When it came time to start feeding my baby solid food, all I knew was that I wanted to make it myself. No additives, chemicals, colourings, packaging, or exorbitant price mark-ups (have you noticed that anything related to babies or weddings are ridiculously overpriced?!).
But doing a Google search for a natural baby solid food schedule mostly gave me self weaning instructions or articles debating rice cereal. I knew I wasn’t going to self wean (if I did that she would still be on my breast during her freshman year), and no food that came in a box was going anywhere near her perfect little mouth.
All I wanted was a schedule of what order to give solid foods. Something with a balance of carbohydrates from fruits and vegetables, proteins from meat and non-meat sources, healthy fats (including nuts) and the occasional grain. I wanted to know when to try the high allergen foods, when to add dairy and citrus, what the best high iron foods were to start on, and when to introduce textures.
I couldn’t find one definitive source, so I combined a few to create my own schedule. I’m no dietitian or nutritionist or pediatrician, but I think this is pretty good!
Before you dig in, here are a few things you should research and decide for yourself before starting your baby on solid food:
One: fruit first. I started with fruit. I wanted her to like her first bites of solid food and to start the whole transition with something she would find delicious. It has not created a sweets monster, she really loves her vegetables. That being said, I always feed her the protein and vegetable first before giving her the fruit at meal time, only because that’s how I approach my own meals–sweets after savories.
Two: purée. I did not do anything fancy. I either boiled or baked the food to make it soft, then tossed it into a blender to purée. Sometimes I needed to add water (for the meats especially), but just enough to make it not clog up. When she hit seven months I made sure she was getting a chunkier purée (using a potato masher instead of the blender) so that she would get accustomed to different textures. This happened naturally with the new foods and I kept using the puréed frozen food I had already prepared. Some things like kiwi and banana and avocado were soft enough that I just mashed them raw with a fork.
Three: freeze in portions. After puréeing, I put the food into ice cube trays and froze it, then transferred the portions to a freezer bag. These lasted for months! It was so easy to just grab the cubes I needed for the day and toss them in a thermos when we were out. I froze melons in chunks, and when it came time to eat them it was easy to scrape them into a mash once they were heated.
Four: prepare in advance. A month before I started feeding her solids I began preparing. Each night I would do one food. And I’d do a lot. If I had to go through all the work of peeling and coring and boiling and puréeing and freezing plus washing all the dishes, I did two full bags of at once. Then I threw everything in the dishwasher and picked a new food to prepare the next night. This saved me a lot of money because I picked food based on what was on sale, plus it kept things uncontaminated. Some foods I just did right before the meal, like frying fresh spinach, but mostly it was frozen cubes.
Five: start with water. We start and end every meal with water. I use cooled boiled water. She drinks it from a glass. No really, a glass glass. We have a miniature glass A&W Root Beer mug and a tiny glass Coca Cola shot glass that she holds in her little hands and drinks from. It’s adorable, and now I don’t have to transition her out of a sippy cup. I’m all about teaching her life skills, not just kid skills (something I really like about the Montessori Method). She takes little sips throughout the meal. It doesn’t have to be a full glass, just enough to learn how to drink from a cup.
Six: keep nursing. They say you should nurse first, then half an hour later offer solid foods. This is so that the nutrition comes from the breastmilk and the learning opportunity comes from the solid food. That didn’t work for us because my little breastaholic always fell asleep nursing. Always. So she nursed right after her solid food and it did not result in her taking less breastmilk. When she hit 8 months we spaced it out so that breastmilk was its own snack rather than immediately after every meal. Do whatever you want, nursing is really individualistic.
Seven: avoid distractions. I’ll give her a book or toys to play with while I’m preparing her meal, but I take them away once she starts eating. I want her to be focused on the meal and learning to drink and chew. I also want her to pay attention to how I eat my food, and I like to talk to her and tell her what she’s eating. If she gets fussy when I mix beef into her carrots too many times in a row, I’ll say “ok, just carrots” and she accepts that bite without fussing! Being a mindful eater starts somewhere, right?
Eight: sit at the table. We have a little high chair that goes on top of our dining room chair and she sits right at the table–we don’t even use the tray. And we eat together whenever we can. I think this is a great learning opportunity. Alternatively, the Montessori Method has the baby sitting at its own tiny table feeding itself with autonomy, but that didn’t suit my style. For her afternoon snack we usually just have a picnic on the floor.
Nine: wait 3-4 days for allergies. This may be a silly one because if your kid is allergic to something they are probably going to react to it after the first try, not after the third day. But by day 3 you will have peace of mind. Also, I found that when the first try of something didn’t go over well, it was often loved by day 3. So 3 days was good before switching to something else. For the first month I actually did 4 days per food because I was a paranoid mamma, but I relaxed and shortened it to 3 days once she had been eating solids for 7 weeks.
Oh, a quick note on nuts. I wasn’t afraid to have the baby try nuts. But I did want it to be pure without anything added. I found pure peanut and hazelnut butter online, and I used the almond flour from my Macaron recipe with a little water. For the other nuts I plan to use the magic bullet to grind them into a flour with a little water to make a paste. I’ve read that if you just keep mixing nuts in a food processor they eventually will turn into a butter but I will have to try that and will update if it works!
If you do encounter a food allergy, you will have to put this whole schedule on hold until the symptoms completely clear up. It could take weeks, so just be prepared for that, and it goes without saying to seek medical attention!
Ten: how much and when: we started solids at about 5 months old. They say not to start earlier than 4 months because the baby’s gut isn’t developed enough, but also not to wait much longer than 6 months because the baby will reject solids. So 5 months old was perfect.
When you look at the chart you will see that I’ve written when we started doing 2 cubes of vegetables per meal, when we added an afternoon snack and when we upped it to 2 cubes of fruits per meal. I never doubled citrus or acidic foods like oranges or tomatoes because I noticed some diaper rash. Right now the baby is 9 months (we are on day 3 of almonds as I write this) and I don’t think we’ll need to increase anytime soon. But that’s up to you, monitor your baby’s hunger. (*UPDATE: at ten months we noticed she was still hungry so we upped it to two portions of protein–which includes the nuts and grains on my chart). And don’t forget, the whole point of introducing solids is just to teach them to eat, the nutrition comes from the breastmilk. So if they don’t want to eat one day or they hate a new food it’s no big deal.
One note regarding my chart: I put grains, dairy, and nuts into the protein category. I know they are not proteins, but that’s just how I organized my chart. And we only give her dairy once per day, I’ve read that too much dairy actually blocks iron absorption.
And now, without further ado, here is my free 30 week all natural baby solid food schedule pdf (*UPDATED): Baby Solid Food Schedule, the All Natural Chemical Free Homemade Way by Turquoise Toffee
So there you have it, a complete schedule that will get you from 5 months to one year of all natural, homemade, chemical free, pure baby food! And ps: if you’re wondering why I didn’t show you my beautiful baby’s face, you can read my reasons here.
Audrey Hepburn Romper: This particular style isn’t available anymore but the seller has this similar one on etsy.