Introducing solid foods to your wee ones is always a bit of a stressor for mamas. We seem to constantly ask ourselves “is it too early, is it too late? What is the perfect first food? What consistency is the best? Should I be worried about food allergies? What's the deal with rice cereal?”
Baby-led weaning is the practice of trusting your baby's innate sense of hunger, of want, of self-knowledge and of self-limitation. Baby-led weaning offers parents and their children a natural, relaxed approach to the introduction of solid foods and the eventual cessation of breastfeeding. Instead of relying on prepared, commercial baby foods or even homemade purees, mothers and fathers simply introduce their babies to natural, wholesome real food from the start – relying on their babies to self-regulate and lead the way.
As a real foodie who is currently on GAPS, I probably have a different take (based on copious amounts of research) than most moms who are entrenched in the standard American diet when it comes to starting solids and baby-led weaning. I wish I had known more about starting solids from a Weston A. Price AND GAPS approach when I made my first attempt at feeding Tiny. I would have gone about it much differently. I didn't do anything terribly wrong in feeding Tiny however, I have acquired some knowledge which would influence my choices of first foods, if I had the opportunity to go back and do it all over again.
In short, real foodies embrace a nutrient dense approach to baby-led weaning which also includes an early introduction to probiotics and other foods designed to seal/heal the gut. Clearly, not every baby has gut issues, but “healing foods” just happen to be easily tolerated, typically non-allergenic, and super easy to digest meaning your baby will get every nutrient possible. Here is a rough 10 week outline of a real foods approach to introducing solids (compatible with ANY age child):
Start with 1-2 teaspoons of homemade meat or chicken stock 3-5 times per day. As your baby accepts that amount, gradually increase it. Do not use commercially available soup stock granules or bouillon cubes, as they are highly processed and are full or detrimental ingredients. Chicken stock is particularly gentle on the stomach. Do not take fat out of the stock; it is important for your baby to have fat with it.
Continue with the stock, increasing the amount as needed.
Start making vegetable soup or puree from peeled, de-seeded and well-cooked vegetables. Cook them in your homemade meat stock without adding salt or anything else. Use non – starch vegetables (no potato, sweet potato, yams or parsnips). Suitable vegetables are carrots, marrows, squashes, leeks, onions, garlic, broccoli, cauliflower, and courgettes (peel and de-seed marrows, squashes and courgettes). Cook the vegetables well, until very soft, cool them down to warm and puree with a little of natural fat, choosing from a teaspoon of organic coconut oil, a teaspoon of cold pressed olive oil, 5 drops of cod liver oil, a teaspoon of ghee (made by you from unsalted organic butter) or a teaspoon of raw organic butter (unsalted). Give your baby different fats and oils on different days. Start with 2-4 teaspoons of this puree a day and gradually increase the amount. Depending on the age and chewing capability of your child, this puree may be thick and chunky or thinned out and pretty soup like. Soup like is fine…babies and children love slurping soup!
Continue with the stock and vegetable soup/purees.
Introduce ripe avocado starting from a teaspoon added to the vegetable puree or alone. Gradually increase the amount.
Weeks 4 and 5
Continue with the previous foods.
Start adding boiled meats (cooked for a long time in water and then pureed or cut into large, easily bitable chunks for the older baby). Start with organic, free range chicken, gradually increasing amount. Make sure to put the meat and skin from the wings, legs and carcass as well as from the breast of the chicken (skin, brown meats and all the fatty bits are the most valuable for your baby). After organic chicken introduce other meats (preferably gelatinous around bones and joints) well cooked in water. The most suitable meats are the ones you used for making the meat stock: well-cooked and gelatinous. Liver is the most nutritious meat you can offer and do not be timid about introducing liver. Beef and lamb should be grass fed and organic. Any wild game is fine (Antelope, Deer, Bison, or Elk). Turkey and Ostrich are also wonderful.
Start adding egg yolk (free range, organic eggs preferred into the vegetable puree. Start from ¼ teaspoon of egg yolk a day. Watch for any reaction. If there is none gradually increase the amount of egg yolk and start adding it to every bowl of soup or vegetable puree. The egg yolk is very easy to absorb and digest so be sure you separate it out completely from the white.
Weeks 6 and 7
Continue with the previous foods.
Gradually increase egg yolks to 2 a day added to your baby's soup or cups of meat stock. If your baby is old enough, you may also soft boil the yolk or scramble the yolk in butter or ghee and offer it that way.
Increase the meat intake, particularly gelatinous meats around joints and bones (well cooked in water).
