Meal time at my house is long, messy and delicious. From my daughter I have learnt that food is funny, great fun and makes excellent hair gel and skin lotion. My absolute essential products for introducing solids have been a high chair, a mop and google.
We started solids by accident. I had no intention of giving her solids until at least six months (because the WHO recommends exclusive breastfeeding for six months, because I believed that breast milk was all my daughter needed and because I knew she had the rest of her life to eat solid food). But one day I was sitting in the car in a car park eating a banana. Nala was sitting on my lap and I gave her some just for fun. And I discovered it was fun! Nala squished it in her hand, sucked it and had a great time. It was wonderful to watch her discover something completely new. It made me look forward to the food stage.
We ended up starting solids at 4.5 months because a few people had suggested that it might help my daughter sleep through the night again (it didn’t). But despite originally not wanting to start solids until 6 months, I’m glad we started earlier. It meant we got to introduce them very, very slowly. And we started in a very relaxed way. At first she didn’t even eat something every day. If we were out or she was tired or it got busy we didn’t worry. And she would eat the tiniest, tiniest bit, so she was still almost exclusively breastfed anyway. Most of the reading I have done shows babies on three meals a day, with most food groups by 6 or 7 months. If the baby was only to start solids at 6 months I’m not sure how they could be having so many foods and so often in such a short space of time. We’ve followed the three day rule – ie. Introduce one new food for three days before trying something new. Doing this means it takes a long time to introduce things. I’ve got a whole long list of foods that I can’t wait for her to try, but it takes such a long time to get to them all!
She started with the normal foods – pumpkin, avocado, potato and lots of other veggies mashed up with a fork and fed to her with plastic baby spoons. She liked everything we gave her and didn’t spit it out, but never ate very much.
Then one day, just after six months, she decided she would no longer let us feed her. She shut her mouth and ignored us. Not interested. At all. I didn’t worry, I knew that all she really needed was milk, so she didn’t eat for about three days. We persisted, everyday, with the most delicious pureed food I could think of. But she wouldn’t open her mouth. Then my husband suggested we give her finger food. We put a few different cooked veggies on her highchair tray and within seconds she was picking them up with both hands and putting them in her mouth, with great skill and incredible enthusiasm.
At first I was quite nervous about giving her big pieces of food and terrified of her choking. I would sit opposite her and watch every mouthful she took. I also thought at first that we might be limiting her food options by giving her finger food, I had to rack my brain to think beyond banana and avo. But then the food possibilities started to open up for me – cucumber, mango, watermelon, zucchini, asparagus, apple, pear, carrot, potato, broccoli, dried fruit, oats, chicken, mince, chickpeas, cheese, bread, pasta, meat, tomato etc.
And I quickly realised that for my daughter finger food was way more enticing and way more fun. You can squish it, and suck it, and smudge it and throw it, and sometimes even eat it. And she started to love meal time, absolutely love meal time. The moment the food was on her high chair she’d dive in, often grabbing multiple pieces of food and trying to get it all in her mouth. I often watch her eating and think how much her eating style reflects her personality – determined, strong willed, excited by new things and fiercely independent. And then I realise how much I see myself in her and how much her personality is a reflection of mine.
As I googled I started to realise there’s a whole philosophy behind introducing solids in this way. It’s called ‘baby led weaning.’ I’d prefer to call it ‘baby led feeding’ though, because introducing solids is not about weaning for us. And I always give her a milk feed before food to make sure that milk is still her main food source.
I’m excited she’s 7 months now because it means I can start introducing lots of foods and combinations (ie foods with multiple ingredients). So far a few of my favourites are:
- Chickpea patties:
I got the idea from here, but I made a much simpler version. I simply mashed together chickpeas (from a can, drained and rinsed), sweet potato and carrots, rolled them into patties and cooked them in a frying pan.
- Chicken, apple and carrot hotpot:
This was a meal I made up. I cooked chicken breast, apple (cut into thin wedges) and carrot sticks with a can of tomatoes and then let my little one pick up the pieces and eat them.
- Blueberry oat slice:
My inspiration for this came from here. Except I substituted raspberries for blueberries and I skipped the almonds. It’s been a big hit for breakfast. At first I wasn’t sure how to serve cereal, oats or yogurt given that we can’t feed her with a spoon. So I’ve been making oats and rolling them into balls for her to pick up and feed herself. But this slice is a much less messy alternative (it’s still messy though, everything is messy…).
- Broccoli and cauliflower covered in grated, melted cheese:
This was a hit today. It was her first time trying cheese.
And I can’t wait to make these 3 ingredient berry and banana muffins as soon as she has tried egg whites.
Our food journey is just getting started, but I feel we’re off to a good start. It’s likely I wont be able to update you on all the foods we try, because as a working mumma it’s getting harder and harder to find the time to sit down and write this blog. In truth it’s even a challenge to find time to cook for my husband and myself. Recently I’ve been cooking meals for our daughter, (which she mostly throws on the floor), and we’ve been eating eggs on toast. It’s pretty reflective of life for us really….
Anyway I’d love to hear your ideas below. What’s your baby’s / child’s favourite finger food?