When, What and How to introducing solids to your baby:
A personal account by Jenny Wee

Like many parents, I was extremely tempted to introduce solids to my boy especially when he showed great interest in food at the dinner table and when he gives you the “I want to try” look.

It didn’t help when people around you said that in the past, they introduced cereals to the babies at 3 months and they turned out fine.

Introducing solids to babies without proper research can be frustrating for the parents as well as dangerous for the baby. So the best you can do for your baby is to read up on resources related to the introduction of solids.

The following is my personal account on how I successfully introduced the first solids to my son. Included are also useful pointers culled from my research into the topic, including survival tips on preparing the first solid food for your baby.

WHEN to Introduce solids
You should not introduce solids to baby before six month of age.

Reason: To minimize the risk of allergic reaction.
This is especially important for parents who have family history of eczema, food allergies, asthma. My family has no history of food allergies but being a concerned mother, I was especially careful on what solids to introduce to my son.
The following are some salient points as to why you should delay introducing solids to your baby.

“Delay introduction of solid foods. Mature intestines are better able to screen out potential allergens and keep them from entering the bloodstream. If you feed your infant solid foods (especially those containing protein, such as wheat, soy, and dairy) before the intestinal lining is mature, food allergens can seep into the bloodstream, causing baby to build up antibodies to those allergens and later become allergic to those foods. “ quote from Dr William Sears www.askdrsears.com

“ To prevent potentially-allergenic foods from entering the bloodstream, the maturing intestines secrete IgA , a protein immunoglobulin that acts like a protective paint, coating the intestines and preventing the passage of harmful allergens. In the early months, infant IgA production is low (although there is lots of IgA in human milk), and it is easier for potentially-allergenic food molecules to enter the baby's system. Once food molecules are in the blood, the immune system may produce antibodies to that food, creating a food allergy .” quote from Dr William Sears www.askdrsears.com

Some parents may have problems digesting the information above. So the following are the explanation (in my own words) of some “technical” terms.

Allergens – things that will cause allergies.
Mature intestines and blood stream. What is the relationship? – Food are digested by our digestive tract which comprise of the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine and large intestine and finally anus.
The food that we swallow is digested (broken down into nutrients so that it can be absorbed into our body) in the stomach and small intestine. Once it is broken down into suitable form it is then absorbed by our small intestine where it enters the bloodstream. The intestines are the body's filtering system, screening out potentially harmful substances and letting in healthy nutrients. Once, the nutrients are in the bloodstream, the nutrients are then transported to various parts of our body.
Antibodies – Part of our immune system to fight against infection
Ig A – One of the 4 type of antibodies.
Food allergies -- Our immune system is supposed to treat any foreign particles as dangerous. In an allergic reaction, the immune system overreacts and treats non-harmful particles in this case food particles as dangerous and thus launch an immune response against the food.

WHAT to introduce

Good first food to introduce to babies.

Grains: Rice, brown rice, millet. You should introduce wheat and mixed grain last as they might trigger an allergic reactions in some babies.

Fruits and vegetables: Avocado, Broccoli, Banana, Apple, Caixin and Kale, pears and papaya

Fruit Juices: Please note the AAP caution on introduction of juices to baby. See link

Meat: should be introduced when baby reaches 8 months. In the mean time, you can provide green vegetables esp caixin and kale as a source of iron.

To minimize the risk of allergies, the following are list of food that should NOT be introduced before the baby turns 1yr. This is especially so if there is any history of food allergies in the family:
1. Nuts especially peanuts (avoid this up to 3 years of age)
2. Egg white
3. Fish
4. wheat
5. cow’s milk

Warning: Some commercial packaged food has hidden ingredients like eggs and milk. So read the labels carefully. Till now, I have not found a brand of teething biscuits without eggs and milk. However, if anyone of you manage to find teething biscuits without milk and eggs, please inform me.

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Getting Started

WHAT EQUIPMENT that you will need.
• Blender. Click here to see
• Slow rice cooker. Click here to see
• Chopping board just for baby’s food( use one for chopping vegetables and one for meat)
• Steamer. Steaming vegetables retains more nutrients than boiling. Click here to see
• Strainer (for the first few times when you are trying to prepare baby food, it is good to strain the food to ensure the food is ultra fine before giving to your baby)

HOW to prepare first foods

My survival guide to preparing solids.
I don’t buy commercially prepared food for my baby. In my opinion, commercially prepared food might contain preservatives or other ingredients that might trigger an allergic reaction in the baby (worse of all, you might not find out what triggered the reaction) All the food, even the rice cereal my baby eats are homemade.

