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baby food

When I began to think about feeding Serafina, I went to the wisest source I know, my mom. I asked her what she fed us, and she said “You ate what we ate.” Having three kids, going back to school, and teaching, my mom didn’t have time to be a “short-order cook,” as she used to say. If she was serving my brother peas, she ground up the rest for me. She didn’t open a jar, because that was more of an effort, and more costly. The baby food industry mystifies food production. They make themselves seem essential, but they are not. I watched a lot of my friends have babies before me, and over and over, I saw them do the same thing; they all fed their baby whatever they were eating. Working moms or stay-at-home moms, moms of one child or three, my role models were friends who realized that cooking your baby’s meal is a daily gift to your child. However, I know that baby food making overwhelms parents. I hope that my experiences help you feel more in control of the possibilities.

As someone entering the world of home-made baby foods, I appreciated various internet sources and books in helping me learn how to feed Serafina. I learned there is no hard and fast rule, but that ideas were helpful. People disagree about when babies start certain foods, especially because a lot of anxiety about allergenic foods turns out to be not quite correct. We decided to be slightly cautious because she had eczema, but neither of us are allergic to foods, so we are not too worried. Also, we are raising her vegetarian, as we don’t bring meat into our house. Our pediatrician is in full, and enthusiastic support of our efforts. Most babies do not eat meat for awhile, nor should small children eat much meat. So in reality, a veg diet is ideal for most children.

Tips:

  • You need to only expose them to a food 3-5 days before you move on to the new one. The reason for the 3-5 day required exposure is due to allergies. After you establish that your child isn’t having an allergic reaction, move on to the next food.
  • Remember, it takes a baby/child 8-10 different tastings to be used to a food. If your child rejects the new food based on taste, return to the previous food so that you aren’t battling your baby, but be sure you re-introduce it each night until you hit 10 tries. Many parents give up way before then, and experts attribute picky eating due to the lack of endurance. For this reason, make enough food for 7 nights, so that you can return to an old food if your child rejects the new food.
  • Make sure you smile and laugh with your baby while they eat new foods. They constantly study our faces, and during new experiences they are looking at you for guidance. When she struggled with new food, I found I scrunched up my face in concern. When I started to laugh, smile, and even sing the Beatles, she started to smile and enjoy herself.
  • Be sure you use bibs, burp cloths, and suction-cup place mats. It’s amazing how pureed peas become fantastic projectiles.
  • Cook the food while you are sitting on the couch not doing anything, or treat it as an additional dish while you are at the stove. This shouldn’t be a struggle, but a simple task while you aren’t too occupied. People fed their babies for millennia, and you can never be too busy to cook baby food — this is coming from a full-time teacher and PhD student. If you are too busy, re-evaluate your day and make a little room in your life for your baby; prioritize your child’s health.
  • Make life easy on yourself and buy Baby Cubes (found on Amazon), which are small, individual, 2-ounce containers resting in a tray. They are easy storage, and can be used to portion solid food for your baby. They allow you to make tons of food in batches, and you can just pull them out to defrost when you need food.
  • Please talk to your doctor before you serve your baby food. Discuss with them when and what types of food would work with your child. This is an example of my own cooking path; be sure to follow your own.

Serafina’s Pureed Foods: (in order of appearance)

1. Sweet Potatoes: After much research, we decided to start with this vitamin-rich food. I steamed them in a raised basket steamer, and then I put them through the Cuisinart. When I served it to her, I was sure to mix in a little formula to soften the taste. It took two days for her to like it. Baby Review: She sang on the fifth day.

2. Avocado: The second food was more of an impulse, since we had fresh avocado on hand. It is our favorite food in the house, so she might as well be introduced to it. After several nights of struggling to get it to mush, I remembered the marble mortar and pestle. It made it a perfect texture. Baby Review: Not a total fan, she started going MMMMMMM the last day.

3. Peas: I cooked frozen peas in the microwave with water for 2 minutes, then put them in the handy-dandy food processor. Add a little water to help yourself out.Baby Review: Not quite a huge fan yet, but hey she ate it!

4. Butternut Squash: This one ruined my pan because I abandoned it while watching an old classmate on TV. I suggest using a heavy, sturdy pan (I used a Le Crueset pan) and fill the bottom with water. Cut the squash into fourths. Steam it for 30 minutes, or until tender. Then, spoon it out, and yep, the food processor again. Baby Review: She LOVED it. After her first taste, she danced, and squealed, and lunged towards the spoon.

