Super Baby Food

Since Daniel turned six months old last week, we've entered the world of Solid Foods. When he was four months old, the doc recommended we give him rice cereal, more for the iron than the calories, but that's always been mixed with breastmilk, so until last week he'd never had anything that didn't include something that came out of my boobs. I understand that mashed bananas or avocados are good foods to start out with. Organic avocados are quite a bit more expensive than bananas, so we went for bananas. Last week, my attempts went like this:

I take a small piece of banana and pulverize it with my fork until it's very soft and mushy.

I offer a tiny amount to Daniel. We're talking maybe two cubic milimeters.

He responds with look of disgust.

Gag.

Gag.

Whimper.

I try one more time with similar results.

And that's how it went for three or four days. We took a break from banans when we went to Boston; hauling a baby around on that trip was complicated enough. But Wednesday, I tried again, and this time, while he looked skeptical about this new flavor, he seemed to like it and opened his mouth for more. Same on Thursday. Today, though-

He eagerly takes a bite of mushy, gooey banana.

Gag.

Gag.

Gag.

Gag.

BARF!

I'm not sure what went wrong there. Maybe he swallowed it too fast, or thought it was going to be rice cereal (which I've never fed him in the morning) and realized his error too late. Or maybe it's just plain old baby fickleness. So I cleaned him up and tried again, all the while smiling and saying "Yummy!" and generally acting like a clown, but every time that spoon got within six inches of his face, he started crying. I guess I'm back to square one, at least for today.

I confess to being a little overwhelmed by our foray into solid foods. I don't want to feed my baby food from a jar for a variety of reasons. Wanna hear 'em? OK:

1. Jarred baby food is over-processed. I can't believe fruits and vegetables in a jar have retained all their original nutrients.

2. Jarred baby food is expensive, especially the organic brands. We're committed to eating organic food, and when it comes to our child, who is small and vulnerable like all children, this point is not negotiable. I know a kid less than a year old who won't eat baby food that doesn't come from a jar, and he has three jars of food every meal. Do the math.

3. Mashing up fresh fruit or cooked vegetables really isn't all that time-consuming. Besides, we're a household that's used to doing things in a way that takes more work and more time, but is ultimately more energy-efficient and less expensive. Like hanging our clothes outside on a clothesline to dry. And washing dishes by hand because we don't have a dishwasher (I hope this isn't the case in our next house!). And washing cloth diapers every 2-3 days. And making fresh bread by hand. So mashing up sweet potato with a fork instead of opening a jar really isn't a big deal in terms of time or effort.

4. I've never tasted baby food from a jar, but I bet you ten bucks it's got way less flavor than anything prepared fresh. If my baby gets too used to really bland food, I'm betting it's more likely he'll be a picky eater later.

I asked for, and was given, the book Super Baby Food before Daniel was born. Even though it's long-winded and poorly organized, it's a good resource and I'm glad I have it. There is SO much information in there, though. I'm not sure I'm ready to prepare Super Baby meals of five whole grains mixed with brewer's yeast and broccoli and who knows what else. Gah.

Comments and suggestions welcome from all, especially experienced parents out there!

