Time goes by fast. It seems like it wasn’t too long ago that I was anxiously waiting for Sean to get here, and now he is already 6 months old! And he’s just starting to explore the wonderful world of food. Before he was born, I promised myself that I would try to make as much of his baby food as I could. Now that time is here, and I thought I’d share a few of the things I’ve learned about making baby food and feeding babies.
The first 6 months are for practice. As long as the baby is breastfeeding or getting formula, he doesn’t really need that much more nutrition from food. So until he’s 1 year old, I consider meal times to be learning times. He’s learning about the different tastes and textures of food, how to eat, how to pick up small things like Cheerios and how to drink water from a cup. So I am not stressing about how much he eats during this practice period.
Start out vegetarian. Doctor recommends holding off on complex proteins, like meat and cheese, as long as possible. Eggs and dairy have to wait until he’s 1 year old. So we are focusing on a vegetarian diet: cereal, fruits and vegetables. Of course, some things have to wait. My rule of thumb is if it’s acidic or allergenic, wait until his first birthday, so I’m holding off on tomatoes, sweet peppers, citrus and berries.
Serve something hearty at every meal. This isn’t too tough, even with a vegetarian diet. I prefer to include a cereal, potatoes or avocados at each meal. We may add beans soon for another option.
Rice cereal tastes like soggy paper. (Yes, I tasted it!) No wonder my baby didn’t like it. I don’t think many babies do, although they tell you to start off with rice cereal. We switched to oatmeal. Big improvement.
Baby should eat when I eat. It’s just easier if we both sit down at the table together, and it helps him learn about eating as a social activity. Because he goes to bed before our dinnertime, I usually have a snack with him for his evening meal.
As much as possible, baby should eat what I eat. This just makes it easier for food preparation. If I am making potatoes for dinner, then I’ll also mash some potatoes for him. If I’m slicing an avocado for lunch, then he’ll get some too. I always try to think how I can combine preparing my foods with preparing his, taking care not to season or add fat to his foods, of course.
Making baby food is time-consuming and messy. Yes, it’s easy, but it does take some time, which is at a premium around here. I’ve learned some tricks to cut down on the time involved, but I’ve also allowed myself to have jarred baby food on hand for when I can’t get to it. Mostly I buy the hardest stuff to make, like applesauce, but also the AAP recommends that you buy spinach, carrots and beets instead of making them yourself. It’s a nitrates issue.
The easiest baby foods to make are (very ripe) avocados and bananas. Just smush and serve. My baby loves them. I love them.
Next I’ll post the two — only two! — recipes you need to prepare any kind of baby food.