5. Carrots: I tend to buy baby carrots. I know they are more expensive, but for me the less time I spend peeling carrots is worth the price. Plus, I am more likely to eat them and throw them in my cooking if I don’t have to prep them. Be careful with cooking carrots for babies because they contain nitrates from the soil (interestingly, this appears to mostly a problem in the US; if you are in Britain your soil is supposedly nitrate-free). It is best to use a steamer attachment on top of your saucepan, over the thin inserts for the pans, because the nitrates are separated from the vegetable. Always discard the cooking liquid with carrots, so never reuse it in the food processor.  To cook,  I took probably two cups of baby carrots and I put them in the steamer. I steamed them until they were very easy to cut. When I threw them in the food processor I added 1-2 cups of fresh water to help the processor along. This was a little thin, so I combined it with rice cereal. Baby Review: She loved it almost as much as the butternut squash. I made more for an easy back up supply.

6. Eggplant: I love eggplant, and a friend gave us a fresh one from her garden. Skeptical about it being a good food for Serafina this early, I talked to my mom who said it was a great food for babies, just soak it for awhile in water and salt to get the gassiness out. So, I sliced it in half, scooped out the seeds, and steamed it (I previously tried roasting one without olive oil, and it was a no-no). It took awhile for it to steam through. When it was done, I cut off the skin, and put it in my friend, the food processor. I made sure to combine it with rice cereal since it was an unusual taste. Baby Review: She liked it. She didn’t dance, but she definitely wanted more. After a day, she really enjoyed it.

7. Lentils: Not a popular first food, I decided to introduce it early because it is really nutritious. Through soaking, you can get rid of the gaseous nature. When I got ready for work in the morning, I threw  a cup of lentils in some water, and let it soak while I was at work that day. When I got home, I replaced the water and boiled it for 20 minutes. Draining the water again, I threw the lentils in the food processor. I realized that it became a paste, so I added 2 cups of water, and it became a better texture. Baby Review: She was skeptical at first, so we mixed with the rice cereal and milk, and she warmed up to it. I think it is texture more than anything, so water it down.

8.Banana: We were worried about banana because my nephew is allergic. So, we waited for a day where the hospital would have not been an inconvenience. We fed her as if she was a ticking time bomb, waiting for her to explode into a tomato red hue; luckily everything went well. We mashed the banana up, and mixed in some of her formula. Baby Review: She liked the bananas. Thank God.

9. Yogurt: After reading around we bought Yo Baby by the organic food company Stoneyfield Farms. It has no additives and hormone-free milk. We started her on the banana yogurt, but bought the peach one for the next week. I am guessing that is an easy way to introduce peaches. Baby Review: She LOVES the yogurt, maybe more than sweet potatoes.

1o. Oat Cereal: Clearly, I didn’t make this, but I bought Earth’s Best, and she loves it. I imagine it has more flavor than rice cereal, and is more filling and healthy. Baby Review: She likes it, and its a good graduate from rice cereal.

11. Spinach: I boiled a package of organic baby spinach, and then put it in the food processor. It is very watery, so it might need to be combined with another food like lentils or oat cereal. Baby Review: Mixed with the oat cereal or carrots, she is a big fan. We were so surprised. However, it was a little rough on her system. So, I would wait until 8 months next time. We stopped introducing new foods for two weeks to let her recover.

12. Apples: We quartered, de-cored, and skinned three apples. Then, we steamed them and put them through the food processor. They became a wonderful smooth texture; I tasted it and I might start making it for us as applesauce. Baby Review: Huge fan. We mix it with her oat cereal, and she goes nuts.

13.Yogurt with Peaches: See Yogurt with Bananas. Baby Review: still a huge fan.

14. Broccoli: I steamed a bunch of broccoli, or about 2 cups chopped. Don’t include the large stem, as this is more gaseous part. We steamed the broccoli, and then threw it in the food processor while slowly adding water. When serving, I added it to lentils and milk, which made a broccoli and lentil soup! Baby Review: She loved this, and it seemed to go down well. One night when she was less thrilled, we added in squash and she loved it.

15. Beets: Peel/Steam/Food processor. Beets are VERY liquidy and stain, so be careful. I added it to squash, oat cereal, or lentils. Baby Review: To her father’s dismay and her mother’s excitement, Serafina LOVED LOVED LOVED beets.

