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Starting solids is an exciting experience for both baby and parents. Children who have early experiences of eating well,  will grow up to become adults who enjoy all kinds food with enthusiasm. So, do take time to make your little one’s first experience with food not only healthy and safe but also fun, easy and memorable!

Here are some tips and suggested tools for starting solids successfully.

1. Timing is everything

The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that babies be breastfed exclusively for the first 6 months. Jennifer Hor of Jenlia Maternal Services who is a midwife, parent educator and author of Asian Parenting Today  advises those who want to start weaning before 6 months to discuss it first with their paediatrician.

Letting baby consume solids before his system matures could lead to long-term digestive problems or allergies. It is also helpful to read up on these issues and to observe your child and know him well.

2. Do Not Delay

WHO and UNICEF note that around the age of 6 months an infant’s need for energy and nutrients start to exceed that which is provided by  breast milk. Minerals like iron and zinc are also lacking. Whilst breast milk or formula will still be baby’s main source of nutrition till the age of one, complementary foods necessary to meet those needs should be offered through a process known as weaning.

If you leave the introduction of solids too late, you may also encounter other problems. An older baby could be more resistant to new foods and textures. He may also stubbornly cling on to the breast or bottle, and may get so accustomed to his liquid diet that he loses interest in learning to chew and swallow solid foods. This can lead to speech delay and other related issues.

3. Look for Signs

Some signs that your baby is ready: he can sit up in a high chair and hold his head up on his own. Additionally, he shows interest in your food (e.g. he loves watching you eat, reaches out to grab things on your plate and opens his mouth when food is offered). Baby should also have lost the “tongue thrust reflex” that makes him automatically push any food out of his mouth with his tongue. If he is doing all the above, your baby is ready  for starting solids.

Get ready, because things may get a little messy. But you can prepare to make things a little easier by prepping yourselves with baby wipes, a baby high chair, and definitely a good bib! One to check out would be OXO Tot Roll Up Bibs, with fabric that rolls up into the pocket for portability.

4. No Cereal in the Bottle Please

This is for babies who are bottle fed. Contrary to any advice an older relative may offer you, baby does not really need the extra calories that cereal adds to formula milk. Thickened formula can lead to overeating and cause gagging. Babies may also accidentally inhale the liquid into their lungs.

5. You don’t have to begin with rice cereal or porridge

Rice cereal or porridge is neutral, risk-free and unlikely to trigger an allergic reaction. However there are other points to consider. For instance, cereal may not be as wholesome as we think it is. Baby may also get so used to this soft diet and become resistant to moving on to more textured foods important to build up his oral motor muscles for speech. Instead, there is a whole movement towards introducing more real foods for babies like vegetable and fruit puree as well as other grains and proteins. Read also about baby led weaning here.

For parents who are going to use fruit purees, it will help to plan meals quick and efficiently. Consider all-in-one containers that can portion, store, freeze, heat and serve home-cooked baby meals. Containers such as OXO Tots’ Glass Baby Blocks, for example, can go directly from the freezer to the oven or microwave. No need to wait until your little one’s meal is fully defrosted before heating it up – a definite timesaver for busy parents.  For parents who are always on the go or travelling with baby, tools that can help with pureeing fruit and vegetables with ease like the OXO Tots’ Baby Food Mill, are a godsend.

Baby Blocks

6. Introduce One New Food at a Time

Wait two to three days when introducing each type of new food, as it’s easier to spot and isolate foods that cause allergic reactions like diarrhoea, vomiting, rashes or breathing problems. Common allergens include egg white, fish and shellfish, wheat, cow’s milk, soy, citrus, and berries. Paediatricians used to recommend delaying the introduction of egg whites, fish, and peanuts. However the American Academy of Paediatrics is now giving these a green light at 6 months. In fact, they believe delaying the introduction of these foods may increase the chances of your child developing an allergy to them. 

