by Chelsea Long
The information included in our website for educational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always consult your child’s healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for your own situation, or if you have any questions regarding your child’s healthcare plan.
The AAP recommends breastfeeding or formula as the sole source of nutrition for your baby for about 6 months. Check with your child’s doctor about the recommendations for vitamin D and iron supplements during the first year. When you add solid foods to your baby’s diet, continue offering formula or breastmilk until at least 12 months. You can continue to breastfeed after 12 months if you and your baby desire.
Like many topics around parenting, the topic of introducing baby to solids tends to bring strong opinions. Most pediatricians will suggest introducing solid foods around 6 months, or when baby can sit up on their own. You may choose to spoon feed purees in the beginning, and as baby grows and becomes more independent, you will want to continually encourage self-feeding.
The popularity of baby-led weaning (BLW) has been on the rise, and many mamas are drawn to the idea of feeding their child right off their plate. For more information on the basics of BLW, this article explains it well. Some BLW mamas avoid purees and spoon feeding all together, and other families do a combination of BLW and spoon feeding with purees. At Whole Mamas, we understand that every family is different and that there’s no one right way to do almost anything! We aim to provide information and support you on your unique journey.
If finances play a limiting role in the decisions you make, you’re not alone. More than half of infants in the US are registered with the WIC Program. If you’re unfamiliar, WIC stands for Women, Infants, and Children, and provides food benefits to mothers and children who are nutritionally at risk. To find a WIC office near you, search here. If you are on WIC and get an allotment of purees for your child, you may feel conflicted, since you’ve heard about the benefits of BLW. Or maybe you want to do BLW at home but your daycare or sitter only feels comfortable with purees. If that’s you, here are some options for using those purees. Baby-led weaning and WIC are not incompatible!
What to look for in purees
When you’re just starting, search for single ingredient purees. If organic is important to you, that’s an option in 12 states! Some brands, like Beech Nut, allow you to browse their WIC-friendly items by state. Most pediatricians recommend introducing new foods one at a time and waiting a few days between new foods to ensure there’s no allergic reaction. If you are afraid of wasting food since baby eats such a small amount at each feeding, you can freeze the leftovers in small ice cube trays (another nice option here). After you’ve found a few foods that are working well, you can begin to combine those!
What to introduce first
You may be wondering what’s the best food to introduce to baby first. Find Steph’s recommendations and explanations here, but essentially, babies tend to need iron and zinc, so foods like meat, poultry, and fish are great choices. If your little one isn’t interested in meat, make sure to include foods rich in vitamin C with your plant-based source of iron to boost iron absorption. For example, pair a source of non-heme iron such as cooked, dark leafy greens, legumes, or fortified bread/grains with a side of sweet potato, mango, or cooked broccoli. If you can, add a source of healthy fat as well. Think a smaller scale Whole30 template, that includes protein, veggies or fruit, and fat.
Grains and dairy
If you’re planning to introduce grains (the research suggests early exposure is beneficial for preventing allergies, even if you don’t plan on keeping it in their regular diet), look for cereals with no added sugar or flavors. You can mix a grain with a fruit and or veggie puree (think oatmeal with banana and zucchini); which is great if you have a puree that’s more watery! If you want to introduce dairy, look for full fat plain Greek yogurt, which will have the most protein. You can mix purees into the yogurt to sweeten and flavor it. If you’re looking for a dairy-free option, Kite Hill’s Greek style almond milk based yogurt is high in protein.
When you’re ready, you can even begin to mix together the flavors that your baby wants into homemade baby food pouches (here are nice disposable ones or dishwasher-friendly reuseable ones). Adding a tsp of lemon juice will help to keep them preserved longer in the fridge.
You might find that you want to do a mixture of BLW and purees. Purees can be incredibly convenient for on-the-go, so you may find yourself using them when you’re out and about. Perhaps your partner or baby’s grandparents are nervous about gagging, so they’d only prefer to do purees. Or lastly, maybe your daycare will only allow you to send purees in the early days of introducing solids. This is okay! Many babies learn to eat in this manner. Some of the foods that we eat even as adults are pureed (think mashed potatoes, applesauce, and butternut squash soup)!
If you’re more interested in BLW, you could practice that when you are caring for baby, and let other caretakers offer purees. You could ask your caretakers if they will compromise with you and offer appropriately sized pieces of food first, and then offer a puree toward the end of the meal.
Keep in mind that depending on where you live, WIC benefits may vary. You may get vouchers for fresh fruits and veggies along with the vouchers for other items such as milk and cheese. This is a great opportunity to feed baby appropriately-sized pieces of these foods, along with letting baby try flavors that aren’t available as a puree! Some WIC programs even offer vouchers for you to shop at your local farmer’s market.
Using purees in the context of strict BLW
One great way to use purees in the context of BLW is to offer the puree in a bowl with a Gootensil spoon so that baby can practice self-feeding. This is going to be messy! You can purchase a suction bowl to prevent baby from dumping the entire contents of the bowl on the floor (and themselves). You can use some of the ideas from the first section above for creating well-balanced meals out of purely purees.
If you are set on doing purely BLW with no straight purees, that’s doable, too. Here are some ways to use up those purees!
- “Sweet” baby pancakes: Mix egg (make sure you test first for allergic reaction), flour of your choice (or baby cereal) and a fruit or veggie puree together to create a pancake batter. Cook in 2 T coconut oil. Try topping with a nut butter of your choice.
- “Savory” baby pancakes: Your baby doesn’t know that pancakes are “supposed to be” sweet. Try to same recipe using a veggie puree and offer a mayo or other dressing for dipping. Here’s an example of potato kale pancakes.
- If you have a food dehydrator, you can use that to make your own fruit and veggie roll ups (find instructions here).
Use veggie purees …
- As a binder in casseroles and to sneak in extra nutrition
- In egg muffins, frittatas or scrambled eggs (your older child may appreciate green eggs and ham!)
- In soups, stews, or chilis
- Mix into tomato sauce and serve with noodles of choice
- In smoothies (see Steph’s recommendations on how to make a nutrient dense smoothie)
- Mix into teething biscuits or muffins (like Danielle Walker’s Almond Flour Zucchini Bread) in place of fresh veggies
Using meat purees …
- In pasta sauce and serve with noodles
- Mix into egg muffins or frittatas
- In meatballs as a binder instead of or along with egg
Using fruit purees …
- Make popsicles or freeze some in a longer ice cube tray and use them as teethers
- Use as a spread on bread or cracker of your choice, combined with a nut butter of your choice
- Add into smoothies (see our recommendations on how to make a nutrient dense smoothie)
- Add into breads or muffins instead of fresh fruit
Starting your baby on solids can seem like a daunting task, but you can see that there are many ways to go about it. How about you? Did you lean toward purees, BLW, or a combination? Join the conversation with us on Facebook or Instagram.
Formerly an English as a Second Language instructor at the university level, Chelsea shifted her interest to holistic health after giving birth to her first child. Her degrees in Communications and Education serve her well as she works to support women in their journey through motherhood. Chelsea is a registered yoga teacher (RYT 200) and is passionate about helping women thrive.