Now that we're a month away from Norah's 6 month old mark, I figured it was time to start researching how we want to introduce solid foods when the time arrives. All along I've wanted her to be exclusively breastfed until at least 6 months, and after that take a "baby led" approach to introducing the next stage of foods. But I wasn't totally sure what that really meant, and how it might look for us. Being a bit of a planner, I didn't want the time to sneak up on me and be unprepared for what to feed her! Ha, I know, it's not like the day she turns 6 months old she will be pounding her fists on the table and demanding a bowl of rice cereal or she'll starve; I obviously can (and will) continue to breastfeed her while we figure this out. I'm planning to still primarily nurse her/give her expressed breastmilk in bottles as her main source of nutrition until 12 months, but I know that solids will also make up a necessary part of her diet by then too.
Much of the research I've found indicates that the longer you delay feeding certain foods, the less likely you are to have a child develop food allergies. Of course, some things are unavoidable, but for those high allergen foods (cow's milk, eggs, peanuts/tree nuts, wheat, and soy), delaying at least until 9-12 months seems preferable, and later for peanuts, egg whites, and cow's milk if possible. It scares me to think of dealing with potentially fatal food allergies, and while I know many many families manage their children's allergies with great care and they do fine, it's something I'd rather be able to avoid if we can.
There are so many opinions about what to feed a baby, when to start, how to introduce flavors so that your child's palate develops appropriately, etc, and as with pretty much everything else related to raising a human being, people come at it from an emotionally connected stance that is often quite powerful. People will inevitably tell you that you're making the wrong choices, that what they did with their little ones worked perfectly and so what other way could there be? Human beings are, by nature, emotionally influenced and connected, and such a large part of our social and emotional connections are centered around food. The preparation and planning of meals, the aromas and sights associated with favorite foods and ingredients, the memories triggered by even the thought of a particular home cooked meal. Anyone who knows me knows this is true to the core of my being, and food is such an important part of the way I nurture those around me, and hopefully my children will know that as well. So of course, the thought of introducing my child to the world of food beyond breastmilk is exciting!
That being said, I also cherish my time nursing Norah, so much more now that I'm back to work and it offers me precious time to slow down and connect with my baby while my body nourishes hers. I'm hopeful that with a "baby led" approach, introducing solids will not lead to weaning before I'm ready. I've never been someone who plans to nurse into the "extended nursing" territory, but I do want to get her solidly over the 12 month mark before weaning completely. KellyMom has some great articles about the subject, and I'm finding that there are lots of resources and support for mamas who feel the same way. Here's to diving in and making a plan for what to feed my baby next! The world is ever changing for an infant in the first year of life, and it's just amazing :)