Comments

pamigelsrud said…
As I said before, I know nothing about babies, so my comments here are going to seem really random, I'm sure... but I know lots about cats... : ) I decided several years ago to start making food for my cats instead of buying it in cans because of a book I read saying it was more nutritious and for a while I was chopping up veggies and cooking up chicken, but then I started getting lazy and ended up mixing meat with organic baby food!! They loved it! Isn't that random? In the end I went back to canned cat food because I'm lazy, but there were a couple of years when I bought a lot of jars of Earth Baby! They especially liked the sweet potatoes and the lentils & rice. I'm sure that probably sounds really weird!! : ) But someday I do actually aspire to start making their food again for the following reasons:
-because I don't want to buy food that is made with animals killed in factory farms
-because I don't want to buy food made by companies that do animal testing on domestic animals (for example, Iams purposely makes dogs and cats really obese to test weight-loss food)
-because I want to support local farms with humane practices (there is a good turkey farm in the area)
It would be so much easier if they just lived in a barn and ate mice. Anyway... having cats has always been really complicated for me, since I'm a vegetarian and all... Sorry for the super long commentary!!!
Suze said…
well, it's the most natural thing for your cats to eat meat. in nature, after all, they are predators. predators are probably the most important compenent to healthy eco-systems because they keep the population of other animals in check. (can you tell i've read "prodigal summer"?) that's probably why we have too many deer in wisconsin, for example. if you think of it that way, it's probably easier to feed them meat.
pamigelsrud said…
yeah. I do. I loved Prodigal Summer. It totally changed the way I feel about my own diet. The thing about the cats is, I know it's totally natural for them to eat meat, but it's just that since they are naturally predators, it would be more natural for them to kill their own food than to have me buy meat that is produced in a factory farm and shipped thousands of miles before it gets to them. But since they've lived inside for so long, if they go outside, they kill things for fun and usually don't eat them... And, cats normally would kill and eat really small animals, like mice, voles, rabbits, not cows and lamb and most of the things that are found in commercial cat food -- or veal -- gag! or deer. Little cats wouldn't normally kill big animals, right? So, why don't they make mouse cat food? : )
Jenn Hacker said…
Jamie ate jarred baby food, and is the LEAST picky kid I know. He eats (on a regular - say 4x a week - basis) spinach, broccoli, carrots, sweet potatoes, corn, asparagus, artichokes, salad, etc. He used to love green beans and peas, until we found out that was what was causing his skin allergies. The only thing he's really picky about is meat - he doesn't much care for red meat (with a few exceptions) and mainly likes chicken and sea food. There have even been times in my life when I've been so ill that I've had to eat baby food, and it doesn't taste too bad. That being said, I can totally respect your feelings about organic foods and non-jarred babyfood. So, my best suggestion is to get a blender (if you don't already have one) and try to "over-mush" the food at first, because it's really hard for babies to get used to textures. It's very different to swallow bananas than it is to swallow breast milk. It requires a totally different way of swallowing for babies. Plus, the texture of bananas is very different from rice cereal. And the flavor is stronger. You may have to overprocess for a while to get him used to it, then you can accomplish something a little more lumpy later. Hope this helped!
Jenn Hacker said…
And to this day, I refuse to eat bananas, although I like the taste of them. I vehemently object to their texture. If you e-mail me, I'll tell you why. LOL!
pamigelsrud said…
Hmmm... I wonder if there is a reason I don't like cooked carrots that dates back to babyhood...
Suze said…
stuart doesn't like cooked carrots much, either, but he'll eat them if they're in soup or beans and rice or something with lots of other ingredients.

thanks for all the suggestions, jenn. daniel actually had a dr appointment today (6-month check-up) and she had some suggestions that should be helpful. yes, we have a blender.

interesting that jamie's allergic to peas and beans! those are both "first foods' that the doc suggested, and i would assume that is in part because they're not likely to cause allergies.

i was vegetarian until i got pregnant, and now i don't eat meat more than once a week as a rule. i may go back to being veggie when i'm done breastfeeding, but i'm not sure about raising a kid vegetarian or not. you're not supposed to give kids meat until they're 9 months old anyway (so says my book), so i don't have to worry about that quite yet!

pam, i'm not sure anyone would buy processed mouse food for their kitties...sorry to say :) but i think you've made a valid point!
katiecl said…
Susan - I don't know if anyone told you this, but solids should be mixed with breastmilk at first, too. So, mash up the banana or avocado and mix it with some breastmilk before you try. Everyone's different, though. Some babies refuse solids for a long time. Greta reacted to bananas by vomiting for the rest of the night on two different occasions. We won't give her bananas again for a year. I've learned there's natural latex in bananas and she may have reacted to that! Anyway, I'd try mixing with breastmilk. If he likes the rice cereal (which neither of my girls would eat) then you can also mix mashed banana with rice cereal. Good luck! PS - I never used jarred baby food, and never felt I needed it (although I'm not necessarily opposed to it's use).
Becca said…
We gave CJ jarred food, but I was very, very careful about labels. He only stayed on jarred food for about 3 months, then we started feeding him what we ate after a blender run.

One recommendation is save the fruits for last. The sweetness can overwhelm their palates, and then they won't want to eat veggies. Start with the green beans, peas, and spinach (pulverized to juice, practically), then move to yellow veggies, and then to orange. Sweet potatoes are great, but skip the white potatoes and kernal corn. Creamed corn may be OK, depending on how he reacts.

Start with one food, and offer only that food for three days when giving him solids. If he doesn't show any allergic reactions, start a second. If he shows a reaction to any food, discontinue it and go back to what you know he can tolerate. After he gets the veggies down, you can start giving fruit mixed with his rice cereal or even yogurt (but yogurt without fruit chunks or granola).

