What is an ideal first food? I wrote about the criteria of choosing an ideal first food. My vote is with rice because it provides baby with energy to grow, low in allergens, easy for baby to digest and gentle on the tummy. Rice is also an excellent medium for nutrients fortification. Most experts recommend for babies to start with an iron-fortified rice cereal. Iron is an important mineral because it helps baby produce red blood cells and grow! After 6 months, your baby’s internal iron stores will more or less be depleted and mom’s breastmilk doesn’t contain enough iron for baby. Hence, iron-fortified cereals are an excellent choice. Not all cereals are the same, look out for cereals that:
(i) does not contain added sugar or salt
bland is good at this stage. there is no advantage to expose baby to sweet tasting food and nurture a liking for sweet tasting food. Salt isn't good for baby too as it is merely a burden on baby's tiny kidneys.
(ii) no colouring, additives or preservatives
baby's food should be as natural as possible.
(iii) single ingredient
Cereals that are made with a single ingredient are ideal choice for this stage as exposing baby to more than 1 ingredient will make it difficult to name the 'culprit' should baby have a negative reaction (eg: red rashes, diarrhoea etc...). Let your weaning process be slow and gentle, expose baby to 1 ingredient each time. Allow at least 3 days gap before introducing any new ingredient to baby.
(iv) does not contain milk
It is not ideal to expose baby to dairy other than your breastmilk or baby's current formula. However, adding your expressed breastmilk or baby's current formula is a good idea as baby is familiar with the taste/smell and will more likely accept the taste he/she is familiar with.
If you have intention to practise Baby-led weaning, i encourage you to read up a little more before you make this decision. Practising baby-led weaning means that you will have to start off with food that baby can hold with his hands. Foods like steamed carrot, avocado or pumpkins are popular choices, but it is not ideal as they are not iron-fortified or iron-rich. It will not be easy for baby to hold and chew on iron rich veggies such as spinach and Bak choy.
When is a good time to start? Choose a time when baby is in a good mood. Sleepy or cranky babies are not easy to feed at all. Do not start baby on solids within a week post vaccination or when baby is sick. This is because, if baby acts up after a his/her meal, you will not be able to tell if it's due to the vaccination, bug or new food.
How to prepare the first cereal? Watch Video 3: How to prepare baby's first cereal. Ensure you prepare the cereal correctly and attain the right consistency for your baby.
It is important to let baby understand that it is meal time. Let baby sit down in a baby chair, put on a bib and tell baby that you are going to feed him/her. Having a routine like this will help baby get ready for meal time and ease him/her into the 'eating mode'. Watch Video 4:Baby K's first solid food experience.
I do not recommend having a media device around while baby is eating, we want baby to focus on the meal and enjoy his/her food. Using a media device or toy to distract baby during mealtime can help a fussy baby eat more but this is not good for baby in the long run. If baby is distracted and focusing on the toy or media device instead of his/her food, they are missing out on the food experience. Since there is lack of engagement on his/her food, baby may not even register eating a meal and will eventually rely on a 'distraction' at every single meal in order to complete a meal.
It is absolutely normal for baby to frown or give you funny facial expressions during the first few meals. Baby can be apprehensive while tasting solids for the first time, simply because he/she is tasting food for the first time. His/her taste buds are hard at work! Baby may also be still trying to master eating with a spoon. Don't misunderstand these expressions as a rejection to food. Have a look at Video 5: Baby K attempting to eat with a spoon and 'rejection' expressions. She is trying to figure out the new sensations in her mouth. She don't look like she is enjoying her meal but i am sure we will start to see some smiles after a few more sessions! I hope the same for you too!
Let me guide you with this first solid experience, i can help choose an ideal cereal for baby, prepare it and ease baby into eating solids. It's important to start this process right! Check out our First Solid Food session. Call me or email us if you have any more questions.