Once your baby has mastered Stage 1 smooth purées and is eating a good variety of first foods, you can start thickening the texture and introducing soft lumps to their foods. This is Stage 2 in baby foods. Depending on when you started feeding your baby solids, you will probably be introducing these soft lumpy foods at around 6-7 months of age. At this second stage breastmilk is still the most important food so it should still be offered before solids.
Foods with soft lumps develop chewing. So thick purées, foods with small soft lumps and mashed foods are perfect. The stores of iron your baby is born with are starting to run low by 6 months of age, so it's necessary to provide iron through their diet. Iron-rich foods for this age include beef, lamb, chicken and iron-fortified infant cereals. Meat should be cooked until soft and puréed or finely chopped or grated to avoid large lumps.
To make the consistency of homemade Stage 2 baby food a little lumpier, prepare a favourite purée but whizz it up for a shorter time so it's a little more lumpy. You can mash soft ripe fruits with a fork rather than whizzing into a smooth purée. Alternatively add a little grated or mashed food to a smooth purée. Baby rice can still be used to make the taste milder and thicken up the consistency. If you're unsure what is the right consistency, buy a couple jars of Stage 2 jars or cans of baby food, as these are the soft lumpy foods you're aiming for.
At Stage 2 you can gradually start introducing new flavours. It may take six to eight tries before your baby accepts a new flavour, so persevere. Begin with familiar flavours and blend in new ingredients, for example try apple, peach and strawberry purée, or potato, leek and pea purée to build on early tastes. A simple chicken casserole made with sweet root vegetables is usually popular.
Sweet and savoury foods can be mixed, like mashed cooked apple with puréed chicken. Papaya and cottage cheese makes a quick no-cook dish and provides protein. Bananas are still a winner and they can be easily mashed with a fork to give a soft slightly lumpy consistency. Add other fruits like mashed ripe peach, avocado or mango for an instant meal.
You can buy prepared baby foods from the supermarket. For example, Watties Stage 2 jars and cans. If you're interested in understanding more about what's in the jar or can, your Plunket 'Thriving Under Five' book has a good section about how to read food labels.
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Thinking about solid foods? Parents Centre are the leading provider of parent education classes in New Zealand with a network of over 50 Centres nationwide. To find out about programmes like 'Moving & Munching' visit www.parentscentre.org.nz