Breast is best, but at some point you’ll want to start your baby on solids. How do you know when it’s time to make the transition? What’s happening with their little bodies to help them break down these foods easier? And what sort of nutrients and vitamins should we be including in their diet?
Feeding Your Child: Starting Baby on Solids
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Vanessa Wells : Even though you may want to breastfeed your baby their entire life, at some point, you need to start complementing their liquid diet with solid foods. How do you know when it's time and what are some easy to digest ideas for babies first foods? I'm Venessa Wells, nutritionist from True Nature Nutrition, and today we're talking all about starting your baby on solids. This is Parent Savers, episode 61.
Johner Riehl : Welcome to Parent Savers, broadcasting from the Birth Education Center of San Diego. Parent Savers is your weekly online on the go support group for parents of newborns, infants and toddlers. I'm your host, Johner Riehl, and thanks again for all of our loyal listeners who joined the Parent Savers Club. Our members get all of our archived episodes, bonus content after each new show, where we do a special conversation with our expert, extending the show. And plus, we also have special giveaways and discounts that we offer to our members. You can subscribe to our monthly newsletter for free though, if you're not already a member, and you can get a chance to win a membership to our club each month. Another way for you to stay connected is by downloading our free Parent Savers app, available on the Android and iTunes market place. So let's go around and do some introductions with everyone that's here in the studio and talk about what kind of kids we have. I'm joined in the studio by a couple of our superparents, Scott and Ursula. Scott, remind us how many kids you have.
Scott Kilian : I'm Scott Kilian, I'm 36 years-old, I'm a certified financial planner, I have one boy, Alex, he is 3.
Ursula McDonald : Hi, I'm Ursula McDonald, I'm 35, and I used to be full-time office manager but now I'm spending most of my time with my two boys, Desmond, who's four, and Callan, who is two.
Johner Riehl : Now I have three boys, six, four and two, and we are done having kids. But I still love seeing babies, we just saw one in the lobby, it's so cute. But we're not having anymore. And Vanessa's in the studio as well, Vanessa, tell us about your kids.
Vanessa Wells : My daughter Maya is a year and a half, and we are not done having kids, maybe one more, but I don't think three, that seems like a lot.
Johner Riehl : It's not too bad. It's not too bad, it's fun.
[Theme Music] [Featured Segments: The Best Apps for New Parents]
Johner Riehl : Before we start today's show, we're actually going to start talking about a new app from Fisher-Price, they actually have a series of apps that you can download that are great for young kids. They even say that they're designed for kids as young as six months-old, which is always hard to kind of reconcile that we the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation that kids under two shouldn't have any screen time at all, the reality of today's world is that kids under the age of two are getting some screen time. And so I think what you're looking for is, what are games that they can play, not get frustrated, that are good for them, that also would have educational benefits. And so we checked out this app called the Giggle Gang, from Fisher-Price, and they've got a whole great line of apps, but in this Giggle Gang one, and we'll have a link to this on our website, there's two different things that kids can do, they can either touch and interact and move the screen around, and make the giggle gang giggle, there are six little creatures that look like little stuffed animal balls, with smiley faces; or they can play some music with the giggle gang as well. Did you guys have a chance to check it out, Scott? Ursula? What did you guys think?
Ursula McDonald : I thought it was cute, I definitely thought it was cute, I thought that it missed a little bit of potential, a little bit more on the educational tip. I thought it was fun and I thought it was cute and I thought, especially for younger child, six months to a year, I think they would have fun poking it and stuff. I thought the music part was cute, I thought though, like I said, it missed a little bit opportunities of being a little bit more educational. I like that when they do have screen time, definitely to have that educational angle to it, and I thought it was a little bit lacking on that, they could have incorporated colors more, a little push more in that direction, but other than that I thought it was very cute and very fun.
Johner Riehl : Right, it's one of those things that you don't know if a kid that young will understand, that you're saying red, or yellow, but at some point they do, right?
Ursula McDonald : I think they do!
Johner Riehl : And you don't know when that's going to start, so why not incorporate it? What did you think, Scott?
