This is another blog post in my series on starting solids. You can read the first two posts here:
If you follow me on Facebook, you may know that my third baby was ready for solids a little earlier than I expected. The first thing she ate was a piece of broccoli off my plate when she was a little over 5 months. So starting with finger foods was her decision, not mine :).
Click the link below to see a video where she is self-feeding broccoli and chicken. It was one of my first experiments and I was not fully prepared. The chicken and broccoli were cooked for her puree. I think that chicken thigh would be a better option than breast since it is more chewy and broccoli needed to be less limp.
VIDEO: Chicken and broccoli dinner
Nevertheless I was impressed by her desire to eat and her skills to pick up food and bring it to her mouth. At some point she even used her pincer grasp when she was picking up small pieces of broccoli with her fingers.
Since then she has been eating finger foods daily. Of course, most of the food ends up on the floor. At the beginning she was just sucking the juices from the pieces of food, gnawing rather than eating them.
Here is what is what is left when she is done with clementine segments:
From the comments on my Facebook page I could see that many parents were surprised to know that most babies can pick up food at 6 months. The percentage goes even higher for 7 months old babies and by 8 – 9 months almost all kids are able to self-feed.
Even if babies are spoon fed purees 100% of the time, it is a good idea to expose them to finger foods, for play and motor skills practice, if nothing else. Most of babies in the families I worked with were happy to see how much their little munchkins were capable of doing all by themselves!
I do not follow any particular order in introducing solids, just trying to wait for a couple of days before serving a new food. Although Baby Led Weaning website recommends giving babies mixed foods the family is eating from start, I am more comfortable starting with single ingredient purees and finger foods and mixing them gradually.
At this point she has been eating solids for almost 3 weeks so we have enough variety in the foods she has tried to create mixed dishes from them.
Below are some of the finger foods she has eaten so far:
– steamed broccoli with stalks for better grip
– cooked chicken cut into big chunks
– pieces of homemade meatballs with only 4 ingredients (meat, quinoa, mushroom, egg). I adapted this recipe, omitted salt and tomato sauce and used cooked quinoa instead of breadcrumbs.
– long pieces of home made sourdough bread (it only contains water, flour and a sprinkle of salt)
– cucumber strips
– soft parts of lettuce and spinach
– whole soft raspberries and strawberries cut in quarters
– pieces of roasted carrots and zucchini (big hit!). I cut them using a crinkle cutter, for a better grip.
– steamed green beans
– raw soft pears cut into wedges
– orange segments with skin on
– pieces of cooked (pan fried) fish
– cooked mushrooms
– cooked egg white
– rice cakes
– banana (cut in half and peel taken off a part of it only, for a better grip)
– cooked pasta
– kiwi, mango and avocado cut in wedges. I use a crinkle cutter to cut them so she can hold them better. I also roll them in oatmeal or rice cereal, for a better grip.
To prevent choking, I do not give her any hard, crunchy foods that are easily snapped off like apples or raw carrots or sticky foods like almond or peanut butter. I find that cucumber sticks work great since they are more bendable and she cannot bite them off. I also avoid honey, because of risk of botulism, and unpasteurized dairy.
How self feeding is going
Self feeding is fun and incredibly messy. I do not think she actually eats that much, since most of the food ends up falling out of her mouth. But she is slowly getting better at biting and chewing. In the beginning she used to just suck on the food or constantly bite off pieces that were too big for her to handle.
If a piece she bit/sucked off was too big, it would come out of her mouth immediately. I make sure that she is sitting upright in her chair, not reclined backwards and it makes it easier for the food to just fall out of her mouth.
I am happy to say that she has eventually learnt to take super small bites that require little or no chewing so I think that more food ends up in her tummy (or in her diaper :)).
Still, here is what our kitchen looks like after her meals:
Why I am making purees
I also make purees for her. Most of the foods she eats as finger foods are fruit and vegetables, with an occasional piece of meat or fish here and there. I find purees a convenient way to feed her when I do not have appropriate finger food handy. I also feel more relaxed knowing that she is getting the most important nutrients for this age, fat, iron and zinc, that are not easy to find in otherwise very healthy fruit and veg. Most of the meals she gets some finger foods and some puree, and sometimes just one or the other.
I freeze purees in an ice tray and then store in labeled plastic bags. I typically use 2 cubes which equals to about 4 tablespoons per feeding and she does not always finish it.
Most of the purees I make are high in iron and/or zinc. Here is what iron and zinc are important: many babies are born with low stores due to low levels in moms. Besides, iron and zinc stores are exhausted after first 6 months of life, so it breastfed babies need a good dietary source of them. Formula is fortified with these nutrients.
Below are some of the purees I made. I use breast milk or homemade chicken stock to thin the purees and iron fortified cereal to thicken them.
– chicken puree
– cooked egg yolk puree
– buckwheat puree
– avocado puree
– meat puree
– fish puree
– lentil puree
– quinoa puree
– butternut squash puree
– broccoli and cauliflower puree
I use them individually and also combine them to create different flavors.
So here it is, my last update on the starting solids Odyssey. In the next posts I will be sharing more recipes for finger foods, tips and tricks for transitioning to more challenging textures and common myths of starting solids.
Disclaimer: Some babies are not ready for finger foods or texture upgrades until 7-8 months. Be guided by your baby’s developmental signs of readiness when making a decision about best feeding strategy.