When I had my first baby, over 10 years ago, the standard first food for baby was trusty rice cereal. After that you introduced various jars of smashed stuff in various stages of paste. At some point during the feeding of that first child, I read an article about how women around the world feed their babies. As it turns out, they just fed them what they ate, whether that be curry or bacon.
I was needless to say, a little shocked and intrigued. That sounded a lot easier than spending a small fortune on food that, upon inspection, didn't even taste that good. (Whose idea was it to make beef dinner into a paste? Yuck!)
Here are 10 first foods for baby that I have discovered over the years of feeding four children, in a most lazy fashion.
Note: I know that pureeing and freezing or canning your own homemade baby food has become the rage for dedicated natural moms. I was never organized or motivated enough to do such a thing, though I commend those who take the time to do so. I also, at the encouragement of a distant La Leche League leader, realized that if my children were not able to master the pincer grasp and bring food to their lips on their own, then they probably weren't that ready to EAT food other than breastmilk anyway. For this reason, I don't feed a lot of purees. Plus, did I mention I am too lazy? There is that.
Important Safety Tips: Please always take your family's food allergies into consideration before choosing first foods for baby and only give your baby a small amount of any food to test their reaction before allowing large amounts. Do not give infants or toddlers foods that they can choke on and always watch your child when eating. Know what to do if your child does choke. Also consider choosing organic foods for baby when possible. See the Dirty Dozen list of fruits and vegetables to always buy organic.
1. Bananas - An oldie but a goodie. Bananas are something I always had on hand, they are inexpensive, and babies love them. Great, classic, first food for baby.
2. Pears - Yummy, also inexpensive, and also easy for a toothless but interested baby to consume, pears also make an excellent first food for baby.
3. Black Beans - My kids loved black beans when they were tiny, and they still love them! Dark beans have tons of nutrients, are fibrous, and they are protein packed. They are also easy for a baby to grab with their newfound pincer grasp. I LOVE foods that can be placed on the tray. Independence is good!
4. Garbanzo Beans - Garbanzo beans are another good one. Strip off the thin outer membrane, and smash them a little with your finger so that they are not a choking hazard, and kids will love to munch on this nutritious snack. Bonus: you can pack some for yourself with a little sea salt and olive oil!
5. Yams or sweet potatoes - My husband calls yams, "nature's poop" but you shouldn't listen to him. They are super nutritious and a great first food full of vitamin C, beta-carotene, and B vitamins. Bake as many as you need in the beginning of the week and you can cube them and let baby feed this super soft treat to him or herself.
6. Applesauce - Another classic, applesauce (with no added sugar or flavoring, preferably organic) is an easy treat to pack and feed a baby. True, you do need a spoon and mom help with this one, but it is so easy to access, I loved it. These days they do have those handy squeeze pouches, but I fear a nation unable to use spoons, so I tend to avoid them. Call me crazy. I know.
7. Peas - Frozen peas are also awesome. Plus, eating something that rolls like this is an excellent lesson in dexterity. Nothing like eating and education at the same time! Peas that have not been split or mashed can be a choking hazard because of their round shape, so consider removing the skin of the pea and splitting, or mashing them flat, for smaller children.
8. Raspberries - Raspberries are so soft, sweet, and yet still full of antioxidants. Kids just love berries and foods like this can get them excited about eating! There are tons of other berries that also work great! Some berries can be an allergen. Avoid them if others in your family are allergic.
9. Meat - Yes, meat is a possible early food. Of course, pieces of chicken, fish, or whatever meat you prefer, need to be cut very small so as not to be a choking hazard, but little bits of meat are also full of iron and protein and can be a yummy early food for baby.
10. Avocado - Soft, full of healthy fats and simply delicious, avocado is a great early food for your baby. It also comes neatly packaged in its own thick skin that keeps it nice and fresh until you are ready to eat it. Ahhh...nature is smart!
As with anything, consult with your care provider and resident breastfeeding expert as you delve into the uncharted waters of infant feeding beyond breast milk. As always, you will want to pay close attention to your child and their needs and abilities as well as your own intuition. Feeding a baby need not be a stressful time, but can be joyful, fun, and exciting. Plus, you can eat with both hands again!
I love the information from La Leche League about starting solids. It is common sense, helpful, and not fearful. KellyMom also has lots of additional information regarding first foods for babies.
Photo credit: Key Foster / Foter / CC BY (pears)