When you are just about to start solids with your baby, it may seem like you need all the latest baby food gadget available on the market.
But having introduced solids to 3 babies of my own and helped hundreds of parents to do the same my recommendation is to buy less rather than more.
For example, although the market is overflowing with baby food steamers/blenders, your baby will not need purees for more than a few weeks and may not need them at all if you decide to jump right into finger foods.
So unless it is something you can use it to prepare meals for the family later on down the road, spending your money on a gadget designed specifically to prepare baby food may not be necessary.
But while you do not need everything there is in your local store or on Amazon, some essentials will make a world of difference.
Here is a list of things I recommend to have ready when you are starting solids with your baby. I used most of them myself and recommended them to many families.
For cooking and storing
A simple stainless steel or silicone steamer may be all you need to steam food for your baby and for the whole family. And I guarantee that you will be using this steamer for a long time after your baby does not need it any more.
If you are looking for something more durable, get a two-in-one sauce pot and steamer like this Farberware model.
If you do not own one, I highly recommend investing in a brand that you like. Even if you decide to skip purees with your baby, a good blender is such a magical kitchen appliance. You can use it for making smoothies, pureed soups, blending sauces, stirring batters and even for making your own baby cereal or nut flour.
My absolute favorite is Blendec – I have been using mine for years and years and it still works like new. But if you are not planning any heavy duty blending projects, less expensive options like Ninja Professional Blender or Hamilton Beach Smoothie Smart Blender can do the job when it comes to baby food.
Some of the baby specific food blenders that can also steam food are Baby Bullet System and Phillips Avent Combined Baby Food Steamer and Blender.
This little gadget makes holding slippery finger foods easier for the little hands. I used it to cut mango, zucchini, avocado, pears and other finger foods.
Beyond the starting solids stage, this handy tool can be used to cut vegetables before roasting or steaming or to create pretty shapes for your fruit salad.
Freezer containers and bags
Freezing baby food will save you lots of time and stress. You can freeze the food in cube containers, then empty the cubes into a zip lock bag, mark the date and name and store the bag in the freezer. To thaw, leave a few cubes in your fridge for a few hours or overnight.
I like Oxo Tot Baby Food Freezer Tray because I could use it to make ice cubes long after my kids stopped eating purees and it is easier to store in the freezer due to its rectangular shape.
Here is how I used to store my baby’s purees:
High chair and booster seat
A good hghchair is definitely something your baby needs to safely and conformably eat solids. When choosing your model, make sure that it meets the following requirements:
easy to clean
has minimal crevices
makes it easier for your baby to sit straight
has a safety harness which is also easy to clean
has a foot stool – many hook on chairs do not have one
has a tray at the level of your baby’s elbows when he is sitting in the chair
the tray can be removed so the baby can join the family at the dinner table
the seat provides extra support around the hips and trunk
I bought a second hand Stokke for my last baby and loved how easy it is to clean it and how it “grows” with my baby so it can used for many more years.
At first I used a baby insert and a lining that allowed my baby to be safe and snug when eating and after I removed both, she is still super comfortable sitting in it at 2.5 years. I love that you can adjust the height of both the seat and the foot rest so it is usable for older children and provides good support for eating.
But when I did research for my sister who had a baby recently, I found this Phil and Teds high chair and decided to give it a try. Aside from the the obviuos benefits like being very easy to clean and having a foot rest, it can also be converted into a comfy low chair small children can use. And it costs just a fraction of the price of Stokke!
Other chairs I was considering were OXO Tot Sprout High Chair, Mamas and Papas Juice High Chair and Baby Bjorn highchair. These are all the new generation high chairs that are a breeze to clean, have foot rests and do not have a reclinable back. Remember that your baby needs to be sitting upright in order to be safe when eating.
IKEA’s Antilop high chair is a popular option I hear a lot about in parenting groups but I do not recommend it often because it does not have foot support although it is very inexpensive and seems very easy to clean.
To help your baby eat comfortably when on a go, you may consider getting one of the booster seats that can be strapped securely to a chair in a restaurant or friend’s house. Below are a few options I recommend.
