I started weaning my daughter Amber, who I affectionately refer to as cbb, when she was six months old. I still vividly remember the excitement I felt when she was ready for solids!
As an avid cook, I was curious to see her reactions to trying something other than milk for the first time. But what kind of food should I start off with? The very initial foods that are good for a baby should be easily digestible and unlikely to trigger allergies.
An important note: at this stage, solids are not meant to replace any milk feeds as milk is still the major source of nutrients. Instead, it’s a chance to let them experience different tastes and textures.
What are some of the best first foods for babies? I read up extensively and got valuable advice from my mum on what type of solids to offer. Here are her recommendations:
Root vegetables like pumpkin, sweet potato and carrots
Allergic reactions to root vegetables are rare, and they usually have a natural sweet tasting flavour that babies find easy to accept. Cbb’s first solid was steamed pumpkin purée! Pumpkin aids digestion because it is an excellent source of fibre, and it has essential vitamins and minerals that help support your baby’s development. For instance, the magnesium and calcium in pumpkin help babies build stronger bones.
Avocado is another good choice as baby’s first food as it is high in monounsaturated fat, also known as good fat. Did you know that good fat is great for babies? Babies need fat for healthy development at this critical stage, and avocado is a great source of that. It also helps that it doesn’t need to be cooked – just spoon it out of the peel and feed it to your little one, or mix it with a little breast milk or formula milk until you reach the desired consistency. The natural creaminess is a plus! Cbb loves avocados!
Pear is a favourite of mine. Yes, you read that right! I love giving cbb pear because it helps ensure smooth stools! Even now that she is close to 17 months old, whenever I find that her poop is harder than usual, I will give her a serving of pear and she will have no problem pooping afterwards. When offering pear as one of baby’s first foods, remove the skin and cut it into chunks. Steam for 10 minutes then purée till smooth. If need be, you can add some water to thin it out. Steaming is recommended for babies under eight months as the heat from cooking helps break down sugars and fibres, making them more easily digestible. You can graduate to raw mashed or puréed fruits after the first few weeks.
Apart from advising me on the best first fruits and vegetables for babies, my mum also gave me some precious tips on feeding solids in general:
It’s not a must to give cereal
We’ve always heard that baby cereal is a great first food because it is easy on the tummy and unlikely to trigger allergic reactions. But many baby cereals have added sugar in them. If you decide to offer your baby cereal, be sure to choose one that is sugar-free and enriched with essential vitamins. For better nutrition, mix some fruit and vegetable purée into it. That said, while cereal isn’t entirely necessary, do ensure that baby is getting iron-rich foods. Iron-fortified cereals can be a good source, as well as dark green leafy vegetables and meat.
Give fresh food as much as possible
I’m not going to disagree – food pouches are a convenient way to introduce solids to your baby at the beginning. But freshly prepared food definitely tastes better than any pre-packaged versions. The most important discovery for me after my many experiments was that preparing fresh food offers me the flexibility to gradually introduce different textures to my baby. Exposing your baby to various textures is more likely to result in a less fussy child. Also, when prepared optimally, the nutrients in fresh food are better preserved as compared to processed food.
Try feeding your baby solids 30 minutes before milk, around lunchtime
There are also certain misconceptions about introducing solids that my mum debunked. I will share some of my favourites below:
“Add cereal to baby’s milk bottle so she will sleep through the night”
This belief is not only baseless, it’s dangerous! Your baby will sleep through the night when the time comes. There is a real risk of choking when you do so, and it defeats the purpose of letting baby explore tastes and textures. Please don’t do it!
“You should never freeze avocados or bananas”
I can truly vouch that this is a myth, because I have done both! Due to oxidation, avocados and bananas do turn brown when exposed to air, but this doesn’t mean that they have turned bad. I have frozen avocado and banana purée and served them to cbb after proper thawing. She enjoys them all the same!
“You can only introduce egg after baby turns one year old”
This is not true! Unless there is a family history of being allergic to eggs, there is no reason to worry unnecessarily about egg allergies. Just ensure that the eggs are thoroughly cooked, or use pasteurised eggs. I introduced both egg yolk and egg white to cbb when she was eight months old.
Want to discover more resources about changing to a new diet for your baby? Find out more at https://www.healthhub.sg/earlynutrition!