Estella turned 9 months old a couple of weeks ago, and we’ve slowly begun introducing her to solids.
I am sure most people find us strange for waiting until this age to make solid food a regular part of the baby’s routine! But I have studied and read many perspectives on the topic and this way makes the most sense to me.
A baby is born with an “open gut.” Their digestive system is developed, but the microflora that are meant to populate, coat and protect the gut lining as well as to perform some of the digestive processes, are not fully present. The absence of these microflora allow larger molecules, like whole proteins, to be absorbed straight into the bloodstream. This may be one of the early causes of food allergies (and why it is encouraged to wait a year before introducing some of the more allergenic foods like peanut butter). The baby’s gut receives its first burst of flora on its way out the birth canal, and at that point whatever the mother’s state of flora is, gets passed to baby. Beneficial flora continue to be passed along from the breastmilk a baby receives exclusively for the first six months.
When Estella was born, I swabbed her mouth with a finger full of plain yogurt, because I had some concerns about my own gut flora and wanted to make sure she got some probiotics directly. (I’d read it was traditional in some cultures, as well.) And when she started teething, I would give her a pickled carrot or a piece of sauerkraut that was big enough for her to hold and chew on. Get more of those good probiotics in there! But other than that, she has been exclusively breastfed up until about a month ago when I let her start tasting table food.
The signs of readiness I was looking for:
-She could sit with us at the table in a high chair or booster
-She was interested in the foods we were eating, and this interest couldn’t be pacified by giving her something (e.g. a spoon) to hold
-She developed a good pincer grasp and can feed herself (usually discovered when the baby has begun eating buttons and other small objects off the floor)
With my first two babies, I pretty much followed the standard advice of starting solids at 4-6 months, and those solids were rice cereal, oatmeal, sweet starchy veggie puree, etc. (Actually my first few children’s first “food” was gnawing on a NYC pizza crust.)
After thinking and studying more about it, I realized that when beginning the weaning process (as introducing solids certainly is), I really want to be giving her foods that count, nutritionally – not just filling her up with calories. She is already getting a nutrient-dense diet of breastmilk, so as I replace that with food, it needs to pack the same punch. With Estella, I have avoided giving her grains or starches. Instead, her first foods have been egg yolk, beef liver, cooked chicken and beef, fish, small pieces of cooked squash, and pickled vegetables – as well as the occasional taste of banana or other soft fruit.
Enjoying her first taste of liver:
Yogurt with pickled beet juice:
She still gets hardly any calories from solid foods, but it is fun to introduce her to these and occasionally she will find something she really likes and asks for more and more of. I get excited, thinking “Hey, she’s actually eating this!” until I pick her up and most of it is scattered about her seat and the floor. 🙂 We’ll get there eventually. For now she is still enjoying nature’s perfect food, with all its built-in immunities and nutrition.
This post has been shared on Food Renegade's Fight Back Friday.