I used Fisher Price Healthy Care Booster with my baby number 3 and it was easy to adjust to chairs in restaurants and tote around when we were traveling.
You would not believe the number or restaurants in Spain that do not have high chairs for babies!
If you plan to feed your baby purees, I would recommend getting a few spoons with longer handles.
To practice self feeding, your baby will need spoons with shorter handles.
Spoons for feeding your baby
There are many different models on the market and I would suggest that you choose ones which are BPA free and have a flat tip to make first feeds easier.
Later, as your baby gets better at scooping food off the spoon, you can pick one with a deeper tip.
Here are a couple I was using with my baby.
Spoons for self feeding
As your baby starts practicing self feeding with a spoon, it is time to switch to one that is lighter and has a shorter handle.
My number 1 recommendation for a novice self feeder would be a Num Num prespoon, because its unique design allows baby to self feed just by dunking it in puree, no scooping skill is required.
Nuby Set is perfect for little hands and I like the fact that it includes both spoons and forks. All my kids learnt to eat with a fork before they were able to manage a spoon.
Feeding mats and bowls with suction
A bowl with suction or a silicone mat that sticks to the table will help prevent a lot of mess and make self feeding easier. I like EzPz mat, it made mealtimes with my baby so much more enjoyable. It also comes in a smaller size, perfect for a high chair tray or when traveling. I have been taking our mat to all our trips in the last 2 years, it has a priority space in our suitcase.
It sticks to the table and is quite heavy so you do not need to worry about plates and bowls flying around the kitchen. I also like how it helps little ones feel confident feeding themselves because scooping food from bowls molded in a heavy piece of silicone is much easier than from a flat tray or a plate.
I have also been using bowls with suction for my first two kids and you an see a couple of options below. But honestly, I do not think that they can beat the convenience of a feeding mat. My baby really enjoyed seeing a variety of food on her mat and I did not have to worry about her tipping anything over.
A bonus for picky toddlers – a feeding mat with divisions does not allow the food to touch!
Did you know that you can use a small open cup to serve a little bit of water with solid feeds from as early as 6 months?
And that although sippy cups are very popular, dentists and feeding specialists have been recently raising the topic of sippy cup overuse?
Aside from limiting the development of oral motor skills, using sippy cups frequently and for a long time may lead to grazing on milk or juice. Grazing definitely does not help kids’ appetites or dental health. In my view, sippy cups are a good option for a very short period of time while your baby is transitioning to an open or straw cup but they are not mandatory.
You may be amazed how quickly your baby learns to drink from an open cup if you allow him to practice from the start. I used and really liked BabyCup. It fit perfectly my 6 month old’s little chubby hands. You can also use any small light cup you may have in the house.
Some parents I know have been successfully using these Munchkin Miracle 360 Trainer Cups to help their babies transition to an open cup.
Straw cups are very handy when you are on a go but most babies cannot handle them before 8-9 months. Here is a great article by Alisha from Your Kids Table about how to transition your baby to straw cup.
So I would suggest that you give your baby a small light open cup with a very small amount of water to practice drinking from about 6 months, introduce a straw cup at 8-9 months and use sippy cups only occasionally, as a transitional tool, or avoid them altogether.
For minimizing the mess
It is impossible to avoid the mess when you are starting solids with the baby, but there are a few ways to at least minimize it.
Long sleeve waterproof bibs are the best invention ever, especially if your baby self feeds. Do not bother with those made of flimsy cotton or other fabric, you need some hard core water proof solution for the messes that are to come.
Long sleeve bibs will protect numerous outfits that may end up hopelessly stained otherwise. I used mine for feeding first and when the baby did not need them at mealtimes anymore, we started doing messy crafts in it!
Small bibs will protect your baby’s clothes when you are spoon feeding or at later stages, when your baby is confidently self feeding with a minimal mess.
Floor mat is a must if you have a carpet in the feeding area. I did not have to use one because I either had hard floor or tiles in the kitchen when my kids were babies but here are a couple that may save you a lot of scrubbing.
What are your favorite products for starting solids with the baby?
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Your baby is unique.
So why copy how everyone else is starting solids? Welcome your baby into the wonderful world of food using this safe and responsive method.