 

As the recipes are endless, I will only include some basic recipes and tips as to how you can start solids for your baby.

  • Preparation of rice, brown rice, millet cereal or porridge

It is so simple to prepare rice cereal, I do not know why some parents spend so much many buying plain rice cereal. Other than the fact that it is economical to prepare your own rice, there are other added advantages. Commercial packed rice cereal contains additives and otehr hidden ingredients some babies might be allergic to which would make it difficult for parents to identify which food baby is allergic to. You can use the rice cereal as a base to blend with other food.

Types of rice

Plain rice: I suggest that you start with this. Although rice allergies are uncommon, they do exist.
Brown rice: Some studies have shown that it is more nutritious than white rice. But please note that brown rice may cause constipation in some babies. So make sure you feed your baby more water with brown rice cereal. Or you can actually add equal proportion of brown and white rice. To my knowledge there are two main types of brown rice grains. The long and short type. The shorter type is better for making porridge as it gives the porridge a thicker and chunkier consistency.
Millet: A super nutritious grain that is high in protein. You can get this from organic stores. As the millet grain is smaller in size as compared to rice, you might need to add more water.Click here to see.

Directions:
Step 1: Wash the rice
Step 2: Dry the rice. As we are going to grind the rice into powder it is essential that you remove all moisture so moulds will not grow.

Tip 1: You can either sun the rice or dry it in the oven. Check the settings of the oven so as not to burn the rice.
Tip 2: Use as little rice as possible otherwise you will have problem drying it. For the first few times, try by drying one tablespoon of rice or millet each time. click here to see amount of rice use for sunning.

Step 3: Grind the dried rice or millet into fine powder using the blender. You can keep the powdered rice up to a week.
Step 4: Boil the powdered rice in water until the right consistency is achieved. For babies tying out their first solids, it should be as watery as possible. Click here to see powdered rice.


Cooking instructions for making rice porridge (for 1 meal)
Add one dessertspoon (use for eating rice) of rice powder with 6 oz of water. You can boil the rice in the slow cooker or microwave. With this quantity, you can have about 1 and ½ tablespoon (Chinese soup spoon) of rice. Please note that you will need to add more water for brown rice as well as millet.
Tip: Add the powdered rice in cool water otherwise the rice will become lumpy. Millet is more sticky so add more water.
Tip: If I run short of time, I usually use the microwave to cook the rice.
Tip: Cool the porridge down first before putting it in the blender with other food.

  • Preparation of Vegetables and fruits
    Some experts suggest giving vegetables to the baby before the fruits so that baby will not develop a sweet tooth. Other experts suggest giving fruits first as babies will be more receptive to it. For me, I started with vegetable (green vegetables esp the kale and caixin) as I wanted to supplement iron into my son’s diet. Please see link on the importance of iron for babies after six months.

    General Guide

    • Use fresh fruits and vegetables.
    • Wash the fruits and vegetables thoroughly to remove any trace of pesticides.

    • Note: Pesticides can kill especially young babies who are more vulnerable to the side-effects of pesticides. You may opt for organic vegetables and fruits instead. As for me, instead of using organic vegetables, I use hydroponics vegetables grown in my house. Click here to see my vegetable garden
  • Keep your vegetables away from heat as it will destroy the nutrients in the vegetables

Preserving the nutrients is a must and this is how you can do it:

A) Steam or microwave: There are many ways to cook vegetables but to preserve the nutrients it is important to either steam or microwave your vegetables. Avoid boiling vegetables as boiling will results in the lost of nutrients. For example, water-soluble vitamins such as Vitamin C and B leach into cooking water.

B) Cut the vegetables or fruits in largest pieces possible for steaming. As large pieces of vegetable have smaller surface area compared to smaller pieces of vegetables, this will minimize the lost of nutrient via oxidation. This way of food preparation is especially important to fruits and vegetables rich in Vitamin C.

C) Cut the vegetables or fruits in similar sizes to ensure even cooking.

D) Prepare the solid food only when you need it.

E) If possible, do NOT remove the skin: For some vegetables like carrots, I would try to leave the skin on during steaming but you have to make sure that it is washed thoroughly and you remove the skin as much as possible before blending.

