Monday, May 16, 2011

Homemade Baby Food: First Bites

Rice cereal. Bland, boring color, blah. I'm sure that's what Evan was thinking when I first gave this to him at 6 months. He did not appreciate being underestimated like that. I tried many times with the rice cereal but he was much more interested in what we were eating. Of course! Color, smells, textures, fun! I abandoned the cereal and instead allowed him to explore food like mashed up banana, avocado and zucchini. I started with food that had a lighter taste and smooth texture.

My philosophy for introducing solids is a mixture of baby led weaning (BLW) concepts and traditional purees. Baby led weaning is a method of food introduction that allows the baby to be in control of the process. Basically you offer your baby (when he show signs of readiness, of course) chunks of food to inspect, play with, smell and gnaw on. He feeds himself from the start. It's brilliant. It facilitates hand eye coordination, meal/food enjoyment, appetite control and much more. In BLW you offer hunks of food in shapes and sizes appropriate for your baby. He picks up the food and gnaws with his gums. Blending this method with the traditional mashed food/purees was what was right for our family and we have been very happy with it.

Introducing solids isn't about anything more than getting baby used to texture and new tastes, in a word, exploration. Baby gets all the nutrition he needs from breastmilk/formula at this point. The focus is not to replace milk feedings with solids. Weaning (gradually changing from a breastmilk/formula-only diet to having no breastmilk or formula) can take 6 months or more to achieve. Once I understood that the early months of eating solids were not focused on the need for extra calories or vitamins and that how much he actually swallowed wasn't important, I calmed down and didn't stress out.

In the very beginning I held Evan in my lap (he didn't like his high chair until around 7.5 months but I would put him in it each day for a few minutes) at the table and he would take food off my plate. I made sure that what was available to him was soft/safe, of course. It was VERY messy but he enjoyed himself and quickly began reaching for every kind of food in front him. He gagged a lot in the beginning but it never discouraged him from continuing on. The reflex disappeared after a month. I was nervous about choking but I just watched him closely and if something wasn't sitting right in his mouth he coughed it out or put his finger in and moved the food to his cheek so his gums could mash it. The 6 month post describes Evan's intro to food-here.

Here's a list of foods (and how they were prepared) that Evan was introduced to in the beginning (6-7 months):
  1. Zucchini. Peel, cube, steam then puree.
  2. Avocado. A very ripe one mashed into a chunky consistency (added breastmilk if needed).
  3. Banana. A very ripe one mashed with a little breastmilk. 
  4. Butternut squash. Cut in half lengthwise, remove seeds, place face down in a pan with a half inch of water and cook in a 400 degree oven for 1 hour. Let cool, cut out flesh and puree (or cut into cubes) adding liquid if needed.
  5. Rice. Plain white rice (we used Jasmine rice because that's what we have on hand) cooked in a rice cooker or on the stove with regular directions (maybe add a bit of extra liquid).
  6. Cucumber. Cut into a thick finger. Evan just gnawed on this and was never able to bite off a chunk but I watched him closely. He like the coolness on his sore gums.
  7. Sweet potato. Wash, wrap 1 tightly in foil, roast in a 400 degree oven for 1 hour. Let cool, remove skin and puree flash adding liquid if needed.
I put the purees in ice cube trays and froze then store in ziploc bags for no longer than 3 weeks. These went with Evan to daycare for lunch or were dinner backups. I would hold Evan on my lap at dinner and he would grab food off my plate. Here's a list of things I let him eat off my plate:
  1. Rice
  2. Pasta sauce. He would dip his hands in the sauce and put the whole thing in his mouth.
  3. Angel hair pasta, cut up.
  4. Mashed potatoes.
  5. Shredded cheese.
  6. Finely crumbled taco meat. (Ground beef with taco seasoning).
  7. Bread/toast, no butter.
  8. Sandwich. He would put his mouth on the sandwich and pretend to take a bite. He never got much but he could still experience the taste.
  9. The flesh of zucchini and yellow squash.
  10. Soft cooked broccoli. The stem was a built in handle and Evan would gnaw on the crowns. 
  11. Thick stick of carrot. He would just gnaw on the them. They were great for teething. 
Getting used to his highchair

Wipeable bibs with pockets help control the mess. Or better yet, just let 'em go shirtless, foods wipes right off! Don't forget to have your camera near by for messy pics and videos!

Check out:
Homemade Baby Food: Veggies
Homemade Baby Food: Fruits

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