That said, if there is a family history of food allergies, it is best to discuss with your paediatrician the right timing to introduce high allergy foods. All babies should avoid honey until the first birthday. Honey can be contaminated with botulism spores, and the risk of botulism is greatest in infants.

7. Try and Try Again

Baby may actually need to try a food 10 times before accepting it. Don’t confuse initial rejection with permanent dislike. If baby rejects a food initially, take a break and offer it again another day. You could also opt to mix it in with something you know he already likes.

There is a window of opportunity to introduce children to novel foods that supposedly closes after they are weaned and before they turn two. So, do make the best of this period. Offer different types of tastes and cuisines to develop your child’s palate. Don’t just offer chicken nuggets, macaroni and cheese or spaghetti bolognese. Try Indian dhal and chapathi, Chinese-style steamed fish, or Japanese udon.

You can also try serving food up in a fun and creative way. OXO Tots’ plain feeding plates and bowls, for example, may seem boring and bland at first but these give you more leeway in terms of how you serve the food. With their divided feeding dishes, you can opt to mix different foods up or keep them separate.

8. Replace sugar and salt with herbs and spices

Processed sugar and salt should be avoided during baby weaning, It should also be minimised for older children. A preference for salty foods may predispose your child to high blood pressure, osteoporosis, respiratory illnesses such as asthma, stomach cancer and obesity when they become adults.

Take a page from award-winning chefs who feed their children lots of fresh vegetables and simple foods, regarding these as “the building blocks of flavour”. These chefs believe that “babies have palates that are pure and uncontaminated; and so need to be given clean and fresh foods first.” Baby food does not have to be bland. Try natural spices, herbs and flavour enhancers like pepper, cumin, cilantro, cinnamon, nutmeg, basil, rosemary, lemongrass, tamarind, garlic, lemon zest, chilli or even curry powder!

9. Let Baby Dictate the Pace

Whether you start with fresh purees or finger foods or a combination, your baby should dictate how fast and how much food to eat. When baby eats finger foods or transitions into solids via baby led weaning, this comes naturally.

But if you are spoon-feeding, be mindful of baby’s cues before pushing more food into his mouth. Let him lean forward and open his mouth to show you that he’s ready to have more. You are teaching him to listen to his body and honour his own cues of hunger and fullness. This skill will serve him well throughout life.

As they get older, encouraging them to help themselves will also pave the way for greater independence. Encouraging them to use their own utensils or drink cups themselves will help the process. Using cups like OXO Tots’ Grow Soft Sprout Cup and then continuing to Straw Cups  and then Training Cups will help tots (and parents!) transition from their first post-bottle sippy to their first big kid cup in a systematic way.

10. Model Healthy Eating Habits in Your Household

Your child will eventually want to eat exactly what is on your plate. If there are always deep fried foods or sugary treats on your table, that’s what he will see as the norm. It is also important to be honest with kids, and not to trick them into trying something. Children will call out hypocrisy or double standards when they see it.

As a parent, try not to emphasise your own dislike for certain foods, as it will influence your children and cause them to prematurely reject those foods before giving them a chance. Finally, make mealtimes memorable and pleasant.

 


We hope these tips and tools will help you to triumph at mealtime! Remember that all babies are different and progress at different rates. Some will eat like a pro with no fuss from day one, others will not. Just trust that all babies will get it eventually and do the best you can.

Experienced makchics, please share your own tips, tricks and tools relating to your child’s first solids encounter with us!

By Li-Hsian Choo

 

OXO Tot is available at Happikiddo and other retailers near you.

This is a sponsored post presented by Bloom and Grow Asia.

Who knew the topic of food could be so complicated? Moving beyond the debate of whether to breast or bottle feed (either is perfect, by the way), you’re now faced with the question of when, how and what solid foods you should give your baby.

There are parents who are firmly in the BLW camp, that’s baby-led weaning, to the uninitiated. Then there are the parents who puree, and the parents who fall somewhere in between. But how did our parents or grandparents  introduce food to us, and what did they feed us?

Back in my day…

In a nutshell, our elders took it easy and watched their babies for cues that they were interested in food, generally around the four to six month mark.

