Finally, may I introduce my darling son Koel !
Yes, that’s a dollup of porridge on his face, and it’s no wonder …
… because he’s a food-lover just like his mum. Look how he goes for it !
Thanks for hanging in there, any of you old followers of these pages — it’s been a full year (where did it go?!) and I well and truly dropped off the wholefood cooking radar. To be honest that’s how it will be for some time, as I’m still adjusting to the monumental shifts that have come with new parenthood !
But it’s time to at least touch base.
So I thought I’d take the opportunity — now that my infant is diving into the world of solids — to share a few tips on nourishing little ones with their very first wholefoods.
The responsibility of shaping your child’s first food experiences – ever - can feel quite big. There are many theories and ideals out there… from the old school “meal a’la mush”, to “baby led solids” where bub is in the driver’s seat. There’s also a lot of fear about sensitivities, intolerances and allergies — which may or may not be true for your little one. So which way to go?
How and what you feed your baby is a very personal choice, influenced by your unique values and needs surrounding food and lifestyle. Some want (and have the time) to prepare each meal fresh on the day, while others prefer cooking in batches and freezing meal portions. Still others find packaged goods like rusks or veggie purees are ideal. I’m not here to advocate any particular approach, except to say it’s incredibly helpful if yours supports both parents and baby. That is, I hope the road you take feels right for you – is what you naturally feel drawn to — rather than a response to any ’should’ or ‘must’ that someone else dictates.
Personally, I’ve been winging it day by day; trying to stay in the moment. It’s a well-known fact that babies are constantly changing — you never know what may show up on any given day! We parents are constantly changing too, and our capacity for cooking can fluctuate (one day there’s plenty of time to make home-made snacks, but the next there’s not one spare second for cooking; one day the fridge is full of gorgeous fresh produce, the next it’s almost bare). Try to be receptive, flexible, and gentle on yourself — ready to feel into everyone’s needs at that particular time — rather than stuck in, or limited by what happened yesterday.
I’ve now been feeding Koel solids for 4 months, and in that process learned a LOT. Here are a few tips about preparing wholesome first foods based on my own experience. I hope you find them helpful.
Budding babies need foods bursting with life. If you want your little one to thrive, they need superior quality sustenance. Fresh as fresh. Organic, biodynamic, or lovingly grown in your garden where possible. The less processed (refined or modified) and pure, the better.
Stay in season. This goes for anyone — you and me included — but infants are even more sensitive to the ebbs and flows of weather. How better to support their bodies than by giving foods specifically created to thrive at that time of year. It may be hard to resist things like crimson strawberries or creamy avocado in winter, but if they didn’t grow in your region, your baby’s body isn’t ready to receive them just yet.
Experiment and expand your produce selection. Just because you don’t like a particular food doesn’t mean your littlie won’t. And…. just because they refuse something on the first try doesn’t mean they won’t love it later. I gave Koel avocado at 6 months and he spat it out, yet 2 months later he couldn’t get enough!
Try different textures. The more variety your infant is exposed to in the early days, the more likely they’ll be to eat lots of different things in the future. Smooth veggie mashes or purees can be a great starting point, especially if you find your child devours them. Cooked chunks of veg mixed through a puree can gently introduce a different mouth-feel. Sticks of steamed veggies are fun finger foods and great for fine motor skill development. Some parents prefer to give baby the same food they’re having (pasta, curries, liver… you name it). It’s possible any and all of these options may work for your little one — just a matter of feeling into it and exploring.
Enhance digestibility. Pre-soak grains, nuts and seeds — not only will they be easier to digest, they deliver more nutrients. Grains cook up much faster too! Also, instead of using standard breads, try essene (sprouted grain) breads – they’re easier to digest and the sprouting process enhances nutrient availability.
Keep it simple. Babies don’t need or desire anything complex (including sugar or salt), and I’m guessing you – the cook – have little time for preparing gourmet meals. Most of my veggie meals involve 1-3 seasonal varieties, possibly with a cooked grain added for heartiness. Porridge is just 1 fruit and 1 grain with a nut/seed butter blended through. Something as simple and instant as plain yoghurt is an excellent source of protein, probiotics and fat.
Some pure foods come raw and ready. No effort required! Here are some treasures that only need a moment of preparation (to remove skin and pips, or possibly slice) : avocado, banana, kiwi fruit, paw paw, ripe pear, persimmon, custard apple, dragon fruit, plain yoghurt, essene bread.