Weaning Part II: Baby’s First Food

This post is part of a series of posts on breastfeeding and weaning. I hope that you’ve enjoyed this series and would love to hear your thoughts on it. You can find the other posts in the series here:

Weaning Part I: When to Start Solids Weaning Part III: Baby Led Weaning Weaning Part IV: Allergies and Foods to Avoid Weaning Part V: When to Stop Breastfeeding

My husband and I are both first-borns and we both can be serious perfectionists at times. Knowing that and the fact that we both have a bit of a secret love for research and learning will help you to understand our approach to starting our son on solid food. Deciding what our son’s first food should be was not an easy decision for me. I didn’t just give him baby rice cereal because that’s what a book I read suggested and what my friends and family often do. I didn’t just give him cooked carrots because the pediatrician here said that is a common first food for Czech babies. I did take all that into account and then I researched and read and researched and read some more.

As I read I noticed a few things kept coming up. One was concern about iron deficiency in babies. Baby’s have an adequate store of iron when they are born but sometime between 6 months and about 9 months their store of iron becomes depleted. Breast milk is not really considered a good source of iron although the iron that is in breast milk is a very easily absorbed form of iron so some argue that it is still all a baby really needs. Different cultures handle this concern over iron differently; in the US we most often give our babies iron fortified rice cereals to deal with this issue. In other countries (including the Czech Republic, according to our pediatrician) they solve the iron problem by introducing various meats early on (often as a second or third food). Interestingly, even in more primitive cultures without the specific knowledge of nutritional needs they would still unknowingly address this issue by traditionally giving their babies meat fairly early (often pre-chewed organ meats like liver).

After doing the research and looking into all of this I knew that we wanted to give Thaddeus some form of meat as one of his first foods. In general we try to eat and live as naturally as possible, so I would much rather have him get his iron needs met from a natural source then from iron fortification which I had also read can be less easily absorbed by the body.

I have also been doing some general research on food more for my own knowledge then for weaning information. In that research I have been learning a bit more about grains and how difficult they can be for our bodies to digest. I have also been reading about the benefits of fat and cholesterol for health and especially for growth and brain development. Because of this other research I am strongly leaning towards not introducing grains to Thaddeus until he is at least a year old (including rice cereal). I have also decided that I want him to have a good amount of healthy fat and cholesterol in the first foods that we give him.

In the end I decided that Thaddeus’ first food would be egg yolk (the white of the egg can be a possible allergen so it is best avoided, but it is rare for the egg yolk to be problematic). Egg yolk is very rich in fat and cholesterol and it contains iron. Here is just one recent study showing the benefit of giving egg yolk as a first food.  It’s also a completely real, whole food. Nothin’ artificial about an egg yolk. We buy our eggs fresh from a local farm which also helped me to feel very comfortable about giving them to Thaddeus as his first food.

Once we decided on what the first food would be there were still a number of decisions that I hadn’t even realized before I started reading. For example would we puree his foods, or would we opt for a more baby led approach and just give him tastes off of our plate of whatever we were eating? What would be the second, third, fourth foods we give him? What foods would we choose to avoid until 1 year of age or older? How slowly would we introduce foods and when would I stop nursing all together?

So, I’ll work through our answers to those questions over the coming weeks in the rest of this weaning series.

For now I’ll leave you with this little video of Thaddeus trying egg yolk. If you are wondering where the spoons and purees are then you definitely will have to read the next post in this series because that’s exactly what I’ll be addressing. See you then!

Rejoicing in the journey - Bethany Stedman