First foods: what first foods we feed our kids, and how it connects us to heritage

What do babies learn from their first tastes of solid food? Take a journey around the globe with us as we explore feeding babies and how first food traditions can link us to our family and heritage. We're also sharing some delicious baby-friendly recipes that older siblings can help prepare!

How did you decide what your baby’s first bite of solid food would be? Food connects us to our family and our heritage, and you’d be in good company if your baby’s first foods reflected that—a slurp of Grandpa’s chicken soup, or a spoonful of Obasan’s okaya. What we eat over the first three years of life seems to have an influence on the tastes and textures we prefer through childhood, and babies learn a lot about eating during this time not just by being introduced to new foods, but by seeing how their family enjoys opportunities to eat together. We’ve been thinking about how our first foods connect us to who we are as a family ever since we came across a funny and moving article by public historian Jennifer Young about all of the Jewish dishes she wanted to feed her baby for her first meal. Today, we’re exploring first food traditions from around the world, and sharing some of our favourite baby-friendly resources and recipes.

It is fascinating to learn about first food practices from around the world! What traditions does your family keep? In Japan, babies are given okayu (rice porridge) while in Italy a baby might eat vegetable purée topped with a little olive oil. Swedish babies eat välling (a thick porridge made of wheat) and in India, babies eat a combination of lentils and rice called khichdi. In fact, Annaprashana (meaning “first food” or “first feeding”) is a Hindu rite of passage that marks a baby’s first taste of food other than milk, and it’s celebrated with extended family, friends and neighbours. You can read more about it in Young’s article, since she was inspired by Padma Lakhshmi’s description of the ceremony in Lakhshmi’s 2016 memoir, “Love, Loss and What We Ate.” And if you’re curious to see more first foods from around the world, check out this read.

One thing is clear: teaching babies new tastes can be a delicious education! For the very first foods, BC HealthLink recommends introducing just one food at a time, and observing your baby afterwards (this approach ensures that if your baby has hives or other symptoms after eating, it will be easy to figure out the cause). Once your baby has safely tried a few foods, the fun with recipes can really begin as you re-combine baby’s favourites and introduce new ingredients and textures. You may find older siblings extremely helpful for mashing baby's food to a smoother texture —just arm big brother or sister with a potato masher and let them get squishing. For baby-friendly food everyone can enjoy, try three ingredient banana pancakes or warm cinnamon apples. Soups are also a wonderful first food—try this pumpkin soup, or explore different soups from our community recipe archive! For more recipe inspiration, try this guide to making more foods for baby or this helpful resource

If thinking about other cultural food traditions has you hooked, you’ll enjoy this recent post on how cooking can teach you about geography, or this one about cooking and different languages. And if you’re interested in exploring your family history through cooking, we’ve got fun ideas on how to start a family recipe book. Finally, don’t forget that parents need nourishment too! If you know someone with a new baby, it’s a safe bet that they’ll appreciate a meal—check out our suggestions for meals that can survive any doorstep drop-off. And if you've got a story for us about your baby's first meal, we'd love to hear it! Share your ideas and tips with us on our Facebook or Instagram feeds.

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