History Of Introducing Solids

There is little written down globally about introducing a baby to solid foods. This is probably because it was an oral tradition, passed down from mother to daughter. Occasionally recipes and instructions for feeding babies were found in old cookbooks, usually in the chapter for convalescence. This is because, in some ways, babies have the same needs as invalids. Both need foods that are easy to digest and nutrient dense.

Ground grains (particularly rice) cooked with a lot of water to form a soupy porridge are found in most cultures. There is also some evidence of mother pre-chewing food for their babies, called premastication.

Until recently women carried on breastfeeding and introducing solids as learned by their mothers. Usually they trusted their instincts and listened to their babies and it wasn’t a particularly complicated process. There was probably never any need to write anything down because it was so simple and intuitive.

Around 1900 the scientification of motherhood interfered with this cycle. Science and medicine replaced the more feminine ways of knowing and learning. Experts started popping up in all areas of mothering including birth, breastfeeding and sleep. Women, who used to create mothering knowledge, are now consumers of such knowledge.

Soon scientific routines replaced breastfeeding on demand and mothers no longer produced enough breast milk. Many mothers resorted to formula. In an effort to increase breastfeeding rates doctors came up with the clever idea of introducing solids early. The next step in the commodification of motherhood was the introduction of commercial baby food in the 1930s. At first mothers could not understand the need to buy specially prepared baby food and it was aggressively marketed.

Unfortunately mothers can be made to feel guilty if they don’t buy the latest and greatest for their children and eventually commercial baby food took off. Most babies were introduced to solids at the age of 2-3 months. The first official guidelines were released in the UK in 1974. They recommended starting purees at 4 months, in preparation for eating normal food by 6 months. This was because it was thought that a babies nutritional needs would not be met by breast milk alone by the age of 6 months. Mothers were advised to make their babies start practising eating earlier so as to be ready for large volumes of food by six months. We now know this is not necessary. 

Today 44% of parents say they spend more time preparing their baby’s meals than their own and almost half of all parents admit that their baby eats better than they do

I want you to feel confident that you are the only expert when it comes to your baby. You are perfectly capable of feeding your baby, no matter how much confusing advice you read in books or hear on the street.

I try to make things as short and simple as possible. I want it to be accessible and easy to read even when you haven’t slept for months! But there is a lot of content to cover, mostly because there is so much that needs to be unlearned. 

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