For those of you that missed it, read Part 1 here.
When I left off, Tyson was six months old and we were about to start him on solids.
For those of you with kids, you understand the excitement of your baby’s first experience with food. Up until this point, the baby has not really been all that exciting. Sure they are cute as a button, and you could stare at them all day long, but all they really do is sleep, cry and eat the same thing day in and day out. Around the 3 month mark, a baby starts to show some personality. They are awake for longer periods, they are smiling, they are moving around. They start turning into a little person right before your eyes. I found that at this point, I started to notice changes in Tyson on a daily basis – from his facial expressions to his arm movements. Every tiny advancement was (and still is) thrilling. I really didn’t expect to feel this way and certainly didn’t think I would be one of “those parents”, but I think that everyone becomes one of “those parents” once they have a baby. Starting solids is a pretty big advancement in the life of a child so we were pretty excited to see how he would react.
But let me rewind a little bit. Before we could feed Tyson solid food, we obviously needed to decide exactly what we were going to feed him. Ughhh…another decision. And of course there are many schools of thought on this subject. After looking at all the options and research out there, I really don’t think anyone really knows the right answer. At the end of the day each parent is going to choose the “best” first food for their child based on their own set of priorities and their own child’s needs, personality and preferences.
We chose to start with vegetables (as opposed to cereal or meat) for a couple of reasons. Most experts agree that vegetables are the easiest food for a baby to digest this early in the development of their digestive system. Most babies do not develop the enzymes required to properly break down cereals or grains until they are closer to one year of age, which is why babies are often constipated after eating them. I’m guessing that this impacts each baby differently, and that not all babies have trouble digesting them but we figured we would just hold off until Tyson is a little older.
The main reason why we chose veggies as Tyson’s first food was that we wanted to start exposing Tyson to the variety of flavours that vegetables offer. Cereal tends to be very bland (especially refined white rice cereal), while vegetables provide a variety of tastes – sweet, sour, bitter, pungent. Apparently babies have a very narrow “window of opportunity” to introduce some of these flavours before a fear of new foods can set in, usually around the time the baby starts walking (this is called “neophobia” and you can find a quick explanation of it here). We want Tyson to experience as many of these flavours as possible now in hopes that he will be less likely to turn his nose up at them as a toddler. Do I know if this will work? Of course not! Could he love bitter foods like brussels sprouts now and hate them in two months? Absolutely! We decided to approach things this way because it made sense and felt right to us. And I guess we’ll see how things turn out!
As I talked about in Part 1, breast-milk was going to stay the main source of nutrition for Tyson, so any solid food he would be eating at this point was really just for practice – so I was not yet worried him getting about protein or the right mix of specific nutrients from the food. In breast milk (and formula too), all the nutrients are broken down into the smallest form possible for easier digestion. That way, the baby’s system can focus on growth and not on digesting their food.
So back to Tyson’s eating adventures. His very first food ended up being string beans. We had received some lovely organic green and purple beans in our CSA box, so I steamed and pureed them specifically for him.
Annnnnnnnnd……he loved them! Phew. His initial reaction was hilarious. Basically his expression was saying “what the heck did you put in my mouth????” It took a few tries before he really understood that he was supposed to swallow, but it eventually went down. And he finished the entire 2 tablespoons. It took a little while, but he finished. Unfortunately the photos were on my phone and they ended up getting deleted, but I did take some snaps of Day 2 of solids – which was butternut squash.
Over the past couple of months Tyson has tried all sorts of vegetables. Everything from sweet potato, broccoli, carrots, brussels spouts, spinach. Oh, and beets. Very messy beets. I’ve been fortunate that Tyson started solids during the summer as there has been an abundance of beautiful, local produce at the various Farmer’s Markets around the city, so we have had fun experimenting.
We didn’t introduce fruit until a few weeks later, as we wanted to give Tyson repeated exposure to the more sour, bitter and pungent flavours before he started eating sweeter things. The theory behind this is that it will help him appreciate sour, bitter and pungent and not just sweet in the future. But don’t worry, I’m not naive enough to think that this will mean that he will choose broccoli over candy as a toddler 🙂 And I know there is some debate about whether delaying fruit really makes a difference, especially because breast milk is apparently sweeter than any fruit. But again, this felt right to us, and it’s not like he really noticed! So we fed Tyson some fresh Ontario peaches when he was about 7 months. And of course he LOVED them, as he does all fruit – especially bananas.
So that’s where we are today. We started Tyson off at one meal of solids per day and worked our way up to two meals after about 7 weeks. I have to say – this whole solid food thing is a lot of work. Besides making and freezing all of this food (which is fun, but time-consuming), the actual event of sitting him down and feeding him definitely takes longer than nursing. Tyson seems to like the solid food, but he is very easily distracted and usually likes looking around the room, playing with his bib or trying to rip it off, or trying to grab something off the table more than he likes actually eating. But I am really enjoying the experience and I’ve noticed in the past few weeks that he seems to look forward to his meals. As Tyson recently hit the nine month mark, we started introducing a third meal…and adding a few more foods to his repertoire. Stay tuned!
What was your baby’s first food? What was their reaction?