Father's Day 2008 was very memorable for us - not only was it Stan's very first father's day, it was also Naima's 1st day of trying out solids. Prior to that, she was exclusively on breastmilk. I read a LOT on how to start solids. The general idea I got from my research was NOT to start a baby on solids earlier than 6 months. Although this statement is supported and promoted by the World Health Organization, there are still a lot of doctors who recommend starting babies on solids at 4 months, especially if these babies are on the lower percentile of the formula-fed babies based growth charts.
During a visit to one of Naima's former pediatricians, I was able to get an "Infant Feeding Plan" produced by our Department of Science and Technology's Food and Nutrition Research Guide.
I was happy that the plan promoted solids at 6 months and not at 4 months. There have been studies which state that starting solids before 6 months increases risks of allergies but despite these findings, there are still books or doctors who suggest that babies start solids at 4 months, especially when the baby is *off* the infant growth charts (which are based on formula-fed babies). Also, Kellymom believes that starting solids too early and feeding baby too many solids often results in the early weaning of breastfed babies.
The plan also provides a list of locally-available foods that you can feed your baby. I think the use of indigenous foods for complementary feeding is very important. However, I think Filipino moms are not that well-educated or there is lack of information on what indigenous foods are available and can be used for complementary feeding.
I also don't know much about indigenous foods and the indigenous foods (that I can recall) we fed Naima would include: camote (sweet potato), banana (lacatan and tundan), sayote (is this indigenous?), papaya, calabasa (squash) and monggo. Naima has been eating a lot of vegetables, like broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, spinach, potatoes, tomatoes, zucchini, asparagus --> which are all locally grown but are not indigenous to the Philippines. Not knowing much about indigenous foods is one of my challenges towards crafting a healthy meal plan for my family.
In preparing for Naima's first solids, the websites Wholesome Baby Food and Homemade Baby Food were very helpful. I ignored the suggestions to start at baby's 4th month but instead used their charts, starting at 6 months. I like that the foods are organized according to baby's age and meals. There are also suggestions for menu planning. Kellymom and Mother-2-Mother were also very helpful as they focused on the breastfed baby. Aside from the internet, I also use The Big Book of Recipes and Feed your child right - a book for Asian Parents.
When starting solids, it is important to remember that despite all the literature telling you to start solids by the 6th month, it is actually your baby who will give you the signal that s/he is ready, whether it be in his/her 6th, 7th or even 10th month. There are signals to watch out to determine readiness. Each baby is unique - so it definitely won't help if you compare how easily other babies started solids, as compared to your own baby.
It should also be noted that contrary to popular notion, starting solids does not mean that breast milk (or even formula milk) intake should lessen. Solids are only meant to COMPLEMENT the milk feeding and not replace it (*note how the guide above is called "Complementary Feeding Guide"). Kellymom has an excellent explanation on complementary feeding and also recommends that babies be given solids an hour after nursing.
Naima's first food was avocado, mixed with breastmilk. I chose to start with avocado and not am or lugaw (rice porridge) because my readings showed that avocado had more nutrients than rice. I followed the 3-day rule (feed baby same food for 3 days to check allergies). Happily, Naima did not seem to be allergic to any food.
Naima has never tasted Cerelac and I don't plan on giving her any. She also hasn't tried Gerber but has eaten about 3-4 bottles of Earth's Best, given to her when we were traveling and had no access to cooking or a kitchen. Before Naima was one, I did not want to give her any restaurant food and we usually packed her meals to take along during our meals out.
Starting solids is an exciting milestone which must not be rushed. It is now a little over a year since Naima started solids. Now, she pretty much eats anything EXCEPT shellfish. As she grows older, her menu choices expands but so does her palate/taste preferences. There are days when she eats A LOT and days when she just nurses and nurses. We are now facing the challenges of feeding a finicky toddler.