F) Don’t discard the water used for cooking the vegetables or fruits as it contains lots of nutrients. You can even use it for pureeing baby’s food.

Preparation:

Step 1: Wash the vegetable or fruits. You can use detergent meant for washing vegetables.

Tip: you can actually use baby bottle detergent. They contain edible vegetable soaps and it is cheaper than vegetable detergent.

Step 2: Bring the water to boil before placing the vegetables in the steamer.
Step3: Steam or microwave the vegetables or fruits. Cook until it is soft.

Tip: Ensure the cover fits well on the pot to minimize the escape of steam. Loss of steams impedes cooking.

Step 3: blend in the blender with rice.

My favorite fruit is avocado. It is one of the best foods to start baby with. The best part is that there is no need to cook it.
Tip: Avocado and rice make blending of other food very easy.

  • Preparing Meat:

To minimize the risk of food poisoning, feed the baby as soon as the food is prepared and also the leftover food should not be refrigerated.

Step 1. Cut the meat into small pieces. For me, once I buy the meat form the market, I slice the meat into thumb size and put them in small plastic bags for freezing. It makes thawing easier and safer. With big amounts, you end up have to thaw and refreeze which is dangerous.
Tip:from my mom-in-law” To make differentiation of different meat easier, use different colored plastic bags.

Step 2: Steam or microwave the meat. If your meat is thinly sliced it should be done in 5 minutes. Ensure that the meat is thoroughly cooked.
Step 3: Blend the meat with porridge until the meat “disappears”
Tip: To make blending easier, add porridge and avocado.

I was quite worried initially that the meat will be too chunky for my son but to my surprise, the meat really disappeared into the porridge completely.Click here to see

HOW to Introduce first foods

• You should introduce a new food one at a time. You should feed the new food for one week and observe to see any allergic reaction like rash, eczema, hives, runny nose and cough (with no fever), stomach pain, fussiness.
I use the 7 days wait rule1. Feed one food for seven days and wait for any reaction. This is recommended by American Academy of Pediatricians2.

• Feed the baby the new food early in the morning so that any discomfort can be detected in the day.

• Feed to baby solids only after breast milk or formula. It should be noted that giving baby solids at the early stage is to satisfy their curiosity and not so much for nutritional value and thus it is essential that babies should take their staple food first.

• Have a routine. For my son, when I place him on the high chair he knows it is time for food.

HOW much to introduce

Every baby is different. My son could finish half a bowl of porridge during his first encounters with solids. So I would say take the cue from the baby and increase slowly. Please note that there will be days when the baby can eat a lot and some days he or she will just refuse to open the mouth.

Baby James first food

I use rice and avocado as a food base
Avocado is his favorite food. It makes fantastic first food as it is soft and easy to prepare as no cooking is required.

Step 1: Boil the rice as mentioned above.
Step 2: Scrap the avocado and congee and blend it..

Tip: Avocado oxidizes (turns brown) very fast so you have to prepare and feed the baby as soon as possible.

For vegetables, I used hydroponically grown Caixin and kale (kai lan)
For meat, I used Beef (I only introduced this when my son reach 8 month)

the nutritious rice+avocado+beef+caixin smoothie

Some pointers on nutrition
1. Do not mix milk with food as calcium in milk will affect the iron absorption from meat and vegetables.
2. Iron should be taken with vitamin C. You should choose food that is high in vitamin C with meat.

Using food cube method to store prepared food
With this method, you just take what you need and thaw it as and when the food is needed.

Some mothers use this method for baby food preparation.
Pros: This method makes food preparation easier especially when it comes to blending. Moreover, baby does not eat much initially.
Cons: Although it is convenient, mothers should be wary of the chance of food poisoning especially food with meat. This kind of food preparation should only be used for vegetables, tofu, fruits or rice.
If you intend to use this method, you must observe proper food hygiene during preparation.
Warning: Freezing DOES NOT kill bacteria. Don’t assume that frozen food are safe. Do not thaw baby food more than once.

From a microbiologist point of view, I don’t want to take the chance, I would rather prepare the food fresh. More work but it is a lot safer.
To find out more on Food cube method of storing food, read Super Baby Food by Ruth Yaron

Contributed by Jenny Wee, mother of Baby James

Compiled from the following sources: ·

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