Thursday, May 30, 2013

Baby's First (mostly homemade) Foods (by a mom who is grossed out by baby food)

When our pediatrician gave me the green light to start Maeve on solid food, I found myself dreading the ensuing mess and the baby food itself.
No exaggeration, baby food grosses me out more than just about anything (this from the girl who spent a decade of her life scraping plaque sweaters off of people's teeth...go figure).
When Max was a baby, it didn't even occur to me that I could (or should) make his food myself.
Sadly, I wasn't a very confident new mom...when I should have been reveling in the early months, I was busy fretting and worrying that I was somehow screwing up.
Now that Maeve is beginning to eat solid food, I can't imagine not making it myself.
Bonus: I've gotten over my weird and inexplicable aversion to baby food.

Here are some simple tips and insight culled from close mom friends, a very helpful website, and my own instincts (although I am no expert, I'm definitely more confident this time around):

  • Other than some dishwasher-safe BPA-free containers that can be frozen, I did not purchase any special equipment. My mom gave me a Cuisinart food processor years ago which has proven indispensible for making purees.
  • Fruits should be steamed or baked prior to pureeing (they are easier to digest when cooked).
  • It's so easy to toss a few well-scrubbed sweet potatoes in the oven (400 degrees for about 45 minutes or until fork-tender) in the morning while I am cleaning up/packing lunch for Max. 
  • Frozen organic peas are super-easy to steam, puree, and freeze...one bag yields about 5 generous 2oz servings, as opposed to jarred organic peas...last weekend I scoped out the baby food at WF and Earth's Best 2oz peas were 3/$2)
  • Pureed lentils made Maeve gag...plain lentils aren't very palatable (even to a baby, apparently). Lentils cooked in no-sodium vegetable or chicken broth with a dash of cinnamon or ginger, however, is a hit. 
  • Ripe bananas can be mashed with a fork (duh)...easiest prep ever. I really don't get why anyone would buy jarred bananas.
  • A family-size jar of organic sugar-free apple sauce goes a long way when a serving size is only a few tablespoons (it is great mixed with oatmeal for baby).
  • Plain whole milk Greek yogurt is excellent for adding a bit of calcium and protein to fruits or veggies (whole milk as a drink should be avoided until one year, but because yogurt has live active cultures and is more easily digested, it is fine for baby).
  • Homemade soups (without added salt) are great for pureeing (veggie broth, lentils, sweet potatoes, spinach, and sweet peppers is an easy one).
  • My baby happens to be (shamelessly) formula-fed and it is recommended that formula or breast milk be the main source of a baby's nutrition for the first year. Maeve still gets 20-24oz of formula per day in addition to a fruit with yogurt or grain for breakfast and a veggie for dinner. I haven't decided when or if I'll introduce meat to her diet. Because of my family history of heart disease, I am treading closer and closer toward a plant-based diet for myself and would like to find out more about how that could potentially benefit my children, too. 
  • Maeve is sitting very well with support and is clearly interested in food. We follow her lead and feed her until she shows any sign of disinterest. As she becomes more adept in her fine motor skills, I'll be happy to let her feed herself.
  • In spite of my aforementioned aversion to Baby Food Mess, I am abandoning my tendency to want to clean every dribble and splat of food from Maeve's face and high chair. Babies need to explore their food and learn through their senses...we are not doing her any favors by meticulously scraping her chin with a spoon or discouraging chubby little fingers from swirling peas all over her tray. 
Again, I am far from an expert, but I wanted to share what has been working for us.
Especially this cutie:
 If you have any tips or advice, I'd love to hear from you.

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