For me, this is a critical stage because my little one’s introduction to solids will build the foundation of food allergies in the future. So far now that my little one is 2 years and 2 months, our son has not yet encountered any single food allergy. Because of this I always think that I could have done something right in my solid food introduction that I think is worth it to share.
In the Philippines, we all a process called “Complementary Feeding” or Tamang Kain and I want to share this principle to my fellow Moms in Canada. This has been a guide used by many Filipino Moms to avoid food allergies because hospitalization in the Philippines is expensive so people are finding ways to avoid the hospital as much as possible.
Start giving solid foods at 6 months of age. This is the time when the baby is developmentally ready to eat, and also check for the following signs when your baby reached 6 months:
- Can sit up on his own
- Can grab something and put it on his mouth
- Can chew and swallow food if offered rather than pushing it back out
However, if in doubt, please consult with your lactation consultant or pediatrician. I just hope that your pediatrician is a breastfeeding advocate.
Infants can eat pureed, mashed and semi-solid foods beginning at six months. Infants at this age do not need lots of solid foods, and please do not believe in the old wives’ tale that if your baby eats a lot of solids he will sleep longer. Making your little one eat more than what he can handle will only lead to stomach issues. From 6-8 months, it is all about texture and the “learning” of eating. Try offering your little one as many tastes and textures of food as possible.
By 8 months most infants can also eat “finger foods” (snacks that can be eaten by children alone). Let your little one play with food, it can be messy but it is part of the learning process.
By 12 months, most children can eat the same types of foods as consumed by the rest of the family (keeping in mind the need for nutrient-dense foods). Avoid foods that may cause choking (i.e., items that have a shape and/or consistency that may cause them to become lodged in the trachea, such as nuts, grapes, raw carrots).
The following are the steps in the Complementary Feeding process:
- Continue frequent, on-demand breastfeeding until 2 years old and beyond.
- Be patient when feeding your little one, do not force them but rather encourage them.
- Always wash both your hands and your little one’s to encourage proper hygiene.
- Start at 6 months when introducing solid foods.
- Mash the chosen first food (in my case I started with sweet potato but I have friends who started with avocado) with breastmilk. If you chose root crops, make sure that they are properly boiled before mixing it with breastmilk.
- Gradually increase food consistency and variety.
- Below is the recommended frequency timeline:
- INFANTS – 2-3 meals per day
- 6-8 MONTHS – 3 meals per day
- 9-23 MONTHS – 3-4 meals per day *for 12 MONTHS and up have 1-2 additional snacks as required
- Introduce food variety slowly so you can determine the source of allergy should it arises.
- When your little one is ill. increase fluid intake and frequency of breastfeeding while offer soft foods.
For babies below 1 year old, please do not add salt, sugar, and other seasonings to their food. No meat and fish as well for babies below 2 years old. I started giving peanuts, shrimp, and crabs at the age of 2 years old but I started with very small quantities and gradually increased it. However, I do not make it as the only dish that my little one will eat during mealtime. I always combine them with fruits and vegetables that I know my little one is not allergic to. For eggs, I made my little one try it at 12 months. My little one has never tried any type of shellfish until now. For citrus-y fruits, I gave them to my little one at 12 months because of its acid and sour taste.
Please also avoid giving your little one ready-made baby foods because these tend to have high sugar content and of course, they are not fresh even if their packaging says that they are Organic. Ready-made baby foods also do not have the texture that homemade baby foods have, hence the learning process of eating is reduced. In the Support 4 U section of this website, I have reviewed two baby food processors that I personally own because one was gifted and the other one I bought. Having any one of these food processors can help you in preparing freshly made baby food.
Even with all the solid foods, breastfeeding is still the most important source of nutrition for your little one even beyond the first year of life. Let your little one breastfeed whenever he wants. The longer the child is breastfed the lower the risk of childhood chronic illness and obesity with improved cognitive outcomes.
Lastly, please eat with your little one. This encourages family togetherness while eating at the very foundation.