Let me be clear - cereal was a waste of time, effort and money for us simply because my son would not eat it. I know loads of folks who had success with cereal. Just not us.
Ironically, this past Monday, I had dinner with a friend at one of my favorite Middle Eastern restaurants (the place leans towards Palestinian in flavor/cuisine). As I was eating my lentil soup, I had a total flashback. When my son was around 8 months, I remembered him slurping down on the soup - he loved it so much (of course, on Monday, the little stinker would have nothing to do with it!) At the time, I was SO relieved and wanted to jump for joy that he was willing to eat something "solid" after having struggled with the cereal and baby food for so long. I also had bought into the whole "iron deficiency" thing and was relieved because lentils are good for iron. He loved that place so much we even took him there to celebrate his 1st birthday, since technically, it was his favorite restaurant. I still have the little #1 candle we stuck in his piece of namoura.
With my son, I remember distinctly the doctor saying at his 6 months checkup saying "You can give him cereal now, if you want". At the time, I thought her phrasing was interesting but it made more sense later when I realized that cereal nor solids were critical for my son's health. This time going into the Solids Game, I have decided to not do a specific timeline, per se, but to just wait until 6 months and see how Anjali is doing then. I am certainly not going to stress myself out if she does not catch on right away. Besides, she is not necessarily ready yet - I am still struggling giving her the anti-biotic because her tongue control is just not there. However, she is very, very interested in what we are eating and that is a sign that she is gearing up to sticking food in her mouth. Finally, I am NOT going to invest in an entire box of cereal - I will scrounge around with my mommy friends and borrow a cup or two. Kellymom has some great information on solids and "when to introduce" which is in line with what I would like to do this go-around.
In the comments, Girlfriend makes the point that it was previously thought that breastmilk did not have enough iron and now we know that is not true. Again, with the Kellymom to the rescue:
The iron in breastmilk is bound to proteins which make it available to the baby only, thus preventing potentially harmful bacteria (like E.coli, Salmonella, Clostridium, Bacteroides, Escherichia, Staphylococcus) from using it. These two specialized proteins in breastmilk (lactoferrin and transferrin) pick up and bind iron from baby's intestinal tract. By binding this iron, they
- stop harmful bacteria from multiplying by depriving them of the iron they need to live and grow, and
- ensure that baby (not the bacteria) gets the available iron.
The introduction of iron supplements and iron-fortified foods, particularly during the first six months, reduces the efficiency of baby's iron absorption. As long as your baby is exclusively breastfed (and receiving no iron supplements or iron-fortified foods), the specialized proteins in breastmilk ensure that baby gets the available iron (instead of "bad" bacteria and such). Iron supplements and iron in other foods is available on a first come, first served basis, and there is a regular "free-for-all" in the baby's gut over it. The "bad" bacteria thrive on the free iron in the gut. In addition, iron supplements can overwhelm the iron-binding abilities of the proteins in breastmilk, thus making some of the iron from breastmilk (which was previously available to baby only) available to bacteria, also. The result: baby tends to get a lower percentage of the available iron.
With my son, I eventually gave up on cereal- we went to table food at around 9 months with softened bits of fruit and such. When we cook at home, it is primarily South Indian and yes, he ate some spicy stuff in the beginning as we experimented with what he could handle. Sometimes, he would fuss, but he quickly learned to reach for his water. These days, his tolerance is pretty good - when he hits something spicy he emphatically declares it to be "spicy!", reaches for his water, takes a drink, then digs in for more food. Hands down, when we cook at home, he eats like a horse. I also think my husband is secretly proud that one of his son's favorite dishes is a specialty from his state of Kerala - fish with a red sauce made from a sticky tamarind called kodumpuly.
And yes, my grandma is properly horrified.