May Woon, 61, said she started her children on baby rice cereals until they learned to chew and swallow. They then moved on to congee, or rice porridge, and mashed soft foods.

“We didn’t aim to start at any age, but would try when they started getting curious about food,” she said.

Elaine Chow, May’s 31-year-old daughter and mum to seven-month-old Henry, recalled May spending significant amounts of time preparing the food and  sitting with her to get her to finish a meal.

“Partly because she was a full-time housewife, partly because she put so much work into the food, and partly because she had less milk supply and was in a hurry to wean us,” said Elaine.

“She still happily spends half the day planning and preparing Henry’s food.

“Mum thinks there’s no better food for babies than congee – she’s always giving ideas of what to put in it. She always cooks way too much congee for him!”

Alicia Chew, mother to 11-month-old Nate, said her mother was slightly disapproving of her steaming and pureeing fruit and vegetables when she started weaning her son.

“She kept nagging me about why it wasn’t porridge, and asking me why I was so westernised,” Alicia, 32, laughed.

“I assume it’s what they did for me because it’s what they’ve been telling me to do for my son.”

Affordability and access

The porridge-is-best view possibly harks back to a time when parents had no choice but to be practical and use whatever they had. Rice cereal, which is a common first food for baby, was either too expensive, or not available.

Yin Chia, 81, said porridge was the only food she had to feed her children when they were babies.

“I’d boil porridge with de-boned cooked fish and some finely-sliced vegetables, like carrots or onions. I’d cook it for hours until it was broken down and soft enough for them to eat,” she said.

“It was always cheap fish like ikan kembung (mackerel) and vegetables like daun keledek (sweet potato leaves). We couldn’t afford meat back then.

“If you had other salty foods in the porridge, like ikan bilis (anchovies), you wouldn’t add extra salt or soy sauce.”

Yin said ikan bilis was known to be a good source of calcium. It also provided a bit of flavour to food and best of all – was cheap and accessible.

“Even when I was looking after my grandchildren, I would peel the ikan bilis to get rid of the bones, roast it and blend it into a fine powder to add to porridge,” she said.

What about other cultures?

Meanwhile, in Australia, 41 year-old mother of two, Meg Schiafone, said the first food of her and her siblings was rice cereal with breastmilk around four to six months of age – depending on the size of the baby.

Mum was told to introduce food for a big baby around four months and a small baby around the six-month mark,” said Meg.

“We were given a weak solution of rice cereal and breastmilk. In the morning, we had one teaspoon for one to two weeks, increasing to two to three teaspoons over time.”

Meg said following rice cereal, they were introduced to fruit like pear or apricot for lunch or afternoon tea.

“Again, we were given one teaspoon for one to two weeks before introducing another fruit. If there were no allergies or reactions, she would introduce another fruit.

“The midwife gave my mum two options; cook the fruit yourself or buy the jars of fruit.  She used the jars because she was busy and not a fantastic cook!”

Meg and her siblings had rice cereal or fruit up until the age of six months. After that, their mum introduced vegetables like pumpkin, peas and carrot. The six-month mark was also the time when babies could also be introduced to cow’s milk.

“Mum said we were introduced to pureed meat in the baby food jars around seven to eight months old. This included meat like beef and lamb,” she said. 

No rules

What amazed Meg was there were no other rules to introducing food to babies back then.

“There was nothing about allergies to peanuts, eggs or dairy, and no mention of added sugar and salt,” she said – a contrast to the cautious environment she is raising her own kids in.

“There weren’t so many rules then,” recalled May.

“I recall hearing about feeding them more fish and eggs. We didn’t think about allergies. We fed them egg yolks to see if they had an allergic reaction, in which case they couldn’t get certain types of vaccinations. That was all.”

They were also pretty easy-going about added seasoning in food, she added.

“Elaine avoids salt and sugar in Henry’s food, but I didn’t have this rule,” said May.

