Chronicle of the 14 month journey that led to my child eating this beautiful meal:
People get weird when you start doling out parenting advice, so I feel the need to preface this post with the following disclaimers: I am not a baby expert. I only have one baby and no formal training with babies. I am also not trying to turn this into a forum on breast feeding v. formula and will not comment on the fact that my child was formula fed from 3-12 months. That is for another very different type of blog. If any of my friends (actual, real life, non-internet type) want to know more about that particular journey, I am happy to share my experience face to face.
I am writing this post because I have a 14 month old who is finally entirely on table food and LOVES vegetables. I am not writing to say how you should raise or feed your baby. Only to share my experience up to this point. With those disclaimers out of the way, lets begin.
At six months old, our pediatrician told us it was time to introduce food. My child could not yet sit up and we were finally in a happy little stress free eat/sleep routine of 5 8oz bottles a day. I was not thrilled because I did not want to disturb the routine. That is how it goes with babies though. As soon as you feel like you have them figured out, it is time to change.
I already had this hair-brained scheme/theory about how I wanted to feed my baby. It went something like this: I do not want to start with rice cereal because we are trying to eliminate starches and anything non-whole grain from our diet, so why in the world would the very first food introduced to my baby be just that? I told this to my pediatrician. She blinked, then said fine, the point is that they practice eating. At six months they do not eat for nutrition or sustenance. They just need to learn how to swallow and chew, not in that order.
I was also dead set against commercial baby food. It is sometimes contaminated, it is full of sugar and god knows what else. Not to mention, it just looks gross. So thus the journey of figuring out what to feed my baby and how in the world to make it began.
Thankfully, we were beginning a CSA season, so I started there. It took me about a month to master the process, but here is what I did. I took a fresh vegetable, I steamed it, I pureed it. I added no fats or seasonings. I poured the puree into ice cube trays (not easy to find these days by the way). I froze the trays for 24 hours. I popped the cubes of food out of the trays and into a freezer bag that was labeled with the type of food and the date.
When it came time for a feeding I microwaved the desired number of ice cubes and fed it to the baby. In the beginning it was one ice cube at a time. Then we graduated to two ice cubes. By 9 months he was eating 6-9 ice cubes in all kinds of combinations of vegetables.
For Christmas last year (just before the baby was born), my husband bought me this little beauty at Williams Sonoma:
There are all kinds of storage methods on the market for baby food, and I experimented with several of them. Most of them take up a ton of freezer space and do not efficiently stack. In the end just the cheap ice trays and freezer bags worked the best for me.
The vegetables and fruits I prepared this way were:
Sweet Potatoes (not steamed, baked then pureed)
Butternut Squash (not steamed, baked then pureed)
Again, my hair-brained scheme/theory was that with no seasoning or fats and lots of vegetables comprising my baby's first bites, he would develop a taste for vegetables. Not vegetable casseroles with milk, eggs, butter and cheese added, but hopefully that he would just like vegetables. And he did like them, he ate just about everything I offered and even kicked his legs and smiled at most of it.
When my baby was 8-9 months old I realized that 12 months was just around the corner and had a panic moment where I realized that soon he would not be on formula. With no formula, no built in nutritional guarantees, and just vegetables would not cut it. So, I did a bunch of research and decided to introduce the dreaded baby cereal. I found a few good options of whole grain cereals that were enriched with various nutritional necessities, and decided on the Happy Babies whole grain oatmeal:
Again, things were chugging along nicely where he would eat 6-9 cubes a day in various combinations for lunch and dinner. Then, BOOM, he threw a bomb into my routine when he was about 10 months old. He stopped eating my food. One day he just refused to take another bite. As first time Moms tend to do, I panicked again. With the 12 month deadline of being off formula quickly approaching, I had to find something he would eat. So much for that whole no commercial baby food idea. Again, many hours of research and shopping led to my decision to switch to Happy Babies organic purees. Here are is an example:
I should also add that during this time period I introduced various other solids like eggs and avocados to prevent future allergies and help him learn to chew.
At 12 months he went off the bottle and off formula and overnight his appetite grew exponentially. Even if I was still making all his food there was no way I could have kept up with his appetite. He was eating 6-9 packets of Happy Baby food a day. I also introduced these complete meals:
So, at 12 months I decided to take another swing at making his food. I would cook extra of whatever we were eating for dinner, then add stuff to it and puree. Here are some examples:
Meal 1: pork, sweet potatoes, brussel sprouts, peach applesauce, whole grain pasta
Meal 2: steak, spinach, butternut squash, quinoa, applesauce
Meal 3: grilled chicken, zucchini, squash, onions, quinoa, cantaloupe
He loved these homemade meals and I got an unexpected feeling of satisfaction that my child was eating my cooking again. I should add that I made these, then froze them in little 4 oz plastic (BPA free) food storage containers.
He is now 14 months and as of this week done with the purees. He is eating table food and most of the same things we eat. He eats much earlier than we do (he eats at 5:30, we don't eat until 8), so he usually gets leftovers of what I make the night before. Here is his dinner from last night: