Weaning and introducing your baby to solid food is an exciting time for both parent and child. You've done the hard work of either breast or bottle feeding your infant (or both!) and now, you're heading out on a new adventure together.
A baby fed with Avent Bottle
There are so many options out there for feeding your baby solid foods. If you're planning to wean your baby with store-bought foods you might be surprised at the flavor combinations available. There are numerous brands of pre-made foods that use only organic ingredients if you're planning on going strictly organic. You could also decide to keep to a budget and buy sale food, or maybe your baby has special dietary requirements. This day in age, none of these are a problem. The smorgasbord of options are big and so is your growing tot's appetite.
Pick a style: Food jars or Pouches
Although baby food comes in many different forms, glass jars and plastic pouches are the commons in most supermarkets.
Baby food jars have been around the longest as they were introduced to the global market in 1931. You can still find numerous brands of baby food jars in supermarkets today, but are they your best bet?
Pros of using Food Jars
One of the positive point for jars versus pouches is that from a waste perspective, the jars are better for the environment. This is because glass can be recycled quite efficiently compared to other materials. This is disputed among environmentalists, however. Undisputed is the fact that glass jars are reusable, which can reduce their overall carbon footprint.
Cons of using Food Jars
A negative point about glass it is a much heavier material, so carting glass jars around in a diaper bag along with your baby could get pretty heavy. Another strike against them is that they are breakable. Having a container break while you're on the go might be more than just a mess, but also a safety hazard.
If you are committed to the idea of glass jars after weighing the pros and cons, I recommend wrapping the jars in a pad or towel to protect them from impact and minimize mess should one take a hit.
Pouches have entered the baby food scene only recently and whether they are the better option compared to jars is still up for debate.
Pros of using Food Pouches
Benefits of food pouches are plenty, they are convenient, lightweight and disposable. Pouches are also great for self-feeding, which is a huge plus for promoting your baby's autonomy. For younger babies, spoon attachments can be purchased and screwed onto the pouch.
Another benefit of using food pouch is that many pouch manufacturers make the caps out of recycled plastic, which is environmentally friendly. While this is definitely a positive use of resources, the pouches themselves cannot be recycled. To date, a recyclable pouch does not exist anywhere in the world but it is something that manufacturers are working on.
There are many types of reusable pouches on the market for parents who want to reduce waste and still enjoy the convenience, lightness and self-feeding that baby food pouches promote.
Cons of using Food Pouches
There have been reports of parents finding mold and other nasty growth inside the pouches. A few years back this was something of a PR nightmare for many of the leading baby food brands. The issue seems to have been resolved in recent years and many brands offer clear "windows" into the pouch as an answer to the previous problem so that parents can see the contents inside of the pouch and look out for anything that doesn't look right.
Reusable pouches come in a variety of brands and sizes, many of which are dishwasher safe.
Consider organic when choosing Baby Convenience Food
Organic food is raised in a different way than most non-organic food. In the United States and other countries, there are strict guidelines that farmers must comply with in order to receive the organic seal. Examples of organic seal criteria are that fruit and vegetable crops cannot be sprayed with herbicides and pesticides, and livestock cannot be treated with hormones and/or antibiotics.
Non-organic food does not have the same rigorous guidelines for production and often contain chemicals that are sprayed on the plants to promote mass production. Animals are often treated with hormones and antibiotics as well to promote larger growth and to prevent them from getting sick. The concern with the use of chemicals is that research studies have confirmed that trace amounts wind up in your baby’s food. While this is certainly concerning, it is also important to know that current data suggests trace chemicals, though present, might not have any effect on the health of your infant.
As far as nutrition goes, The National Institute for Health (NIH) has determined over time and research that there isn't any difference between organic vs. non-organic baby foods. A jar of organic applesauce is no more nutritious than a jar of non-organic applesauce. The main difference between organic and non-organic food is a matter of philosophy and potential safety concerns.
At the end of the day, you have a choice about what kind of food you want for your baby. There are pros and cons that must be weighed for both food options and only you know what is the best choice for your family.
Dairy free selection for lactose intolerant kids
Some of the leading brands of baby food jars and pouches on the market today are sensitive to the fact that more and more children are developing food sensitivities and/or allergies. Reaching for dairy free baby foods that contain the calcium your baby needs to thrive is definitely possible. Plum Organics and Happy Baby Organics are only 2 of the numerous brands that promise their food to be free of the top 8 food allergens: milk, wheat, shellfish, fish, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, and eggs.
Lactose Intolerance vs. Milk Allergy
There are many kinds of sugar. Refined sugar, also known as table sugar, is also called sucrose. Fruits contain one or both of the sugars known as glucose and fructose. Lactose is the sugar that is in milk. People with lactose intolerance are unable to digest lactose from milk easily or at all, which causes a host of unpleasant effects such as diarrhea and bloating. The symptoms are all contained within the digestive system.
Lactose intolerance in children can interfere with regular growth and development if severe enough. It is not, however, life-threatening. That is not the case for milk allergy.
Milk allergies are different from lactose intolerance because they are caused by milk proteins rather than sugar. Reacting to milk proteins involves the immune system, which fires histamine in the presence of a detected allergen that can cause a rash, hives, or even life-threatening anaphylaxis.
Look for Dairy-Free on Food Labels
If a food is truly dairy-free or lactose-free, it will usually say so on the packaging. It is important to know that dairy-free and lactose-free are not the same things.
Below are some selection for your consideration.
Ella's Kitchen Organic Baby Food
This brand is always not only lactose free, but also always vegetarian and and free of gluten.
Sprout Organic Baby Food
Though this brand does have a limited number of flavors that contain dairy, all of the pouches are dairy-free. This particular flavor was made with coconut milk, which is a common substitute for cow's milk.
Dairy Free Baby Cereals
Although many cereal are naturally dairy free, choosing a cereal such as the one pictured is a safe bet since dairy-free is described right on the package. Mix with dairy-free formula, juice, water, or milk substitute such as almond milk or coconut milk.
Check nutrition facts to ensure your baby gets the best out of their food
It is important not only to know what you are feeding your baby but also to know how much of each macronutrient he or she needs in one day to thrive. It is especially important to know what your baby needs since the exclusivity of breast and/or bottle feeding ends with weaning.
Calculating Baby calorie needs
What are calories? Put simply, calories are the sum of all nutrients, measured by potential energy a unique combination of nutrients can provide.
As far as calorie needs, you can calculate your baby's specific needs using the formulas below:
- Baby's Weight in kg x 90 = Total Calories Needed Per Day (Low end of the range)
- Baby's Weight in kg x 110 = Total Calories Needed Per Day (High end of the range)
To convert pounds into kg:
- Baby's Weight in Pounds / 2.2 = Baby's Weight in kg
How to Read Nutrition Labels
Once you have an idea about how many calories your baby needs, reading a nutrition label helps you understand where the calories are coming from. Are the calories in a particular food mostly empty calories from added sugars? Or, are they nutrient dense calories that will help your baby thrive?
Nutrition labels show you will the serving size and number of servings. This is important so you know how many times to multiply the information that follows.
Next, you will find calories per serving. If there are 4 servings in a container, then you multiply the number given here by 4 to get the total calories.
Under the total calorie information is the macronutrient information. Macronutrients are broken down into 3 main categories that appear in bold print on a nutrition label: Fat, Carbohydrate, and Protein. Within the macronutrients list, you may also find minerals such as sodium, which is salt, potassium, fiber, and fat sub-categories. These are measured in grams, so knowing how much (or how little) of each your baby needs is helpful. That will vary by baby's breastmilk or formula intake, age, and weight, and will continue to change as he or she grows.
Babies need a healthy balance of macronutrients in their diets, but carbohydrates play a key role in giving babies and younger children the energy their bodies need to grow both physically and cognitively.
Percent Daily Value (%DV)
The last section of a nutrition label has information at "percent daily values" and vitamins. Percent daily values are classified as either "significant" or "not a significant source". Percent daily values are based on how much of a particular macronutrient, vitamin, or mineral a person needs in one day. Something that is a significant source of say, sodium, will be noted as such here. Something that is not particularly rich in a nutrient, such as protein, will also be noted here.
Vitamins are listed as percentages. This should be interpreted as the quantity per serving up to 100%. If a nutrition label reads Vitamin C 25%, then your baby would need 4 servings of that particular food to get their percent daily value.
Babies need mostly Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and Vitamin D from food to boost their immune systems and help them fight off infections.
Safety on reheating baby food jars
Both jars and pouches can be stored in a refrigerator for 24 hours after being opened. After that, it is important to discard any unused food since once the lid or cap is popped, the clock for bacterial growth starts ticking.
As far as heating and reheating jars, be sure to test the temperature of the food contents before feeding it to your baby. Baby food does not have to be heated before serving, but some parents like to try giving their babies warm food to see if they might prefer it better that way.
Whether you choose jars or pouches, organic or non-organic food; there are many options available for parents who want only the best for their child. The key to success is watching ingredients and nutrition facts, and your baby is sure to thrive. The choice you make is keeping his or her best interests at heart, and that is the most important thing. Happy Weaning!