It doesn’t matter what’s happening in the world, babies will continue to be born. And while some women are navigating labour during a global pandemic, many others are starting solids with their babies while in lockdown.
Starting solids is a fun – and messy! – new stage but it can also be an overwhelming task. In NZ, we’re currently at Alert Level 4 during the Covid-19 global pandemic, which means we’re on lockdown and required to stay in our “bubble” at home. While we are permitted to go to the supermarket “as normal”, many families will be experiencing food insecurity.
“Food insecurity is defined as a limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods or limited ability to acquire personally acceptable foods that meet cultural needs in a socially acceptable way.”
- Businesses are only able to operate from home (no physical stores/offices are open) so many families have lost jobs or are experiencing a drop in income;
- Panic buying has occurred so some household basics like flour, bread and baking ingredients, are hard to come by;
- Due to the very infectious nature of coronavirus, only one person is encouraged to shop for each household. This makes it difficult for some families.
You might be experiencing stress and anxiety due to financial troubles, fear of contracting the virus, trying to work from home with children around etc.
You can see how this might impact the calm and no-pressure environment we hope to create when sharing food with our little ones!
Here is some of the usual advice, tailored for starting solids when things might not seem ideal:
Help! I don’t have a highchair.
One of the signs of readiness is that your baby can sit well, with support. This doesn’t have to be in a highchair. You can feed your child while they sit on your lap, or they can sit on the floor. It’s okay if they’re propped up while sitting but they should be able to sit up straight, not slumped over or falling forward.
I don’t have the equipment to make a lot of purees.
You can either feed your child pureed food or let them self-feed i.e. follow a baby led weaning approach. Both methods don’t require a lot of equipment.
To puree first foods, choose a fruit or vegetable like kumara, carrot, pumpkin, apple, pear or similar. Steam or boil a small amount and then blend with a little water or baby’s milk (breastmilk or formula) until you have a very smooth consistency. You can use a food processor, blender, smoothie maker, hand-held whizz etc. You could also just use a fork and mash the food, making sure the final puree is “drippy” or very smooth.
You also don’t need to freeze purees in bulk. Your baby might only eat ½-2 tsp at a time when you first start. By the time they’re comfortable with solids, they might want something more exciting than pureed spinach!
If you choose the BLW route, you won’t need any equipment at all.
I don’t have bibs!
Mealtimes should be relaxed, calm and with no pressure. Pop your baby in old clothes or strip them down so you’re not worried about the mess. Give them a wipe down with a warm flannel afterwards and everyone is happy.
I’m worried my baby will choke.
Before you start solids it’s a good idea to learn the difference between gagging and choking. Very simply, gagging usually involves a bit of noise (coughing, gagging noises) and is to be expected when first starting solids. Choking is silent. However, there is more info online and some virtual classes available.
For both traditional spoon-feeders and baby-led weaners, it’s important to always serve food that is appropriate for your child’s age and ability.
These recommendations are for all under 5s, not specific to first foods for babies:
Do not give your child hard foods like raw fruit and veg (e.g. raw carrot and apple should be cooked so it’s soft, or served grated); serve finger foods in a “chip” shape so it’s easy to hold; do not give small round foods like marshmallows or sausages (always cut lengthways); watch out for the stringy bits in food like silverbeet and bok choy; always supervise your child while eating.
Remember, you can always call an ambulance in an emergency.
What if my baby has an allergic reaction?
The most common allergenic foods are: milk (dairy), eggs, peanuts, wheat, soy, tree-nuts, fish and shellfish.
Latest research tells us we shouldn’t avoid giving these foods to our children and instead, an “early and often” approach is best i.e. introduce before 12m and repeat exposure.
It’s a good idea to offer these foods earlier in the day – not at the dinner meal – so you can react appropriately if need be. Also, if your child were to have a delayed reaction, they’re not going to be in bed asleep when it happens.
Again, you can always call an ambulance in an emergency.
I’m struggling to get to the supermarket/we don’t have our normal food in the house right now
In the very early days, a range of fruit and veg is sufficient – pureed or whole. You’ll want to add in sources of iron as your child becomes established on solids over the coming weeks.
Ideally, you’re offering your child similar foods to the rest of the family. Can you adapt the family meal to suit your little one?
Often your baby’s meal will look like a deconstructed version of the adult’s plate.
Take the pressure off yourself and know that anything goes! Just make sure to keep the sodium and sugar content low (none added to your baby’s food), offer plenty of plant foods, and you’re on the right track.
My baby is constipated and I can’t get to the pharmacy/don’t know what to do
The key when introducing solids is to take it slow, follow your child’s lead. Expect that your baby may only eat ½-2tsp initially and work their way up to a more “complete” meal e.g. 1/2C.
If you’re following a BLW route, trust your baby to learn how to eat. They may not get much food in their mouth in the early days.
Offer water whenever you offer solids, straight from an open cup is perfect from 6 months.
If your baby is constipated:
- Make sure you’re offering plenty of plant foods
- Fruit and veg are good sources of fibre which helps move food along the digestive tract
- Ensure good fluid intake. Fibre helps with constipation but without adequate fluid intake, can make constipation worse.
- When you first start, breastfeed or give your child their normal bottle first, then offer solids. Make sure you also give them a cup of water (sippy cups etc. are all fine however, your child can start practising with an open cup right from Day 1)
- Be aware that baby food pouches are not a good source of fibre.
- Pears and prunes can help move things along; too much banana can cause constipation.