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I don’t know how to cook. I mean, I can get myself fed but I don’t really know what I’m doing when it comes to MAKING food. College, for me, consisted of a lot of sandwiches, salads, snacks, and takeout.
So when my daughter hit the 6 month(ish) mark, I was all
What the heck do I feed this kid?
Eventually, I DID figure it out (i.e., my child did not starve). And I actually ended up liking it. Once you find the baby food prep that works for you, it’s a lot easier to plan and then you can build on those skills as your baby gets older.
The Basics of Starting Solids
First of all “solids” just means anything that is not solely breastmilk or formula. Many parents opt to use either baby rice (or oats) cereal as an introductory food. You start out with just a bit of cereal and a lot of milk, then work your way up. The more cereal powder you add, the more viscous (i.e. thicker) the mixture becomes. As your baby gets more accustomed to eating solids, you can mix to the desired consistency. If you are adding purees of other foods (apples, spinach, etc.) you can always use your cereal mixture as a base and mix in the new tastes.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends waiting until 6 months to introduce solids
You can find more information from the AAP here. However, some pediatricians advocate for starting “solids” (again mainly sloppy milk with a bit of baby cereal powder added) starting between 4-6 months.
Please, consult your child’s healthcare provider when making this determination. Several factors should be considered including: If your baby is able to support their own neck, if they are able to sit with assistance, or if they have any underlying medical conditions that may impact chewing and/or the gag reflex.
Wait a Few Days Between New Introductions
In order to make sure that baby tolerates a new food well, most peds recommend waiting a few days (3-5) when starting a brand new food. That doesn’t mean you can ONLY serve your little one avocado for 3 days. It means if they are trying avocado for the first time, give them that and any additional foods they are already known to tolerate (cereal, apple, etc.) for a few days before introducing mango.
Most parents will probably tell you though, that as their child ages, this becomes less of a hard and fast rule. Mainly here, you want to keep an out for any intolerance or food allergies.
The most common allergies include:
- Cow’s milk protein (dairy)
- Peanut and other nuts
Keep an eye out for rashes or itchiness post food exposure. If they are having trouble breathing, call 911 immediately.
Variety is the Spice of Life
The more tastes and textures that your baby gets exposed to, the more likely they are to eat a variety of flavors and textures later. Even if you aren’t changing the food itself, you can add a bit of spice.
Cinnamon is my go to. It just somehow makes everything taste better. It’s like the Windex of spices (btw, the joke no longer seems relevant #mybigfatgreekweddingforever).
Be cognizant of chocking hazards
When you are first starting out, everything needs to be super soft and blended. Most veggies and fruits need to either be cooked and then pureed (apples, carrots, sweet potato, etc.) or SUPER ripe and soft (bananas, avocados, etc.)
As baby ages (and is exhibiting a chewing motion) you can make mixes a little thicker and start incorporating small, chopped (but still soft foods). Things like grapes should be cut into smaller pieces.
Just as aside, gagging and choking are two different mechanisms. Both are particularly frightening, especially as a new parent. However, choking is the dangerous one of the two. Even beyond feeding, little kids put everything in their mouths, so it’s a good idea (i.e. ease your mind just a little) to take an Infant CPR class as these cover both infant choking as well as CPR.
It’s Going to be Messy
I have no help to offer here other than to get mentally prepared. This is about the time that my kids started getting more baths since they prefer an immersive eating experience.
While it has’t bothered me so much, my husband is a bit more bother by it. He’s had to grow to let it go a little. Holding the baby’s hands to feed them, and thus reduce the mess, is only going to be sustainable for so long. I say “EMBRACE the mess” because it’s just part of the process.
If you have an outfit you are trying to save, just take it off before feeding them (their outfit, not yours…or maybe yours, I don’t know your life). Some people like to lay a blanket or towel underneath the high chair to catch all the “stuff”.
Me? I have a dog thanks, she’ll get to it eventually. And if nothing else, this gives me a reason to advocate for new carpet once the kids are less messy…like when they don’t live here anymore.
If at first they aren’t interested, Try, Try Again
It can take multiple times to get your baby interested in some foods. Most sources say 10-15 times. That can get daunting, so once your kid has a couple of staple foods under their belt, try sneaking it in again.
Or, add butter or cheese (assuming they are cool with dairy). That’s usually my go to with my toddler.
You don’t have to start with Apples and Bananas
As a matter of fact, it might behoove you to start with something a little more…green? My ped recommended this route as starting with fruits can lead to a bit of a sweet tooth. But to be honest here, breast milk is relatively sweet as well, so…there is no right answer?
However, I did start with apples. So, there’s that. Mainly because I used the apples to add the cinnamon and then sprinkled in a bit of spinach. There, healthy!
Another aside, spinach is relatively easy to “cover up” so I try to sneak it into many purees and pouches that I make for my kids. Although this approach doesn’t necessarily teach them to like spinach, sometimes that’s #notthepoint.
Skip the Purees all together and go for Baby Led Weening
Baby Led Weening involves giving baby food that is not pureed. They eat at mealtimes with the family and are given strategic and safe food that they are able to feed themselves. There are pros and cons associated with both traditional purees and BLW. BLW, while appropriate for most, will not suit every baby.
BLW should not start before 6 months and you should familiarize yourself with some of the best practices. Personally, (as usual) I prefer a mix of both.
The Benefits of Making Your Own Baby Food
First of all, I’m not here to tell you that you MUST make your own organic baby food in order to ensure you child doesn’t end up in prison. No, I think you should find what works best for YOU, your family and your life. I will say though, that making baby food (FOR MY FIRST) was rather fun for me. But we all have different preferences, yes?
You know how old it is
Color me ignorant, but I didn’t realize that baby food at the store has to be shelf stable. This could range from a couple of months to a year or more. Usually, there is some kind of preservative added. While I don’t think everything in that realm is “toxic”, after all, lemon juice or vinegar can act as preservatives, it does weird me out a little that some baby food might be older than my actual child.
If you are making your own baby food it definitively won’t last as long. However, you CAN utilize batching and freezing a variety of foods. Also, a little lemon juice can help too.
Learn to Feed Yourself Too
As I mentioned previously, I don’t know what I’m doing when it comes to making (most) foods. But I’m a lot better at it now. What’s my secret? Baby steps.
Silly jokes aside, I did find a couple of books with recipes that my kid liked and, as they got old, the recipes became a little more complex. Most of the good baby/toddler food books will have a section that provides “kid-friendly” family meals. These are my saving grace. Not only does it cut down on the food prep (i.e. only make one meal as opposed to multiple meals based on everyone’s “preference”) but they’re pretty tasty. I guess I have the pallet of a preschooler.
Consider this the most practical of reasons. Buying produce, steaming and blending it down and freezing it are far more cost effective than buying individual, small servings at the store. You are saving on packaging and overall it’s better for the environment too (gold star for you).
So you want to try this whole making your own baby food thing out but don’t know where to start. Fear not my friends, it’s actually pretty simple. And once you get going, as with most things, it will get much easier.
Basically, all you need is food, a way to cook/blend that food, and a way to store said food. There are COUNTLESS options out there, but these are basic and inexpensive enough to get you started. Also, check out your local library. Ours had numerous baby/toddler recipe books. These were ones that I checked out often enough that I decided to just buy them for myself. I also like the size of the magic bullet (especially for new foods).
As always, I’m interested in getting input from others. Is there a tip or trick you would recommend? Leave a comment below.