For making your own food, the best nutritional value comes from steaming them. Once they're soft, put them in the blender with a teaspoon of water used to steam them and blend it till it can mash anymore and is like thick liquid. After a few weeks, you may go to a puree, and progress on to slightly rougher blends every few weeks.

And while baby adjusts, let him nurse as much as he likes. Breastmilk still constitute most of his diet till he's a year old. The months spent learning to eat solids are more for practice than nutrition--once he hits a year or gets enough teeth, you can begin biting biscuits and more chunky textures to prepare to eat for his needs.
Thorny said…
I got "Super Baby Food" as well and... it's a fabulous resource, but wow, the author's a lot more hardcore than I think I'll ever be! (Though, in my defense, I don't think the author had twins, either!)

We really only used jarred food when travelling, and even then my two had gotten so used to "real" food with actual texture (even the "3rd stage" stuff is more like soup than "solid" food!), we would wind up mixing in a bunch of cereal just to give it a little oomph.

My two, alas, have turned out to be picky eaters despite our best efforts. (I blame DH for this - he was a picky eater into his 20s!) They're really good about fruits, and will eat some veggies, but to this day (age 26 months!) they refuse any and all meat. Which I find kinda crazy, because while we're veggie-friendly, we're definite omnivores.

They eat a lot of dairy, and whole grain bread and will eat eggs and are still nursing, so I'm sure their protein intake is just fine, but they both are absolute in their refusal to eat meat. Sometimes I'm not even sure how they know! grin.

All this to say... imho, there are some things we can influence with our kids, and some things we can't. When my kids were born, I was determined not to start solids until age six months. Well, they had other ideas and we wound up trying solids at around 5.5 months. They immediately took to it, and by 8 months I wasn't even mashing much stuff up any more. I'd serve up soft foods cut up small, but they were happily feeding themselves, even though I'd figured I would be milling food for them for months and months. Instead they refused to be spoon-fed any food that wasn't yogurt, and so I wound up working within those parameters as best I could. grin.

That's how it worked with mine, but Daniel's got his own schedule I'm sure. If he's not up for solids yet, then I can't imagine it'll hurt him to wait a while until he is ready. (Though it could just be the banana he's not up for, I couldn't say.) Anyway, when it comes to things like this, I think your baby is his or her own best manual, you know? But that's just my pair o' pennies on the subject. :)
Suze said…
daniel's been eating rice cereal since 4 months and loves it. so yesterday, as per the dr's suggestion, we tried mixing the banana in with it and voila! he ate it. well, the first time, he gagged and threw up a little (sigh) but once we wiped him clean he wanted more.

today we are trying sweet potato. keep your fingers crossed! katie, thanks for the suggestion of mixing everything with breastmilk. i'm hoping that will ease the rather prominent gag reflex!

the doctor (whom i like and trust very much) suggested we start with the basic five firsts: orange (sweet potato, squash, carrots) and green (beans and peas)...one at a time, obviously, in case of reaction. then fruits. so i think we're set for a month or so.

thorny, i think the author of "super baby food" actually DOES have twins! wow.

thanks for all the suggestions, everyone. as several of you have said, your baby is the best indicator of what's working.

and judging from comments here, it sounds like jarred food has no bearing on whether your kid is a picky eater or not. ah, well. i probably still won't buy it unless we're traveling or something, just because it's more expensive.
mamacita said…
Hey Suze,

From reading here, you've already been given lots of great baby feeding advice, but I'll just go ahead and chime in with my experience.

As for Oliver, I didn't start feeding him solids till he was 6 months old and he didn't really take to anything except rice cereal with breastmilk and even that he didn't want on a daily basis. He didn't really start enjoying solids, ie, open his mouth when he saw the spoon coming and actually want some more, until near the end of his 7th month.

Once he hit 8 months old, all of a sudden he got an appetite and loved eating. I wouldn't worry if Daniel starts out slow. All babies are different.

One thing I have found really handy in getting him to eat and enjoy it are the "self-feeding" devices. Have you seen them? They sell them at Target, that's where I got mine. They have a little mesh part that you put the food in, then you clasp it close and there's a little part for your baby to hold onto it so he can feed himself! They are great for having Daniel entertain himself in a highchair when you go out to eat. You can fill them with anything--winning fillers for Oliver have been banana, avocado, sweet potato, and peach (although peach is a bit too juicy hence a big mess.) Once he starts teething you can freeze foods and put them inside to soothe his gums as he eats.

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