Scott Kilian : I can't imagine giving this to a six-month-old to do, I am not a fan of screen time at all, and I just don't, as far as giving them an app like that, I found exactly zero benefit in giving it to anybody. It was confusing for me, the stars going up all over the place, I was like, “What's going on here?”, and I know that with my boy, he would just go crazy looking at all that stuff, I would much rather spend the time with my son outside or doing something else. I feel like that would be a much better use of time.
Johner Riehl : There's a couple things about this app that I did like for young kids, I think it's a little bit weird that they say it goes down to six month-old, 'cause I think that that's pretty young to be playing with these devices. But in our case, we have three kids, and so if our older boys are playing with the device, our younger kid wants to play with the device. And I can go outside and take him for a hike all I want, but the dude's going to scream to be able to play with the app. And maybe I'm a bad parent because I give him that stuff, but I try to find things that he can play. So there's two things that I kind of liked about it, one is – and I kind of don't like it as an adult, but I love it for kids – there's two different modes, and once you're in that mode, there's no way to get out of there, except to hit the button to get out of it, but that's great, there's no adds, there's no things that are popping out, there's no way for kids to accidentally do what they're not supposed to do, unless they hit the button, which kids that young are going to do. But the other thing, I don't know if you guys saw, but in each of the giggle buddies, you can record your own voice, so when they touch it, they hear what you're saying. So, playing around with his older brothers, we were recording things that said his name, like, “Hy baby Zyler!”, or he likes Gangnam Style, so whenever he would hit different things he would have a lot of fun, and he hears our voices, you can customize it to do your voices. I think that the Fischer-Price apps, there's a whole line of them, you can get them from the app store, are pretty good and I like this for young kids, but obviously, don't go out and have your kids just playing games. We're going to give this one at Parent Savers thumbs up, and that's if you're OK with your kids playing with these apps, and if you're OK with no overtly educational value. I give these a thumbs up, Ursula, what do you think?
Ursula McDonald : I give it a cautious thumbs up, not my favorite.
Johner Riehl : Alright, cool.
Johner Riehl : Alright, welcome everyone to this week's episode of Parent Savers, today's topic is all about starting your baby on solid foods. We just talked about this app and so I wonder if people are starting to put their babies on solid foods after they're even playing these apps, that's kind of interesting. Today we're talking with Vanessa Wells, nutritionist at True Nature Nutrition, thanks for joining us!
Vanessa Wells : Sure, happy to be here.
Johner Riehl : Alright, so I'm going to ask you the first question, and if the answer to this one is short, then the show is not going to be very long. But I feel like I need to ask it. What age should baby start on solid foods?
Vanessa Wells : The World Health Organization recommendation is six months of age. So in the ideal world, exclusive breastfeeding until six months, and then introducing solid foods, what they call complementary foods, alongside breastfeeding, at about six months of age. Provided baby is healthy and was full term no reflux issues, that kind of thing.
Johner Riehl : Right. So what are some of the signs to look for to see if they're ready?
Vanessa Wells : Babies sitting up on their own, they're super interested in food. Like my daughter would stare you down when you're eating, like, “Hey! What's that? Let me have some of that”. Some kids would even just reach over and grab it. They've lost the tongue extrusion reflex, so if you hold a spoon out to their mouth and they immediately thrust their tongue out, they're probably not ready. 'Cause once that goes, they actually accept a spoon in their mouth. So those are some of the signs.
Johner Riehl : I didn't realize that was a reflex. So that's a reflex, if you put something in front of their mouth they stick their tongue out?
Vanessa Wells : Yeah, it's actually like a safety thing. So that they don't get weird things into their mouths or anything when they're really little.
Johner Riehl : It makes a lot of sense. But even beyond the six months, say you start at six months, there are still certain foods that you have to wait, shell fish, whatever it may be, right, is that so?
Vanessa Wells : Yes and no. The recommendations are changing in terms of those high allergy foods which is kind of what you're referring to, the research suggests that there is actually no benefit in waiting, and that if you don't have a family history of allergies and you feel comfortable introducing those high allergy foods, go ahead and do so with caution.
Johner Riehl : And just kind of keep an eye on them.
Vanessa Wells : Yeah. And watch for the signs, I often recommend parents to take CPR class so if there are allergy issues, they feel that they can handle them. If there's a major allergy reaction.
