• Your Baby Food Guidebook: When to Start, What to Feed Him and Recipes!

    We have all the answers to your most basic questions when it comes to baby's first food.
    by Ana Leah dela Cruz .
Your Baby Food Guidebook: When to Start, What to Feed Him and Recipes!
PHOTO BY iStock
  • So many things about motherhood can be daunting, from the moment you find out you’re pregnant until your baby finally arrives. Feeding your baby is perhaps the most challenging, especially if you’re a first-time mom. But the key to baby food is always to start simple but never be afraid to experiment!

    Is your baby ready for solid food?

    At 6 months old, your baby is ready to have solid foods with his breast milk to fulfill your child’s nutritional needs, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). “The period from birth to two years of age is a 'critical window' for the promotion of optimal growth, health and behavioral development,” says WHO. If your child doesn’t get all the nutrients his body needs, it can result to growth stunting and other health consequences like delayed mental and motor development that can be difficult to reverse once he’s 2 years old.

    The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) guidebook, Nutrition: What Every Parent Needs to Know, notes that if you want to know if your baby is ready for solid foods (usually on his sixth month), he can do the following:

    • He can hold his head up. Your baby should be sitting when you feed him, so it’s very important that he should be able to have good head control.
    • He opens his mouth when you offer him food. It’s a tell-tale sign that your child is ready for solids when he starts reaching for food or when he looks eager to be fed.
    • He can swallow. The first time that you try to feed your baby, he might try to push it out of his mouth, which is normal. AAP suggests you dilute it first until it reaches a watery consistency before gradually thickening the texture.
    • He’s big enough. Generally, once your child has doubled in weight or is already around 13 pounds, it’s a good sign he’s ready for solid food.
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    Food to avoid giving your baby who just started eating

    When it comes to the food you can start with, AAP says there’s no right one, but begin with one kind of food first. The first food for baby can vary from different kinds of vegetables, meat, and poultry.

    Remember not to add salt to his food, too, as your baby’s kidney isn’t developed enough yet to process it. You can’t give your kids honey, too. It contains the bacteria Clostridium botulinum, which can produce toxins in your baby’s intestines that can lead to infant botulism, constipation, poor appetite, and in worst cases, pneumonia and dehydration. 

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    Popcorn, whole grapes, and jelly snacks or any food that are sticky, slippery, hard, chunky, and round can be considered choking hazards at this age. Anything raw and undercooked should not be included in your baby’s diet just yet.

    If you’re thinking of giving your child fish, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends about an ounce for kids ages two to three; two ounces for kids ages 4 to 7; three ounces for kids ages 8 to 10; and four ounces for kids 11 years and older. You can check this guideline so you know which kinds of fish are safe to eat and which ones aren’t

    How much and how often should your baby eat

    If you’ve only just started to introduce solids, start with just two to three tablespoons per feeding, increasing very gradually to half of a 250ml cup. Depending on your child’s appetite, you can also offer him one to two snacks in between meals too.

    “One way to make eating solids for the first time easier is to give your baby a little breast milk, formula, or both first; then switch to very small half-spoonfuls of food; and finish with more breast milk or formula,” says the AAP. If your baby cries when fed, go back to exclusive breastfeeding before trying again.

    Babies as young as six to eight months should have two to three meals per day, according to WHO, along with frequent breastfeeding and depending on the child’s appetite. Even as you feed your child solid foods, his breastfeeding should continue, ideally until he’s 2 years old or longer.

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    Your baby's first solid foods

    If you don’t know how to make baby food, pediatrician and spokeswoman for the AAP, Dr. Tanya Altmann, suggests you do liquid puree first. Pureed avocado is a good start as it’s a wonderful source of healthy fat. Green veggies are also great options because they’re packed with important nutrients.

    Rene Rose Rodrigo, a US-certified holistic nutrition coach, shared with us this "cereal" recipe for her son's first food. She used red quinoa, "but I have tried brown rice, red rice, regular quinoa, and old-fashioned oats. I cooked it in a rice cooker, but you can also just use a pot of boiling water."  

    She also recommends starting with single grains. Move to multi-grains once you’ve managed to test the ones your baby will like.

    Homemade cereal

    • 1/2 cup grain of any of the following: old-fashioned oats, brown rice, quinoa, red quinoa
    • 2 cups of water to cook grain
    • Breast milk or formula
    • Blender, pot or rice cooker
    1. Blend grain until the consistency is almost like powder.
    2. Bring water to boil in a pot if you're using stove top. If you’re using a rice cooker, just add water and blended grains into pot, and hit the 'cook' button. Once it starts to boil, I recommend stirring just a few times so the grains don’t burn or stick to the pot. This applies whether you're using a stove top or rice cooker.
    3. Once cooked, bring out to cool. Add breast milk or formula milk until desired consistency is achieved (start with a runny consistency — almost like it's still milk — if this will be his first solid food).
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    baby food broccoli
    Check out this recipe from the self-published cookbook, Whole + Natural Baby Food, which was created by three women to help moms how to prepare healthy meals for their babies.
    PHOTO BY courtesy of Namee J. Sunico

    Broccoli and Apple Pops

    • 1 cup broccoli puree
    • 1 cup fresh apple juice
    • 1/2 cup water
    1. Place everything in the blender and blend away! Pour them in flexy molds and freeze for at least two hours.