“Maybe we avoided very strong-tasting, sugary or greasy foods. But what we considered nutritious for adults would usually be fine for children.”

Parents these days have it good in some ways – we have access to knowledge and advice from health professionals. We can also buy a wide array of prepared food or fresh produce.

In some ways, we probably have too much information and choice compared to our parents or grandparents – which can sometimes work to our disadvantage!

If you’re keen for more information about food and nutrition for babies and children, view the 2013 report on Malaysian Dietary Guidelines for Children and Adolescents by the Ministry of Health.

Twins_Solids

To be perfectly honest with you, I’ve not really stressed out about parenting till the day came to start feeding my babies solid food. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing; I used Google so much that I ended up being more confused and I almost had an anxiety attack. The problem was that I found information in bits and pieces. Nothing really tells you exactly what to do, plus I had two mouths to feed for the first time!

So here are some notes from my experience of starting my babies on solid food, which I hope other mums of multiples would find helpful:

What You’ll Need

  • Utensils: I feed my babies using one bowl, one colour changing spoon (lets you know when food is too hot), and a couple of bibs. A sippy cup was introduced later when their had better grip.
  • Highchair: My babies aren’t able to sit on their own so we haven’t bought them high chairs yet. At the moment they are fed in netted bouncers, which are easy to clean.
  • Baby food maker: Like most women, I love pretty things and I was very tempted to purchase the Beaba Babycook but I didn’t because already had a steamer and a food puree apparatus at home. Sure, I have to wash up a few more things but it does the job, which is all that matters.
  • Baby recipe book: It helps to invest in a good baby recipe book for healthy recipes and to get an idea what babies can eat at what stage. A friend of mine gave me Renee Elliott’s The Top 100 Healthy Recipes For Babies & Toddlers and so far my babies have lapped up everything I’ve made for them.

Preparing

  • To retain nutrients, I steam the vegetables, add in a bit of the steam water and blitz everything in a food puree apparatus. Fruits like apples, mangoes and pears are blitzed raw.
  • My paediatrician’s advice was to prepare food roughly the size of my babies’ fist and gradually increasing their portions as they get used to eating solids. My babies’ first food was sweet potato and then only brown rice cereal two weeks later. Now, they have 3oz of fruit in the morning and 2oz of veggies mixed with a tablespoon of cereal (brown rice, millet, quinoa, etc) for dinner.

 Storing

  • I’ve been preparing the baby food in advance and freezing it because it works for me. I’ve been storing them in baby cubes and reheating it when necessary.

Feeding

  • My son initially didn’t like the idea of solid food. I used to smear food on his mouth so that he could taste and hang of it. After observing his sister having so much fun eating, he finally loves it too.
  • To make sure they are eating the same amount of food, I’d feed them a spoonful each.
  • I started off with one meal first at 11am because it was when they weren’t too fussy and they had time to digest before night time in case they didn’t agree with certain foods. At six months, they now have breakfast at 9.30am and dinner at 6pm alongside their usual formula feeds. This may decrease slightly since solids fill them up a little more.
  • Solids tend to constipate your little one so make sure you give them a couple of spoons of plain water after a few spoons of solids. I stress on plain water and not a sweetened drink because you don’t want to start them on the bad habit of only drinking sweetened beverages.

 Meals on Wheels

  • Feeding the babies when we’re out and about is usually a stress-free affair. We prop them up in their stroller and fed them as per usual.
  • If I’m organised, I’ll pack their food from home. Otherwise, I bring along bottles of jarred organic baby food from my pantry.
  • I also pack my own water because you never know how clean the water is wherever you are going.
  • Just remember to bring zip lock bags for dirty bibs and cutlery.

As with everything, just have fun with it because this is your babies first experience with food and you want them to enjoy it and not shun away every time they see a spoon. Also, just because you don’t like a certain vegetable doesn’t mean that they will hate it too. Try to expose your babies to as many flavours and colours now to develop their palate for later on.

January Low, recent mother of twins, takes each day as it comes – because no parenting book could have prepared her for this!