16. Green Beans: Clip off the ends/Steam/Process. When a baby is new to this food, be sure you really get the stringiness out of the bean. Baby Review: At first she didn’t like them, lots of audible gagging. After awhile, she liked them, but I think it was a take it or leave it taste for her. I mixed them with lentils and she fared much better.

17. Pears: Peeled/Cut in half/De-seeded/Roasted for 30 minutes. I crushed them with a fork because it mushes well, and we are starting to gradually get her to eat chunkier foods. Baby Review: She would probably eat pears all day if she could. She was a HUGE fan.

18. Puffs: There are some general guidelines for when a baby is ready for puffs, like crawling, pincer grasp, chewing, etc., so we started doing investigative parenting. Serafina started crawling at 6 months, but not with a raised belly until 8 months. Cutting her first tooth at 4 months (crazy, huh? Salmons are freaks of nature when it comes to teething), she now has four teeth and tries to chew. She started picking up small items and moving back and forth between her hands, but we were still nervous about her choking. Finally, after her teacher told us she was beyond ready and to wet the puffs if we were nervous, we bought the organic puffs (not Gerber, but you can buy it at Target). I put them on the table for her while I was getting dinner ready, and she was so confused. She picked them up and threw them on the ground. So then I showed her how to eat them, still not convinced, she pressed her palm against them and couldn’t get them off because they were wet. Finally, I put one in her mouth and she looked confused, but started chewing when I showed her. It took two days of showing her, but she now totally gets how to enjoy her puffs. Baby Review: Confusing at first, but now she gets it.

19. Parsnips: Peeled/Sliced/Steamed/Processed. Baby Review: She loved parsnips. It also was great because I remembered that so did I and we made a soup with them!

20. Ginger: Roasted with carrots and olive oil for 30 minutes. Shredded in the food processer. Baby Review: Because I didn’t puree them, she wasn’t a huge fan of the texture. I think I would wait for finger foods on this one and just slice the baby carrots and roast them until they are super soft.

21. Cannelini Beans (or Great Northern Beans): Rinse well and drain. Then microwave with some water. I pureed the beans, and they were very similar to hummus. Baby Review: She LOVED them.

22. Cottage Cheese. Baby Review: She was confused by the texture at first, but in the end liked it. A great food to mix in banana or other fruits

FINGER FOODS:

Around 8 months, we started real finger foods. Her teachers jumped right into it with bananas and Cheerios, and we slowly added other foods at home. She had a hard time understanding letting the food go in her mouth, but she really loved the chewing. Now, she eats a version of our meal cut up. I joke that she is having a deconstructed egg sandwich (toast bits, chopped egg yolk, cheese bits), much like a 4-star restaurant would serve. Because she didn’t show signs of allergies, the doctor allowed us to be more relaxed about high allergen foods (such as tomatoes), which made me feel more comfortable with the process.

Here is a short list of finger foods we started with:

  • diced cooked sweet potatoes
  • cooked pasta (yay!!)
  • kiwi
  • bananas
  • sliced blueberries
  • steamed green peas sliced up
  • mashed beans
  • mashed peas
  • cooked and diced pears
  • bits of toast
  • bits of pancake
  • egg yolk chopped up (messy, but good protein)
  • bits of cheese (stick with basic cheeses like cheddar or American, no brie and other soft cheeses)

Also, you can continue to make the pureed foods as soups or to add a sauce or additional veggie to things like pasta, potatoes, or grains. We still use the baby cubes to portion off her food, make sure she is eating a well balanced diet, and send it to daycare. For those interested, as Serafina ages I plan to search for kid friendly veg meals that are different. So over time, I will post those meals on the main page. This tab is purely for new parents to feel confident about their ability to cook for their children. People did it for thousands of years — you can too!

If you have any questions, feel free to comment or send me a message, I will try to help the best I can!

Thank you,

Vegetarian Salmon


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6 Comments leave one →
  1. October 8, 2010 11:58 am

    Nice overview! I agree, it’s super simple to just cook up a sweet potato, squash, etc for my baby. We just cook it as we’re making dinner, or on the weekend to freeze. Two things that have worked really well for my ~7 month old – these mesh feeders (great for avocado, roasted butternut squash cubes, & soft fruits, just toss a slice in there and let the baby have at it) and this spoon (messy, but my baby loves feeding himself after I put a little food on his spoon).

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