You may already know that most babies are ready to start trying solid foods at around six months old – though this does vary according to each baby’s specific circumstances. What is more challenging, however, is working out what to feed your baby once they’re showing the signs that they’re ready to make a start (and what exactly those signs are), how to make those foods, and what to do with it all. While baby-led weaning is growing in popularity, today we’re going to look at a few of the different purées you can make, a few things that should be left out of baby food, and where to store it all once you’ve finished cooking!
When starting on solids, there are a few things it’s good to remember. At the top of the list are the signs to look out for that indicate bubs is ready to start in the first place. If they can hold their own heads up, can sit upright if supported (for example, can sit easily in a highchair), and if you touch their lips with a spoon, they open their mouths to accept the food without sticking their tongues out to push it back out, they could be ready1. If they can’t do any of those, it could be best to wait for a bit until they can. Second, it’s important to continue to give your baby milk (breast milk or formula) before solids until they’re around 8-9 months old1. Milk will still provide most of the nutrients they need to grow until this stage, and they will still need breastmilk or formula alongside their solid meals until they’re at least 12 months old. Third, baby food does not need to have extra flavours added – they’re accustomed to the taste of milk (which is plain), so their very first foods should be equally plain. Things like salt, sugar (or other sweeteners), cream and butter shouldn’t be added. Honey is not recommended for children younger than 12 months, as their digestive systems have not developed enough to cope with the bacteria that can be found in honey2. Finally, food should be soft and easy to chew and swallow – purées are ideal. Do not feed your baby small, hard foods such as popcorn or whole grapes, as these are choking hazards for small children. You can, however, start to include lumpier, textured food (think mashed rather than puréed to a thinner liquid) once they’ve gotten used to their purées – normally around 7-8 months. As always, if you’re ever in any doubt, check with your health care professional – they are ideally placed to know you, your baby, and any other information that may be relevant to you specifically.
Starting with one type of food at a time is a good idea – these are all new flavours and textures for your baby to get used to, and it can often take a few goes. If you offer a food and baby doesn’t like it, try something else for a few days, then go back to the rejected food. It can take up to ten tries before they decide they like it! A very common first choice is cereal or rice – iron-fortified baby rice and cereals are readily available from stores and are formulated for different stages. Make sure to grab the one appropriate for your child. Baby cereals are plain and designed to be mixed with your expressed breast milk or formula, so the flavours are familiar even if the texture isn’t! Another common first food choice is puréed fruit. Choose 1-2 fruits at a time; apple, pear, banana, peach and mango are popular options. Peel, then chop the fruit into small amounts, making sure to remove seeds and cores. Add to boiling water and cook until the fruit is soft (bananas won’t need to be cooked!). Drain the water, mash the fruit or blend it until smooth, then add enough breast milk or formula to make a smooth purée – for these very first stages, a thin, runny consistency without lumps is great. The purée should be very smooth to start with – it should not contain any lumps. Vegetable purées can also be made in the same way, as can meat-based dishes. Ensure all food is well-cooked and soft, then purée until smooth. You can even use the mash/blend/breast milk method with freshly opened canned fruit and skip the cooking stage! Just make sure to double-check that no seeds or other hard parts have snuck into the can, and make sure it’s only with cans you have just opened that day.
Making your own purées is a cost-effective and ultimately time-saving way of feeding your baby when they start solids. But babies don’t eat a lot when they’re first starting – in fact, it’s not unusual for a baby just starting out to only eat a teaspoon or two of food before they become full. Food left on the plate should be discarded at the end of mealtime, so what to do with the food you’ve cooked that never made it onto the plate in the first place?
Luckily, homemade baby food freezes extremely well – put what you’re using that day aside, then freeze the rest! Freezing it in portions is the ideal way to go. By doing so, it means you’ll just need to take out what you’ll use each time and thaw that, leaving the rest safely in the freezer. Ice trays make for good baby-sized portions, but what’s even better is Haakaa’s Pineapple Silicone Nibble Tray. This tray has nine compartments to freeze your freshly made baby food, and being made of silicone, it’s easy to pop the food out, clean, and sterilise! In addition, the label slot lets you quickly see what it contains and when you made it, meaning you don’t need to worry about remembering which batch you need to use first – all the information you need is right there! It’s also important to note that baby food, like breast milk, doesn’t need to be hot. Babies prefer their food to be the same temperature as their milk – any hotter, and you risk burning them, so make sure to check the temperature of any frozen foods you’ve thawed and heated before you feed them. To use frozen food, it’s important to remove only what you need and thaw it before use – it’s best to let the food thaw slowly in the fridge, so you’ll need to remove it from the freezer well in advance. Heat until it’s piping hot, then let it cool down again before giving it to your baby3.
The convenience isn’t the best thing about this tray, though. The compartments are sized so each portion can fit into the Fresh Food Feeder. Make your purées, freeze, then put one portion into the pouch of the Feeder to allow your little one to learn how to feed themselves – this is not just good for developing hand-eye coordination, it’s a great way to help your bubs stay cool as the heat of summer arrives! What’s better is these feeders now come with two different designs – the original Bunny Ear version, and the brand-new Flower top! The Fresh Food Feeders are, like their Pineapple Tray counterparts, made of 100% silicone, so they are soft yet sturdy. The pouch has small holes, so food can only be released from the Feeder in tiny pieces. Your baby can learn to enjoy new flavours and textures without the risk of choking! Of course, you don’t have to put frozen food in – any foods you want to introduce to your baby can go inside the pouch! Fresh fruit or vegetables, pieces of cooked meat, or even baking – anything you want your baby to try out will go well in this pouch.
These aren’t the only options Haakaa has, of course. From storage containers and cups to bowls and specially designed cutlery for little hands that are still learning, we have a huge range of feeding products. Check out the whole range here – there’s bound to be something to suit everyone.
As your child grows, they will be able to handle a greater variety of flavours and textures, moving on to lumpier spoon foods such as mashed (rather than puréed) fruits and vegetables, or soft finger foods such as toast fingers or ripe bananas2. For more information about these early stages, and the ones following, Plunket is an excellent source of information, as is the New Zealand Ministry of Health. If you're from outside New Zealand, check out your government's health websites for some general information. And if ever you’re unsure, make sure to check with your healthcare professional.
1Plunket (n.d.) Introducing Solid Foods. https://www.plunket.org.nz/caring-for-your-child/feeding/solids/introducing-solid-foods/
2Health Navigator (n.d.) Baby – Starting solids. https://www.healthnavigator.org.nz/healthy-living/b/baby-starting-solids/
3KidsHealth (n.d.) Food Safety Tips & Preparing Food For Baby. https://www.kidshealth.org.nz/food-safety-tips-preparing-food-baby