Johner Riehl : Yeah, I remember somebody gave one of our sons, when we weren't watching them, some shrimp, he was like nine months-old. And my wife was freaking out, but it's interesting that you're saying that recommendations are changing, 'cause I was wondering what happens.
Vanessa Wells : My recommendation is: look at your family history, if you and your husband, your brother has an allergy to something, you may want to be cautious with that food. But if not, you feel comfortable with it as a parent, than there is no problem to go for it.
Ursula McDonald : I would give maybe a week every time I introduce something new as regards to foods, so I could track if there is any sort of allergies, we didn't have a history of allergies or bad reactions, and luckly, we didn't really see anything like that. But I definitely waited a week before I gave anything new, so I could see if there was a reaction.
Vanessa Wells : That's a good technique, a new food very three days is pretty safe. If you want to introduce foods close, keeping a food journal is also a good idea. That way, if your baby does have a reaction you know what new foods you introduced over the last two or three days.
Johner Riehl : We kind of jumped ahead, I wanted to talk a little bit more about what's going on inside baby. From their digestive standpoint, because introducing solid foods is a change, right, you get all of the sudden from them getting everything in form of liquid to getting everything in form of solids. So what's happening inside of them, do you have a good idea of what's going on there?
Vanessa Wells : Sure, so until six months of age, they're digestive system isn't fully developed and even at six months, it's still developing. So before, they're really not ready to handle foods. At around six months, six to nine months, their body starts producing the enzymes that are needed to break down the foods, so that they can actually digest and absorb the nutrition. Before that, they're getting those enzymes in the milk, in breast milk, everything that they need to digest a food, it comes in a nice little breast milk package. But then, when the food comes, their body is like, “Wow! What do I do with this?”. Often times parents notice some changes when they first introduce solids, a lot of parents suddenly, you know, their child may not have a bowl movement for a few days, the system tries to figure out what to do with this, but most kids back on track within a couple of weeks.
Johner Riehl : It makes a lot of sense if you think about, it's only liquid that's going through that system, and all of the sudden you're putting something new in there.
Ursula McDonald : Even if what you're giving them is almost new, it's not exactly.
Johner Riehl : That's true. So what are some good foods to start them off?
Vanessa Wells : I tell parents to start with whatever that they feel comfortable with, as long as it has some good nutritional value. A lot of parents start with cereals, and that's OK, but I suggest whole grain cereals, white rice cereal doesn't have a lot of nutritional value, and if you can skip it, I would skip it.
Johner Riehl : Yeah, I think that sometimes parents think that they need to really really ease into it. So they're going for the most mild water down cereal. I guess breast milk is down to, it's not anything that you can do, right?
Vanessa Wells : You can't. I would suggest though using breast milk to water down nutritious food like avocados, bananas, a whole grain cereal, or brown rice cereal, something that's got some good nutritional value.
Ursula McDonald : And there are some really good whole grain and brown rice cereals that I used and were great, and mixed it with the breast milk, and then sometimes I would mix in a new fruit or something that we're introducing in with that cereal.
Vanessa Wells : That's a great idea. They even have quinoa based baby cereals now, so there are lots of options that have good nutritious value to them.
Johner Riehl : I know Andrea used to make this porridge, called a super-porridge or something, and she would freeze it in this ice cube and then put like cantaloupe, or kiwi or something on top of that, and that was a really good introduction.
Vanessa Wells : So if you do want to start with cereals, I tell parents to go for it, just to avoid the white rice, just like you don't suggest eating white bread, same thing.
Johner Riehl : But, like the first time you're feeding your kid, you probably shouldn't mix in these other things that we're talking about yet.
Vanessa Wells : Probably not, it's probably best to start with one food. Either a cereal, often avocado and or banana, are easy on the system as well. And easy to make, 'cause you just mash it up.
Johner Riehl : Avocado as the first food.