     

    baby food oat cereal
    PHOTO BY courtesy of Namee J. Sunico
    Whole + Natural Baby Food

     

    Apples and Bananas, Milk and Oats Parfait

    • 2 tablespoons oat cereal, preferably homemade
    • 1 tablespoon Granny Smith apple, grated and roasted
    • 1 tablespoon fresh banana, mashed
    • 2 tablespoons baby’s milk (breast milk or formula)
    1. Place 2 tablespoons of oat porridge or oat cereal at the bottom of the cup.
    2. Combine the roasted Granny Smith apple and mashed banana. Layer the fruits on top of the oat porridge.
    3. Top with about 2 tablespoons of baby’s milk, and serve to baby.

    Rodrigo says baby food fun really starts when your baby turns 7 months old and you can be adventurous with different textures and colors. She also encourages you to add spices! "The amount we're talking about here is a pinch on a big batch of baby food. It's just enough to train his taste buds to bolder (not still not sweet!) flavors and to make the food interesting for him."

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    Here's a recipe she shared that involves pureed avocados. 

    Avocado and Parsley 

    Makes roughly 12 servings (1 serving is 1 ounce) depending on size of avocado

    1. Wash, slice, and remove the pit from avocados.
    2. Scoop out meat.
    3. Blend or mash by hand avocados. You may add water, breast milk, or formula until desired consistency is reached.
    4. Chop up a few fresh leaves of parsley. Add to purée and blend to mix well.

    The consistency of your baby's first pureed food must be smooth, but you can gradually build it up to become thicker. By his ninth month, he's ready for finely chopped or mashed foods. When he keeps wanting to grab the food from you, then that's when he's ready for finger foods that let him explore his food and prepare him for self-feeding.

    Finger foods will have a soft texture like diced pasta; small pieces of well-cooked vegetables such as carrots, peas, or zucchini; and pea-sized bites of chicken or soft meat. Small, unsweetened round cereals and cereal puffs are also a good choice.

    Your baby will also give you cues if he wants more food. Your baby’s feeding schedule might vary, too so be patient and worry about sticking to a routine when he gets older.

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    Your baby food kitchen helpers

    You’ll notice that making baby food requires a lot of steaming, boiling, and pureeing. So the best tools to use include a rice cooker, an electric steamer, and a blender. Mashed and pureed food are the typical options because they’re easy to chew and swallow. Most moms do it without a machine, while many moms use a juicer or a mortar and pestle. This is okay, but it can be tiring especially if you’re making a big batch of baby food.

    When it comes to choosing your baby food processor, get one that can cater to all the food processing needs of your family — not just for your baby. If you don’t plan to make huge batches of baby food, you can get the smaller kinds of food processor. But if you’re the type who prefers to make food in batches and freeze them, your food processor should be heavy duty. 

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    It’s also ideal to choose a baby food processor that offer different features, from chopping and mincing to grinding, slicing, and shredding. Remember you want to introduce food textures to your kids will help him learn and appreciate different types of food and food preparation.

    There are also food processors that can double as a steamer. You can also use a Baby Bullet, which is a smaller version of the popular adult kitchen helper Magic Bullet. It’s a more compact option if you don’t have plenty of storage room in your kitchen. Another more compact option is an immersion hand blender. Just plug it in, hold it in a bowl of any size, and you can puree anything from boiled potatoes to green veggies.

    Baby food pouches

    In case of an emergency or any time when you need baby food as soon as possible (like when you're on the road), you can turn to baby food pouches. However, experts say you should never rely on baby food pouches too much as they can interfere with the learning developmental skills that can influence a child’s healthy eating habits.

    Baby food pouches can also affect feeding and oral development since chewing and swallowing soft foods can help with speech. Different food textures can also help your child develop a palate for a wide range of food when they grow up. Developing your child’s preferences can help them learn healthy eating habits and make healthier food choices when they grow up.

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    Food pouches also encourage more sucking, which babies are already used to. If you don’t want your baby to get stuck in the puree phase, make sure you expose them to a wide variety of flavors and textures.
    Pouches can also mask the real taste of food. It’s convenient if you want to get your picky eater to try something new once in a while, but it should never replace real fruits and vegetables. 

    Since baby food pouches are really convenient, it’s tempting to give it to your kids as a way to calm them down or prevent any tantrums. Experts say this might lead your kids to think sweets are a way to calm down and to satisfy emotional, rather than physiological needs. Food pouches can also encourage kids to eat all the time, which doesn’t sound like a bad thing, but if they’re eating sweet treats often, then we're not building good eating habits.

    Nothing can substitute real food, but if you must give your kids food pouches, limit it to one a day. If your child can already feed himself, put the contents of the food pouch in a bowl, and let your child eat it on his own.

    If your child has gotten used to baby food pouches, try to set a routine of sit-down meals that you’ve prepared yourself. A consistent, daily schedule teaches your child to expect certain activities at certain times, which is especially crucial for mealtimes.

