Friday, May 13, 2011

Evan's Food Journey

I make Evan's baby food. I really like knowing exactly what my baby is getting and it also expands the variety and flavor combinations that he gets. I do, on occasion, buy jarred baby food for convenience (if I've run outMom's 50th Birthday  of time to make it myself) or if I can't find the ingredients to make something (like prunes).  We have also been incorporating the baby led weaning method of introducing foods. This is where you allow the baby to explore food and feed himself real food no earlier than 6 months. Keeping this in mind, I prepare a range of foods that include chunky purees and soft chunks that he can pick up on his own.

I set aside some time each week to prepare food for the next 7 days. I like for Evan to have variety so even though there is food left over from the previous week, I still prepare more food to add to the inventory so that we have different options. Evan typically eats what we eat at dinner (we started this at around 7.5 months) unless we are running behind schedule, then he'll eat his own food that I've already prepared. So, when I cook for him for the following week, it's mainly his lunches and snacks.

I usually cook on Sunday nights or Tuesday nights after baby boy has gone to sleep. It takes about an hour to whip up 3 or 4 different things. I used the Magic Bullet to puree foods but any blender or food processor would work. They also sell baby food mills and specialty baby food blenders. To make a chunkier texture I use a potato masher. At around 8 months I simply chopped food into small cubes. After the foods cool, I put them in ice cube trays and freeze then transfer to a ziploc bag for storage. To re-heat, I place the food in a microwave safe bowl and warm for 30 to 60 seconds. I have found Cooking Light's First Foods to be very helpful. I really like how they focus on fresh ingredients and most of their recipes are for the whole family so you don't have to cook one thing for baby and another for the family. I really like how they explain the process of weaning and go into detail about the techniques and concepts of making baby food. I also like the Baby Led Weaning Cook Book. This is a European concept so you have to have an open mind about the recipes because they are often different from what Americans are used to. I have also found to be a great source of ideas. Either way, I started out using the cookbooks but then just went down my own path using my imagination. Also, it's forced me to evaluate my own eating habits. If I want Evan to eat healthy, I need to exhibit that behavior as well.

Evan started solids at 6 months. We tried rice cereal but he just wasn't liking it even after many tries. We moved on to bananas and avocado. That's when he was hooked. On real food. He could always tell when he was eating something different from us and he would get upset! He demanded real food.  From 6 to 8 months I focused on chunky purees and finger foods to send with Evan to the sitter's for lunch. At dinner I would allow him to explore food by handling it himself or pre-loading a spoon. The idea was that he would be spoon fed (whether by the sitter or the sitter loading the spoon for him) at lunch, then I would use the baby led weaning method at home for dinner and on the weekends.

This approach has been successful. Evan loves to eat, try new things and likes most foods. From around 7 months he was eating spaghetti and other noodles. At 8 months he was eating taco salad and beef stew. He had texture earlier than most exclusively spoon-fed babies so he learned quickly how to use his tongue to deal with foods. He uses his fingers to move food over to the side of his mouth for mashing. He quickly developed his pincer grip motor skill, too. Plus, it helped to save money on baby food. For example, if I roast a sweet potato (cost $.50), I can feed Evan some during 5-10 meals (depending on how hungry he is). If I buy the sweet potato baby food for $1.75 and it feeds Evan 1-2 meals clearly it's cheaper to roast your own sweet potato. If I want to buy 5 meals worth of sweet potato baby food, the cost is $8.75. I'll take the extra few minutes to make my own thank you.

It's nothing against the makers of baby food, I just like cooking, saving money and having more options available. Soon I'll be posting foods that I have prepared for baby boy and how I do it.

Do you make your own baby food? What are your favorite foods to make?

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