Ursula McDonald : That's what I gave my kid, and that's what my mom gave me, and what I love about avocado, and this is just a little tip for busy moms and dads out there, is that we go out to eat a lot, and here in California, almost every single restaurant you can get a side of avocado, usually it's about a dollar. And so I didn't have to lag around if we were spontaneously going to go out to lunch, you know, I could nurse real quick before we had launch and then I could order the side of avocado, cut it up and there you go. You could even mash it, but it's so soft, even if it was just a small little bite, they kind of gum it a little bit and mash it with their tongue and everything. And it's healthy and it's available, and it's easy for them and they love it. Bananas though, I did have an issue with bananas because they're so soft and tasty and my son loved it; when I first introduced it, he loved it, so every morning I gave him a couple of bits of banana, and he got constipated for the first time. And I didn't know that bananas could bind you up, of course now I realized, you know, when you're sick you have the brat diet, and bananas is part of that. So if you do introduce bananas, from my own personal experience, I would like maybe give it every other day or something, so they don't get bind up or make sure that they're getting a lot of hydration.
Vanessa Wells : That's true, there are some foods that some kids can get constipated from, and banana is one of them. Sometimes you can give banana one day and then something like pear the next, because pear does help get things moving again. And if you alternate like that, than you have less chance of getting constipated.
Ursula McDonald : I felt terrible.
Johner Riehl : Is there a danger when you give them something like banana though? It's so sweet, do they taste the sweet the same way that we do? Or I guess, who would know, you can't really ask a baby, but is there a danger when you give them banana, they're only going to start liking those sweet fruits? 'Cause you hear about kids, they start getting a lot of sugar, and they only start getting this taste for sugar.
Vanessa Wells : The research suggest that there's no evidence that if you start with fruit they're only going to like sweet fruits. Variety is important, fruits and vegetables. I think that kids develop those sweet tastes when they're eating sweet processed foods, with a lot of added sugar.
Ursula McDonald : Breast milk is sweet, so if they are breastfed they're already used to sweet things.
Johner Riehl : It tastes a little nutty though, I'm not going to tell you guys how I know that. When we come back, let's talk more about these foods, I think that there are some more good tips that we can share for early eaters, so we will be right back after a quick break.
Johner Riehl : Welcome back everybody, today we're talking about starting baby on solid foods with Vanessa Wells, from True Nature Nutrition. So we're talking a little about some recommendations for foods and I was just asking about sweet foods. It sounds like it doesn't blast, 'cause I remember that one of the first foods that we gave to Whitaker I think was green beans, the mashed green beans, he loved them. I was so afraid to have him try peaches, 'cause I thought that once he does that he's not going to want to go back to green beans. Am I projecting to much onto them, will they bounce around?
Vanessa Wells : They will bounce around, especially if they are at a young age, between six and around 18 months they are pretty open to new foods, new tastes, textures, it's like a new learning experience for them. And then, once you hit that 18 month period, that's when kids are really like, “Hey! No, I want that”, they can have more say. So I would say that variety is important at that young age.
Johner Riehl : So you're introducing stuff every three days, you don't want to just throw three different options in front of them either. If they're eating one thing, is that what they're eating, what did you do?
Ursula McDonald : Well, the problem with giving more than one thing at a time – I'm no expert, but just from my experience – at first they do have a bad reaction, they do get constipated, they do get some sort of allergic reaction, and it's hard to pinpoint exactly what is it. So I think that that's why. And I was a tracker, so I had an app that I tracked all the new – it was an app that I used to track his sleep and his growth and his breastfeeding – but than it had a solid food option, so I would track every new solid food that I introduced and then that way I could see if they did have a reaction, or if he wasn't sleeping well or who knows what, I can look back and say, “Oh, when did I introduce that?”
Johner Riehl : So spacing it out really isn't for baby then, it's for in case something happens?
Vanessa Wells : Spacing it out is for keeping track of reactions, constipations, allergies, that kind of things. And it's not something that you have to do, if you don't space it out, if you introduce two or three new foods in one day, I would write it down, so I have an idea. It kind of comes down to what you as the parent feel comfortable with.
Johner Riehl : What reactions can you see?
Vanessa Wells : Allergy reactions can be anything from extreme reactions that we're all as parents afraid of, in terms of anaphylactic shock and that kind of thing, to eczema, other types of skin rashes, diarrhea, constipation. If, for some reason, baby starts crying 20 minutes after they eat the same food, maybe they're getting a stomach upset. So just watching out for those kinds of signs.
