There is so much conflicting information about when you ‘should’ start your baby on solid food and what kind of food your baby ‘should’ be eating. I just went with intuition, does my child really seem interested in taking food and putting into his or her mouth, chewing and swallowing it? Or, is your baby more interested in simply playing with the food. There is a big difference here, which is why I believe so many children are given food before they’re really ready.
Norah started showing interest in actually eating solid foods around 8 months old and her first food was a strawberry. Just because she was showing interest in beginning to eat sweet, ripe fruit did not mean she was ready for everything. Cooked foods did not sit well with her until she was about 11 months old and even then, we focused on offering her an abundance of fresh fruits and veggies. I can’t express how important it is to make sure that the foods you are offering your child are organic and extremely ripe! Their bodies are still so little and they haven’t been exposed to much, so refraining from feeding them pesticides is vital. Ripe fruit is key for digestion and the old myth that bananas make you constipated is just false. That rumor comes from people who are eating yellow bananas with green tips… this is NOT a ripe banana. A ripe banana has very little- to no green on it at all and is covered with brown splotches. Ripe bananas have amazing health benefits, not to mention they are so good for digestion.
As Norah got older, I never found much success in pureeing up a bunch of homemade baby food and sitting there spoon feeding it to her, while she pursed her lips shut and pushed the spoon away. Sound familiar? I stopped doing that, as it was clear she was trying to tell me something, and who am I to know exactly what her tummy is feeling? Maybe she wasn’t hungry. Maybe it was upsetting her stomach. Either way, I knew she would always breastfeed when she was hungry or happily munch on a strawberry. So, spoon feeding was quickly out the window and I focused on offering her raw vegan whole foods once or twice a day to begin with (half a banana, diced up berries, green smoothies etc). What I did find successful (especially in the warm summer months), was making homemade popsicles, Norah loved them! I would blend some spinach, banana, strawberry or whatever nice, organic fruits and veggies I had on hand and pour them into popsicle molds. It was also fantastic for teething! This method of starting a child on solid foods is widely known as ‘baby-led weaning’, because the baby’s body really does know what it is ready for and when.
The amount of breastmilk Norah was drinking, as she began eating more solids, did not decrease much. And even though she snacks on solid food throughout the day now, she still nurses every few hours and a couple of times at night (she turned one in December). People may seem surprised when you’re still breastfeeding past a year old and have no plans to stop, but forcing your baby to wean is an extremely unnatural process. Not to mention, a vast majority of mothers wean their babies from their own human breast milk and put them right onto another mammals breast milk, which doesn’t make sense at all. A cows milk was not designed for our babies, it was designed for their babies.
Now that she is older, Norah takes interest in whatever I am eating and wants some of it! This is a great reminder for me to always pay attention to what i’m feeding myself, because chances are, Norah is going to come along and want some. Our favorite food to share together are smoothies, she comes to expect our daily smoothie and will get super excited when I pull the blender out! Our current go-to is banana, frozen mango, spinach, coconut water, frozen blueberries, barley grass juice powder and hawaiian spirulina. There are so many amazing health benefits to a vegan, homemade smoothie and it is a great way to get nutrients into your baby. I was expecting to have to show Norah how to drink from a straw, but one day she just crawled right up, took a big sip and that was that!
If you’re a mother like me, it’s likely you have heard input from others, through social media, friends or family members. You hear comments such as “when are you going to start giving them food?” “when are you going to stop nursing?” “why are you so picky about what she’s eating?” and so on. It’s not easy in the beginning, but it’s so extremely important that you stick to your guns and don’t give in. This is a simple quote that I love, which helped me stand up for what I believe in and the way I want to parent; “speak your mind, even if your voice shakes” -Maggie Kuhn. Unfortunately, having those around you want to feed your child something that they either aren’t ready for, or that you just don’t want them to have- period, is a common occurrence. But that will have to be a whole other blog post, keeping your child healthy and eating vegan in public or in others’ homes can be a challenge, but one well worth the fight. Don’t let anyone make you feel like you’re parenting wrong or pressure you to change what you’re comfortable with. At the end of the day, they are your child and it is your decision how they are raised.