12 November 2010

The exciting journey into first foods

Over the last month or so, Layla and I have started the exciting journey into first foods. I remember receiving bibs and cutlery as baby gifts when Layla was born and thinking that the introduction of solids would be a long way away. In less than the blink of an eye, here we are with solid foods featuring in our everyday routine.

Layla (7 weeks) blissed out after a breastfeed. The thought of solids was a long way away.
 Good quality wholefoods have always featured as an important part of my shopping and cooking vision. Creating fun, wholesome and low GI food has been a guiding principle for me since I established my own home. I've always seen cooking as one of my creative outlets even when my energy levels faulted. As a kid, my Mum always made sure we ate good food and the evening meal was family time together. Most nights we ate as a family on the kitchen bench, discussing the adventures of the day and bonding as a family. Meals were always diverse in flavour and origin. We were encouraged to try new things and get involved in food preparation. Now that I'm faced with raising my own child, I want to make sure that meal times are fun and healthy creating a wonderful start in life.

I must admit that when Layla was born I had given very little thought to what I would feed her. I assumed that I'd follow my general food principles. What has become apparent is that a child's tastes are formed during the first years of their lives. As such the example we set as parents is oh so important. For that reason, we have decided to avoid added sugars and salts as well as junk foods from Layla's diet for as long as possible. I cook most of our meals at home and only rarely do we eat out or get take away. As such the next logical step for us was for me to prepare Layla's meals rather than resorting to commercially prepared foods.

Preparing baby food has come along way from rice cerial and mashed bananas. Our freezer is filled with ice cubes of amazingly diverse foods that Layla is enjoying and I am taking pleasure in seeing her explore good food. Here is how I got started:
  • My friend Alizah sent me a great book by Annabel Karmel that has really helped with the introduction of solids, helped me get creative and understand how to move into this new world. Her book "New Complete Baby and Toddler Meal Planner" features over 200 quick, easy and healthy recipes for your baby. Great baby gift that is much more helpful than another jumpsuit! In addition, her website http://www.annabelkarmel.com/ has heaps of great recipes and ideas;
  • My former colleague and good friend Susan has a wonderful blog called My Little Yummy Tummies (http://www.mylittleyummytummies.blogspot.com/) where she features fantastic recipes for not only kids but the whole family. Her recipes are easy and healthy, avoiding additives and preservatives;
  • I listened to a wonderful podcast from New Moms, New Babies which featured a woman from the USA based organic food company Happy Baby Foods (http://www.happybabyfood.com/). She discussed how to make your own home made baby foods. I then went onto their website to see what food combinations they had which in turn got my mind racing. Some of the combinations they inspired include sweet potato and pear as well as spinach, mango and pear. Both have become Layla's favourites;
  • The website www.homemade-baby-food-recipes.com/ has also provided me with great ideas and recipes as well as www.kidspot.com.au/best-recipes ;
  • www.wholesomebabyfood.com/ is a great site that considers all different types of foods, when to introduce them, how to prepare them, the nutritional benefits as well as recipes for each food type;
  • I looked at the range of foods from Organic Bubs (http://www.organicbubs.com/) for ideas on what foods to combine in making interesting and healthy food for Layla. Their range is really interesting and fun. They have a e-newsletter available on their website that features great information on meals and nutrition;
  • Another great podcast from New Moms, New Babies discussed the idea of baby led weaning where instead of giving babies purees, they are given real whole food to experiment with and learn about. Since milk still provides babies with most of their nutritional needs during their first year, by letting babies experiment with food they self feed from an early age developing a better understanding of food. I was so interested that I bought the book! It arrived today and can't wait to get into it. Details of the approach can be found at http://www.baby-led.com/. Download their free booklet on how to let your child dictate their first introduction to food [www.baby-led.rhgdsrv.co.uk/pdf/blwleaflet.pdf ] . I've started by giving Layla wholemeal toast in the morning as a part of her breakfast as well as apple and carrots to gnaw on before her teeth break through.
So far our journey into first foods is going well. Everyday is a new adventure. What is most important is that we're having fun as you can see from the photos!

Layla at 6 1/2 months loving her dinner and enjoying helping to feed herself
I hope the resources in this post help to get you started. Making baby food is not only healthy, but it's fun, easy and much cheaper than buying commercially available products. This way you know exactly what your baby is eating and it helps you shape their tastes and palette for life.

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