Ursula McDonald : I also noticed sometimes about citrus, whenever it appropriate to introduce citrus, if we gave too much at one time, you could get a sore bump, even though that they really love that orange juice or whatever, you have to kind of hold it back so that they don't get a sore bump.
Johner Riehl : So citrus is not really good for a first feed, right? Or it could be.
Vanessa Wells : It could be. Like I said, every child is different, every family situation is different, as long as you're working in variety, I think that's important, I think what Ursula's saying is true. If you give your kid too much of any food, they might have a reaction, especially with citrus food, it's quite acidic, so that can a bit harmful for a baby's bottom.
Johner Riehl : So, as we're introducing foods, what are the nutrients and vitamines that we're trying to get to our kids through foods?
Vanessa Wells : Babies a good store for things like iron, zinc, vitamine D, B12, until about six months of age, that's kind of how they're designed, and that's why starting complementary foods, starting solids at six months is important, because those levels start to come down. So foods with good nutritional value, high in iron, high in zinc, high in B12, are important. A lot of parents freak out and think, “Oh, no, I got to do meat” right out of the gate, 'cause that's what you think of when you think of iron. But there are lots of vegetables foods that have iron in them as well.
Johner Riehl : Can we get all of those nutrients in the foods that we can get today, or is it a recommendation to supplement?
Vanessa Wells : I wouldn't suggest supplementing unless you're baby is ironed efficient, so if you're worried, I would get a pediatrician to test, but otherwise they are foods, and if you get creative, you are following healthy eating guidelines, you can definitely get into your baby.
Johner Riehl : But you recommend don't self-supplement, only do that on the recommendation of others.
Vanessa Wells : Yeah. I mean I know that there are recommendations already to supplement for vitamin D and so that's important, but I would suggest, in terms of iron, to get levels tested first, before supplementation.
Johner Riehl : What kind of tools is it helpful for families to have in order to make first foods. You hear a lot about, and especially with rise in popularity of Pinterest, that there are so many different ways and ideas to make your own baby food and your first solid foods. So what are some kind of tools as you're helping introduce baby, are those certain spoons that are good? Are there certain kinds of cheesecloth bags? That kind of thing.
Vanessa Wells : You know that there are a tone of things that are marketed to parents, baby blenders, baby mills, and you could just get kind of carried away, my suggestion is one of those little hand held blender things, it fits into the bowl, it's really easy, some sort of blender. I don't think you need to rush out and buy specific baby food making tools.
Johner Riehl : What does a handheld blender do that a regular blender doesn't?
Vanessa Wells : I'm not sure.
Johner Riehl : We had this thing, and we still use it, it's a cheesecloth bag that you can screw on to a ring, and so you could put even something like an apple in it, which is too hard and solid and you don't want him to get the chunks, 'cause he would choke on it, but he could gum the apple, get the juice out of it and some of the stuff that you could get through the cheesecloth bag. And I thought that was really cool.
Ursula McDonald : And frozen stuff and then they can teeth with it.
Johner Riehl : Yeah, exactly, that was great for teething. And now if they ever get any trauma in their mouth, it's an easy way to give them an ice cube.
Vanessa Wells : Yeah, my daughter still uses that. I really thought that those cheese cloth rings were great, because they could self feed as well, gives them a little bit of independence and they can hang on to it for a while, so it's like, “Here you go, I need to go into the dishwasher”, or something like that.
Johner Riehl : Beyond just feeding though, I feel like, a lot of times if you go to a big store you see these containers of puffy, sweet potatoes puffs, or there is even some cheesy poofs. They're really marketed though as some of babies first foods, and I mean obviously the instinct is, “Those can't be that good for babies”. What do you think, what's your standpoint on that?
Vanessa Wells : My main concern with them is when you look at the ingredients, often times you see added juice, added pear juice, added apple juice to sweeten, there's not a lot of nutritional value in that, so I would say if you can avoid it, and be feeding your baby nutritionally dense foods, you're better off.
Johner Riehl : Yeah, those foods are not nutritionally good.
Vanessa Wells : You're filling up with kind of empty calories.
