By the time your baby is eating a bowlful of solid food, he will want something far more interesting than Pablum. I never bought it. Have you tasted it? I've heard two theories about the effect of the bland taste, by the way. One is that it causes your baby to eat far more than he needs, and two is that it encourages him to desire bland food later on. Neither is desirable.

My children were first offered plain mashed potato mixed with milk to get the thickness right. When they were used to this I mixed in a little pureed carrot. After a while I added pureed green veggies, and eventually meat. Slowly and gradually is the key. Don't rush them.

I couldn't use the jars of baby food. I tried all the free samples I was given, but none of my children would ever touch the stuff. I even wrote to Heinz very frustrated once, when I wanted to take some on holiday with me to make things easier, but the little monkey just spat it at me. Heinz told me it was normal for children raised on home-cooking to dislike the taste of commercial baby food, so be warned. Frankly this was a small inconvenience for ending up with six children who eat anything. I believe that commercial babyfood is the cause of almost all picky eaters.


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