If all the previous foods are well tolerated try to add cooked apple as an apple puree or slices of cooked apple. When cooked you can add some butter, coconut oil or ghee to it. Start from a few teaspoonfuls or one slice a day. Watch for any reaction such as loose stool. If there is none gradually increase the amount. Do not use microwave ovens for warming up or cooking, as microwaves destroy food. Use conventional stove or oven for warming up; an apple puree you can warm up by standing the dish in some hot water.
Weeks 8 and 9
Continue with the previous foods.
Add “pancakes” made from squash (peeled and blended) and egg yolks, starting from one small pancake a day and gradually increasing the amount. Fry them gently using ghee, coconut oil or any animal fat (which you rendered yourself from fresh meats). IF your child is over one year of age, you can mix in two teaspoons of raw almond butter or sunflower butter. If well tolerated, you can increase the amount of nut butter gradually until you are adding in 2-3 tablespoons. Raw nut butter is key. You can make your own or purchase raw nut butter from a health food store. The ONLY ingredient that should be listed on the store bought nut butter is the nut (or seed).
Introduce juice from your homemade sauerkraut or other ferment, starting with one teaspoon of juice per day. You can add this into another food or the broth or serve it alone. Gradually increase the amount of juice per day to one teaspoon with every meal.
Introduce homemade yogurt starting from a tiny amount and gradually increasing. Do NOT use store bought yogurt as it is laden with sugar and preservatives (even the “healthy” kind). Again, watch for changes in stools as well as rashes.
Continue with the previous foods.
If you have not already, try to give your baby a little bit of egg gently scrambled (or an omelette) with a generous amount of raw butter, coconut oil, ghee or any animal fat, which you rendered yourself. Serve it with avocado and cooked vegetables.
Try some additional cooked fruits such as pears, peaches, apricots, berries, or cherries. Cooking the fruits makes them more digestable. Try some ripe banana (yellow with brown spots on the skin). Fruit should be given to your baby between meals, not with meats.
Introduce homemade cottage cheese (made from your homemade yoghurt) if dairy has been well tolerated. Start with a tiny amount and gradually increasing. When this homemade cottage cheese is fully introduced, try some raw milk.
Beyond Week 10
Continue with the previous foods adding in small amounts of ripe, in season cooked vegetables not previously introduced. (Always offer new vegetables cooked first then introduce the raw version if well tolerated cooked). You can introduce raw versions of vegetables at this point as well.
Slowly add in raw fruits, watching for any gut imbalances.
Grains can be introduced at this point as well. However, do so with care. You want to make sure that all grains are properly soaked/sprouted and cooked. Introduce non-gluten containing grains first (rice, quinoa, millet) before moving onto glutinous grains. Homemade breads and crackers are preferred over the store bought variety.
Beans and lentils can be added in again, making sure that they are properly soaked and cooked.
Seasonings and spices can also be introduced and should be given based on what your family normally eats.
Cod Liver Oil should be taken daily at this point.
You may have to introduce some foods later than indicated above depending on your baby's sensitivities. The best indication is your baby's stool. If he/she gets loose stool or constipation, take it as an indication, that he/she is not ready for the newly introduced food. Remove it from the diet, wait for a few weeks, then try to introduce it again. Another common reaction is any new skin rash or an eczema flare-up. If there is a serious reaction to your homemade yoghurt, try to drip it and collect whey (the yellow liquid which drips out). Whey has less dairy proteins and is more easily tolerated. Start from a few drops of whey a day and gradually increase the amount. When about half a cup of whey is well-tolerated introduce yoghurt again. If dairy is not tolerated, then you can try sheep or goat milk products of forgo dairy all together. You can make dairy substitutes using coconut milk, rice milk, or almond milk. Hemp milk is suitable as well.
Below you will find links to some great posts about starting solids and baby led weaning from my fellow mama volunteers with the Natural Parents Network. I always like to offer more opinions and experiences other than just my own!
- Baby Led Weaning – from Julia at A Little Bit of All of It
- Baby Led Weaning; Listening To My Baby; Baby Led Weaning Week One Recap – from Adrienne at Mommying My Way
- Baby Food Be Gone: Our Successful First Attempts at Baby Led Weaning; Baby Led Weaning, Did It Really Work?; 5 New Baby Led Weaning Tips – from Charise at I Thought I Knew Mama
- Introduction to Solids and Sharing Soft Foods with Infants– from Jorje at MommaJorge
- Fun With Food – from Joella at Fine and Fair
- A collection of tons of valuable posts related to feeding little ones – from Melissa from The New Mommy Files: Memories, Milestones and Missteps
Good luck on you journey of starting solids! Remember, you only get ONE chance to create a healthy gut through the introduction of real foods!