Ursula McDonald : If you are going to do those, because my mom, as a grandma, loved to have this little... we called it baby crack, 'cause they go crazy over it, and, you know, you have the fine motor skills of the pincer grasp and everything, but there's a wide range of quality I've seen, as far as brands, so you can get like the lowest of the low, that has all kind of added junk that you definitely don't want to give your kids, and then there's brands that, when you look at it, it's not on GMO, very limited ingredients, organic ingredients, and obviously, OK, this is kind of like a snack food, it's not something we're going to actually count on as a meal, but as they're kind of going along on a stroller, it's keeping them occupied. I felt a little bit better giving them those ones that were more organic low processed.
Vanessa Wells : I agree. Look at the ingredients lists, if there is a lot of ingredients in them, I'd move on. If there aren't a lot of ingredients, and most of the ingredients are whole foods, than yeah, go for it.
Johner Riehl : Alright, well thanks so much, I think that was a lot of helpful information today, Vanessa. For more information about starting your baby on solids or about any of our super-parents panelists, visit the episode page on our website, ParentSavers.com. We'll continue the conversation for our Parent Savers Club members after we wrap up the show, talking a little bit more about starting baby on solids. For more information about the Parent Savers Club, visit our website.
[Featured Segments: Protecting Your Children]
Johner Riehl : As we are nearing the end of today's show, here's Detective Damien Jackson with some great ways to better protect our children.
Damien Jackson : Hey Parent Savers, this is Detective Damien Jackson with the Escondido Police Department Family Protection Unit, and the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force here in San Diego, California. As part of the Escondido Police Department's ongoing series of community outreach education to help families enhance their personal safety, I'm here today to talk to you about Facebook security settings. In today's technology driven world, it's never been easier to stay connected with friends and family across the globe. On the flip side of that same technology, it's never been easier to be victimized by strangers that wish to do you and your family harm. The good news is that with a little bit of proactive action on your part, you can easily prevent your family from being the next target. Like most people, I've got a Facebook account, to share news and events with friends and family over a common network. Just last night, I was reading some comments on our friend's post and came across a person I don't even know, and I've never even met in my life, that, because of his Facebook settings, provided me with almost every detail of his life, including each person's name in his family, including his wife, his children, where he works, pictures of his kids, his wife, his home, his car, and his personal stands on just about every issue under the sun. The point of this is – he has no clue who I am either. But I know more about him in less than a minute than it would take one of his friends or co-workers several months or more to get. That, my friends, is extremely dangerous. Look at it this way, would you post all of that same information on the sides and back of your car and drive around all over the place on a daily basis? With your personal and family information out in the open for all to see? Of course not. But then again, at least that would keep your personal information available only in the areas you drive, right? Well, unfiltered Facebook settings provide you your information to the entire world. Think about it. There are lots of resources and easy tutorials available online to walk you through filtering your settings. Take those few minutes to secure your information and protect your family and enjoy Facebook as it was meant to be, between only those you know and trust. For more information on how you can keep your family safe, visit us on Facebook or Twitter, at /Escondido Police. With the Escondido Police Department and the San Diego Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, I'm Detective Damien Jackson, reminding you and your family to be smart and be safe.
Johner Riehl : That wraps up our show for today, thanks again to Vanessa and to our panelists Scott and Ursula, we appreciate you all listening to Parent Savers, don't forget to check out our sister shows too, Preggie Palls for expecting parents and our show the Boob Group for moms who breastfeed their babies, and if you are anything like me when you see a pregnant mom or a mom with some other kids and a dad out and about, make sure to tell them about NewMommyMedia.com, and all the great shows that we're doing, and share the experience. Next week we're going to talk a little bit more about setting your home with principles from the Montessori method, it's kind of an interesting way to apply. Montessori sounds a lot as a school to some of us, but it's really a method of learning, and we've got an interesting show planed, we're going to be talking about bringing those principles to your home. So please join us next week, thanks so much for joining us this week, this is Parent Savers, empowering new parents!
This has been a New Mommy Media production. Information and material contained in this episode are presented for educational purposes only. Statements and opinions expressed in this episode are not necessarily those of New Mommy Media and should not be considered facts. Though information in which areas are related to be accurate, it is not intended to replace or substitute for professional, Medical or advisor care and should not be used for diagnosing or treating health care problem or disease or prescribing any medications. If you have questions or concerns regarding your physical or mental health or the health of your baby, please seek assistance from a qualified health care provider.
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