From the age of about six months, you will be able to introduce your baby to the wonderful world of food! This is a messy but oh so fun stage of your baby’s life as they start to explore new tastes and textures.

—Kay-Lee Nowers, Registered Dietitian at Total Health

When planning your baby’s menu, one of the most important things to consider is the quality of food your little one is consuming. Parents will want to ensure that their child is getting the best nutrients possible while keeping preservatives, chemicals and other undesirable additives to a minimum. KayLee Nowers, a Registered Dietitian from Total Health, is an expert in childhood nutrition and has outlined some easy ways to wean a baby in the Cayman Islands.

When to Start Weaning

Around the age of six months a baby’s digestive system is developed enough to cope with solid foods. The following signs are good indicators that your baby may be ready for solids:

  • They can sit up alone, or with support, and hold their head steady.

  • They are grasping objects and bringing things to their mouth.

  • They can swallow food rather than spit it back out.

At this stage breastmilk or formula should be your baby’s main source of food as he/she will only be able to eat small quantities of solid foods.

You may decide to start with purées or follow a 'Baby Led Weaning' approach, both have their pros and cons and you may even decide on a mix of both. We advise you speak to your paediatrician or a dietitian for advice on what the best option is for your baby. Scroll to the bottom of this article for a list of dietitians and nutritionists.

At this stage breastmilk or formula should be your baby’s main source of food as he/she will only be able to eat small quantities of solid foods.

You may decide to start with purées or follow a 'Baby Led Weaning' approach, both have their pros and cons and you may even decide on a mix of both. We advise you speak to your paediatrician or a dietitian for advice on what the best option is for your baby.

First Foods

There is no scientific rule as to what type of foods you should start with. Use a variety of vegetables, fruit, meats, lentils and fats when first introducing food to your baby. Include foods that are high in antioxidants such as avocado, bananas, beans, berries, broccoli, butternut squash, carrots, eggs, fish, sweet potato, red meat, tomatoes, yoghurt and whole grains. Some people like to introduce vegetables rather than fruit first so the child doesn’t develop a preference for sweet foods, although there is no scientific evidence to prove such a theory.

When introducing solids, a combination of foods offers multiple nutrients and more diversity. It allows you to use family made meals that you would typically serve at dinner time for yourself and your baby. A dish like roast chicken, sweet potato wedges and mixed roasted vegetables could be blended into a purée or served as finger food for your baby.

To start with, offer solids once a day and 15-30 minutes after giving breast or formula milk. Focus on making mealtimes a positive playtime experience for your baby. Allow them to develop their feeding skills and don’t worry if mealtimes get messy; embrace it as a learning experience. If your baby is not feeling well, is teething or is tired at mealtime then do not stress about them having solids that day. If your baby is showing signs that they want more food, then offer them seconds. Do not serve foods that could be a potential choking hazard such as hot dogs, whole grapes, sweets, nuts, seeds, raw carrots or popcorn.

Premade Baby Foods

Many commercially produced baby foods have low nutritional value and a high concentration of hidden sugar, salt, preservatives, and other additives. Organic baby food is often very expensive and not accessible to the average consumer.

Recent studies have shown that there is a concern around heavy metals, including arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury, being found in store-bought baby food (US House Committee on Oversight and Reform 2021). Heavy metals are found naturally in soil, however, due to poor agricultural practices it has led to high concentrations being absorbed by plants. Chemicals are also added in the production of baby food in the form of food additives which may also contain heavy metals. There is no “safe” number of heavy metals for babies and even organic baby food can have heavy metals in it.

Baby foods that have higher levels of heavy metals than others include:

  • Infant rice cereal

  • Infant rice puff snacks

  • Teething biscuits and rice rusks

  • Fruit juice

If you are buying baby foods in the supermarket, try to go for the products that have no added sugar and less than 200mg of sodium per serving. Foods should also be rich in iron and have at least two grams of fibre.

Make your Own & Buy Local

One way to ensure optimal nutrition for your baby, and reduce their exposure to heavy metals and other additives, is to prepare your own baby food, ideally using locally grown produce which contains fewer pesticides than those imported.

Most of Cayman’s supermarkets and the Farmers' Markets now sell plenty of locally-grown produce and you’ll find plenty of roadside fruit and vegetable vendors across the Island. The other option of course is to grow your own produce. If you do not have a garden then try planter boxes which you can purchase from Cayman Seed located in George Town. Growing your own produce means you have fresh, low cost and chemical-free food right on your doorstep.

Where we must buy imported produce, make use of the EWG's Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce. Their ‘Clean 15’ list states which fruits and vegetables contain the lowest concentration of pesticides in the US, which is where most of Cayman’s food is imported from.

Meat & Fish

When it comes to buying fish, try to buy locally caught fish and seafood as it contains less mercury than commercially caught fish. When buying imported fish, steer clear of swordfish, shark, or albacore tuna and go for cod, snapper, wild ocean salmon, or mahi mahi. Buy wild fish where possible as farmed fish is often fed a diet of hormones and antibiotics.

Organic meat is the best option for children, however, it’s prohibitively expensive for many. Instead, look for labels that say the animal was ‘100% grass-fed’. Poultry and lamb are good choices for babies. Best Dressed Chicken, which is available in Cayman supermarkets, is recommended as it doesn’t contain any antibiotics. Eggs are also a great source of protein and Omega-3s and are produced locally. Be sure to avoid processed meats such as ham, sausages, bacon and deli meats as they are high in salt and other additives.

Superfood Recipes

To get you started here are a few delicious baby food recipes that make use of locally grown produce.

Mango Puree

Local Mango Puree

This mango puree tastes bright and delicious! Use it as a first food or on pancakes. It's a great alternative to applesauce. Preparation time: 5 minutes. Yield: 1 cup of puree.

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Pumpkin Puree

Local Pumpkin & Carrot Purée

A nutritious first food for babies. It is filled with nutrients that help boost your baby’s eye, nerve, bone and brain development. Preparation time: 10 minutes. Cooking time: 30 minutes. Yield: 5 baby portions.

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Spinach Mash

Local Spinach, Sweet Potato & Gouda Mash

An iron rich and delicious recipe. This dish ticks lots of nutritional boxes and will help your baby learn to love strong flavours. Preparation time: 10 minutes. Cooking time: 30 minutes. Yield: 3 servings.

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Dietitians & Nutritionists in the Cayman Islands