Monday, 28 September 2009

The Globetrotter's Guide to Starting Solids

The Bambino is five months old and we are starting to think about when and how we might introduce him to some solid food.  You would think that there would be one and only one correct way to start a baby on solid food. In fact, this is apparently not true. It actually depends on where you live.

For the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, and Anglo-Saxons generally, the traditional first food is rice cereal at age four months. How many parents still do this?  Not sure.

The more educated Anglo-Saxons are well aware that the World Health Organization recommends waiting until six months before introducing solid food.  They might also realize that rice cereal is nothing but empty calories with iron fortification added and start the baby on puréed fruit and veggies at six months.

The most informed Anglo-Saxons have caught onto the Baby-Led Weaning movement, the latest trend in solids. Ditch the rice cereal, skip the purée phase altogether, and offer baby soft pieces of food that he can feed himself (banana, avocado...).

I should add that we Anglo-Saxons are great believers in freedom and autonomy, including for babies and including at the dinner table.  So even though most Anglo-Saxon parents initially spoon-feed their baby, they tend to allow and even encourage their baby to feed herself early on.   I have included a photo of the Bambina at age 10 months, eating some yogurt.

Let me emphasize that this kind of liberty is, as far as I know, offered uniquely to Anglo-Saxon babes.  I have yet to meet a little French, Italian, German, African or Asian infant under one year old (or, dare I say, in some cases, even under TWO) being anything but spoon-fed or finger-fed by an adult.

The French are very keen on introducing baby's palate early to the finer delights of French cuisine. When baby is between the age of four and six months, doctors recommend preparing baby a "soup" in baby's bottle - a mix of puréed vegetables and milk. This way, (1) the movement towards solid food is more gradual and 2) Baby learns to appreciate salty food before sweet food.

Of course, this method assumes that baby is being bottle-fed. It also assumes that this mixture would actually taste somewhat good, which I personally cannot imagine, but I digress.

Pasta in super tiny pieces (kind of like cous cous), offered at four months.  With some parmigiano sprinkled on top for taste and additional iron.  The kid will be eating the same meal (with pasta chunks gradually increased in size) for the next five or so years of his life so he might as well get used to it early on.

Prepare some rice with a little extra water than you would normally add.  Boil it until the excess water becomes kind of creamy and thick.  Drain the rice.  Give baby the residue. 

Now, my thinking on this is, I would never eat that, so why would I offer it to my baby?

This information does not come first-hand but I have a friend who spent many years in Mexico and had a baby there.  One day when the baby was a little over three months, the baby's nursery caregivers informed the baby's mother that they thought that baby was ready for solid food and so had started baby on chocolate that day!  I don't know about the health benefits of chocolate at three months but I can certainly identify with wanting to try it out.  Yummy!


Diane said...

Love the new look of your blog! And yeah, every baby book I've read recommends beginning solids between 4-6 months and starting with rice cereal mixed with formula or breast milk. Pediatricians in Romania recommend holding off until 6 months. I'm thinking of introducing some solids once Julien is a little over 5 months.

the sweet life with olives said...

hi, i am an american mom living in rome... i would very much like to pick your brain about the chateau if possible. i imagine you are awfully busy these days with new country, baby and all that accompany a new move but if you find the time i would appreciate your clearly informed opinion about lycee vs an american school here in rome. my email is
thank you! erin

The Globetrotter Parent said...

Diane, the Bambino is 6 months and we haven't started yet. I did offer him some apple sauce on my pinky finger yesterday - he licked it, made a grimace, and turned his head away from my finger and toward the breast. I guess he's not ready yet.

Diane said...

Haha I've gotten the same response to apple sauce! I just tried some mashed bananas today--he spit it out at first, but ate it later. Just trying to get him to taste new things and try new textures for the moment, but it's not replacing his breastmilk.