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    Baby food and pooping 

    Once your child starts eating solid foods, make sure to note if he is pooping and if there are changes in his pooping pattern.

    According to pediatrician Dr. Ina Atutubo, constipation is uncommon in the first six months of your baby because he’s on an all-liquid diet especially when he’s breastfed. All of the components of breast milk is in exact proportion to what your baby needs, and it’s so much easier to digest, too. That’s why constipation only starts when your baby begins to eat solid food.

    Your baby may be constipated if you notice that his stool is hard and dry, he cries when he poops, he is unwilling to feed, his stomach is hard when you gently press down on it, and he is unhappy or fussy.

    To help your little one poop, make sure you give him fiber-rich foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Stay away from processed food, dairy products, gluten-containing foods, red meat, pasta, and foods that are high in fat and sugar. You may want to try these simple recipes of baby food for constipation but always consult your physician first to make sure he’s constipated.

    baby food constipation
    Prunes are a great source of fiber and they are great antioxidants, too.
    PHOTO BY Caren Bayhon-Yrastorza

    Puréed Prunes

    • 1/2 cup dried prunes
    • 3/4 cup water
    1. Boil prunes in a pot for five minutes or until tender. Pour mixture in a food processor and process until you achieve your desired consistency.

    baby food gas fiber
    Squash and broccoli are considered super foods because they are rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
    PHOTO BY Caren Bayhon-Yrastorza

    Squash and Broccoli Puree

    • 1 cup peeled and cubed squash
    • 1/2 cup broccoli flowerets

    1. Boil squash and broccoli until they become tender. Drain from the water.
    2. Mash squash and chop broccoli into very fine pieces.
    3. Combine together and serve immediately.
    baby food peaches puree
    Peaches are very high in fiber, while cinnamon is an anti-inflammatory agent that can also help boost your child’s immune system.
    PHOTO BY Caren Bayhon-Yrastorza

    Peach Cinnamon Blend

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    • 1 cup fresh peaches, peeled and chunked
    • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
    1. Boil peaches for five minutes or until tender.
    2. Process the peaches in a food processor until it reaches your desired consistency.
    3. Stir in cinnamon. Serve immediately.
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    Apart from giving your kids these dishes, you can also try some baby exercises. Just let your little one crawl around his play mat. If he can’t crawl yet, you can help him do simple leg exercises like bike movements. You can also give his belly a good rub. Just do a circular motion massage on his stomach, particularly around the bellybutton, going clockwise. You can also give your baby a warm bath to help his muscles relax. You also need to make sure that your child is drinking enough or more liquids. A few ounces of diluted (one part juice, three parts water) apple, pear, and prune juice might help.

    Your baby does not want to eat or is very picky? Registered dietician, Melissa Halas-Liang, suggests you make your child’s food look more visually appealing. You can either chop the fruits and vegetables in cutes shapes and sizes or try ones of those bento boxes.

    Just don’t force your child to eat. Be sensitive and responsive to your little one’s cues. Kids know when they’re full, which means you have to trust them when they say so. Dr. Ruby Frane, RND, a clinical nutritionist, says never make meals into a power struggle because your kids might just associate meals with anxiety and frustration.

    This stage in your role as a parent is one of the most challenging, but also one of the most fun and rewarding. The good thing about making baby food and feeding your baby is that you have every opportunity to experiment and see what works for your little one. As long as you’re staying away from harmful ingredients, your baby is going to be fine.

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    Luz Callanta, a registered nutritionist and dietician said classics like good old sinigang soup and root crops like potatoes and sweet potatoes are always safe options. Giving your kids bottled baby food is okay, too, as long as you control the portions and you don’t give it to them every day. Those types of baby food are okay for when you’re traveling and don’t have any opportunity to cook.

    Try not to get too caught up with other people’s opinions as one baby’s diet might not necessarily be good for your baby. There are a lot of myths about baby’s first food that you shouldn’t believe. For one, bottled baby food will not make your child a picky eater. Your child’s environment, family history, personality, and your feeding style are some of the things that can affect your child’s eating habits.

    Sticking to bland food is also another baby food myth. Adding certain spices and herbs to your child’s baby food is okay, as long as it’s only a pinch for a big batch. Add just enough to train his taste buds to get used to bolder flavors and to make food interesting to him. Baby-friendly herbs and spices that you can try include cinnamon, ginger, rosemary, and parsley. (Click here for more recipes with spices that you might want to try.)

    Take note of the recommended salt intake, too. The National Health Services of the UK recommends this: 

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    • Less than 12 months – less than 1g of salt a day (less than 0.4g sodium)
    • 1 to 3 years old – 2g of salt a day (0.8g sodium)
    • 4 to 6 years – 3g of salt a day (1.2g sodium)
    • 7 to 10 years – 5g of salt a day (2g sodium)
    • 11 years and over – 6g of salt a day (2.4g sodium)

    Always ask your baby’s pediatrician’s advice if you’re unsure. Feeding your baby and making baby food should be a fun and enriching experience for both of you. So don’t stress if you don’t get it right the first time, there’s always room for improvement, especially if you don’t know how to cook.

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