If I could go back and ask myself 5 simple questions before starting my oldest daughter on solids 5 years ago, these are the questions. As a result, I mightn’t have been so confused about trying new textures and allergens. I would have been less self-doubting. And I would have realized the path I was going to take wasn’t shrouded in mystery. At all. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, isn’t it? Going back 5 years, I made it my mission to learn as much as I could about infant feeding and probably got a tad bit obsessed with the literature. *nerd alert*. Since then, I’ve undertaken a massive educational and hands-on journey into the world of feeding, and complex feeding issues. Hence, it’s with hindsight and a bit of reflection, that I write this – I spent the early years of feeding my children answering these same 5 questions. I sometimes had to keep coming back to them. Rehashing it all. However, these areas have ended up being the crux. I can say, I wish I’d seen it all this succinctly back then – if you can call this succinct?! 🙂
1) Are you OK at sorting out lots of well-meaning advice?
I wrote a post over at Mumma Morrison late last year about why we get so much conflicting advice about starting solids.
Starting solids is a big step for you as a new mum and for baby too. Your journey together has already evolved from baby calling on you at any time of day to starting to get yourselves a routine and now you are going to start changing roles again in a new way. As baby grows, your roles and responsibilities change at feeding times. Initially starting solids is all about tastes, learning and working at it.
I love talking about all the different ideas for finger foods and purees as they both provide such great learning experiences when it comes to food. It is easy to become anxious at this time of change. You are getting a new “role” and your baby is learning their new “role”. For some families this transition is reasonably seamless and for others it may feel like you’ve just mastered the Viennese waltz … AND then the dance suddenly turned into a tumultuous Jitterbuggin’ Jive.
I have to say that when I read this blog post “Dear Mama, It Doesn’t Get Better” by Cate at Life Behind the Purple Door – It resonated with me at the “starting solids with my second daugther” point in my motherhood journey the most. When people say “it gets better” what they maybe actually mean is “it gets different and you do learn at each stage – sometimes the learning is tough but it happens.” You will learn every day, along with your kids. And that is so cool! You will also get to hear everyone else’s story about how they learnt – just remember to hear their reflection on their learnings and not let that become the script for your own story.
2) Have you done your infant first aid course?
When it comes to starting solids, I always recommend knowing the difference between choking and gagging and attending a top-notch parenting first aid course. Babies need to learn what to do when they gag on new foods and to train their gag reflexes. So, gagging is actually a good learning opportunity. Learning all this during the early years was a big boost to my confidence.
3) Have you read the up-to-date infant feeding guidelines?
Being across allergy and feeding research is very important. These guidelines came out last year. I was feeding my kids in a time when the guidelines were out-of-date because I could see the research. Nothing was marrying up. This is such a better space to see it all from.
This is the link to the ASCIA guideline for Infant Feeding and Allergy Prevention.
This is the link to the ASCIA guideline for How to Introduce Solids to Infants
These guidelines are for Australian readers. And excitingly, the ASCIA Guide for introduction of peanut to high risk infants is currently in its final stages of development.
4) Can you be prepared to keep pace and keep going?
It doesn’t matter if you choose purees or BLW (baby led weaning) or a combination of both for first tastes, you need to continue on to all sorts of different textures and tastes as babies continue solids.
I write about the transitions to different textures in relation to the oral motor skills that babies develop here: how to continue solids past first tastes. I think this continuum of foods (with examples) is really important for parents that have started on solids and are looking for that next step. What to do next. What to try. And I liked this post by Natalia at Tribecca Nutrition giving practical pointers on helping your child self-feed. I particularly like her message about having a “hands off approach” and not fueling any anxiety around food (aka watching our child’s every move around food).
Self-help is such an important skill to teach children constantly throughout their lives and often is the hardest for parents because we relinquish control.
Consider all of these scenarios – going to sleep, toileting, weaning, sleeping (again because there is always a nasty dose of “regression”), going off to day care, going off to play with a new kid at the park, learning to use their lunchbox, going to school, going to their first school disco*, getting their license, leaving me. *Yes, the disco is happening for my oldest girl tomorrow night 🙁 and I’m sure getting a car license will be here well and truly before I am ready for it. The point I am trying to make though is that all of these events leave us with less certainty / control. However, by giving our children time to learn self-help skills, we get something better – confidence (ours and theirs).
5) Can you build your repertoire of food ideas?
I know it seems a long way off, but imagine your child is 4. What does a family meal look like? Where do you want them to eat? What sort of skills do you want them to have? What food behaviours are desirable? What is not acceptable behaviour around food? What are you modelling?
The things that come to mind now, are imporyant for grooming the direction you are going. For example, my aim in my family is for the kids to eat what we do, together as much as possible and to have the mealtime be a hub of conversation. Be it pizza, soup, salad, pasta, stir-fry or chocolate cake, I want them to be part of it all. So, I also had to find a range of recipes that suited us across so many stages. I wrote this post about how “witching hour friendly meals” had to be adjusted to suit our new family. I adjusted HOW I made the foods but not that I wanted my kids to be part of the meal with me. I had to get comfortable with my own cooking skills. I learnt some new recipes. I upped the ante on what was our usual family fare.
Hence, my blog posts are broken up into a wide range of recipes that you can search easily by category. And I have made some awesome blogging buddies that write amazing family recipes so check out – Kylie from Kidgredients, Mandy from Little People Nutrition, Ruth from Pea Fritters and Shari from GoodFoodWeek.
My friend Aileen from Baby Led Feeding (FB Page link here) has just released this number 1 best seller. I am so excited for her. I’ve got my copy and will be hoping to do a separate review on the blog. But you may be interested in getting a copy now. I have used an affiliate link here which costs you no extra – it just gives me a couple of cents from Amazon’s deep pockets to eventually pay for a hot cup of coffee for myself. AND it supports my friend Aileen.
And one last thing… If you are reading this and it’s not your first child, you may like to read these 11 tips I’ve got for balancing a newborn AND a fussy older sibling. Focusing on the logistics and the way you want mealtimes to go was even more important for me when my youngest came along.
I hope this helps you focus and get some clarity on the big picture goals of starting solids with your baby!
What did your baby start to enjoy eating first? What part did you love or do you look forward to?
Feel free to share this article OR leave a comment below if you have any further questions.
Simone also has a Babies and Food workshop that she rund for intimate groups across Sydney at a venue of their choice. It comes with food demonstrations, a workbook and some parenting tools to keep on hand during these early days of starting solids. Contact her via Simone(at)playwithfood.com.au to get more information for your mother’s group, play group or community group.