Okay, okay. I WILL get back to posting some recipes a bit more regularly soon. Hopefully tomorrow! It just hasn't helped that a particular baby insists that his meal times must be served promptly, not a minute sooner, or later, and that there have been weeks on end where predictably regular naps and nighttime sleeping went by the wayside. And hence, there hasn't been any amount of time for anything other than just muddling through it all, and laughing all the way.
I know, I know, I said, I wasn't going to turn this into a parenting blog. However, I have received an enormous number of emails and phone calls, asking for more tips and advice on feeding babies. It has been nearly overwhelming! I decided at least an update was in order, as it has been three months since the start. I was also going to finish this up in one post, but I think I'm going to have to put a few videos in another post, before this becomes completely epic. Sorry!
Here are some of the questions I have received, and a few thoughts on things that worked, and a few things that didn't. But again, I really do recommend reading Gil Rapley's book, Baby Led Weaning, as it answers all of these questions. These are just my experiences, and it's been, well, super cool!
If you want a few of my tips on eating out with baby, you can check it out at my friend MJ's super-fun new blog, Livin' MJ's Dream! Isn't her son Liam an absolute DOLL?!
How often should I offer food?
For the first month or so, it ended up being once a day. It was quite a production at this point, and definitely messy. Sometimes I waited a few days before introducing a new food, so by two weeks Carter had still only eaten three different foods! Soon though, I only gave him food whenever we were eating at the table. I used that as a general rule of thumb; he ate when I ate, if he was awake. It also made it much, much easier than trying to keep him happy while I quickly devoured the meal. This is now to the point where, if I'm eating (say a quick snack or tasting a dish) and he's not getting any of it, he's gives me a funny and slightly perturbed look!
At nine months, he definitely needs three meals a day, and it had better be on time! I now try to offer his meals at approximately the same time every day, so that he doesn't think food is scarce, and then "pig out", as he did a couple times when he changed around his napping and quantity of food so much that I almost didn't keep up.
How do you know how much food to give?
You don't....? After three months, I just sort of know! It's a crap shoot at best, and I just try to have extra. In the beginning, I virtually always ate the same thing as Carter, so that it was nearly always coming from my plate. He seemed to trust it a bit more too as he watched me very carefully. Plus, if he seemed to want a bit more, then I ate a bit less. We're talking about a stalk or two of broccoli, so it's not like I starved! Now, I try to include a couple elements of the dish we are eating, but if a bit of asparagus and pork isn't going to be enough for Carter, he'll get some pear too.
I do know that I recently figured out to only give him one piece of a particular food at a time. If he is getting a selection of different foods, I still only give him one piece of each food. This has prevented him from becoming overwhelmed from receiving too much food (he would eat nothing when this first happened), and also meant that if the food is prepared in a way that I would eat, I can eat the rest. Giving him one piece of each food at a time also prevents an enormous mess, and most foods break into smaller bits anyways (this excludes beans - I give him more than one measly bean!). I also prepare enough of each food he is given, so that if he only wants chicken, or only wants apple, that there will be enough for him to be full from just one of those foods.
Carter loves little cups of water. Here he had attacked a chicken drumstick and an apple so much so that only little pieces were left. I gave him much larger pieces. He resorted to grabbing it by the fistful and chewing it as much as he could before it went, well, either in or out!
What foods have you found that worked? And how did you prepare them?
Brace yourselves, this one is lengthy....
I hate to admit it, but the microwave is especially helpful. Especially in a pinch! There have been several times when I thought that the pear I planned to feed Carter was ripe, and then I found out that it wasn't soft enough for him right at the moment he was really hungry. He really wanted to eat it, but certainly wasn't going to be able to get any of it. Somehow, I thought to microwave it a bit, and it worked. It tasted exactly like a canned pear (which I won't feed him). It worked like a charm. A lid is necessary, and some foods need to steam a bit afterward with the lid still on to make them extra soft on the outside. I do this with all kinds of apples, and occasionally plums and mangoes too. Asparagus, carrots, and sweet potatoes will work in the microwave too. This is helpful when trying to offer a variety of foods, but baby doesn't have teeth that can yet bite and chew through the raw carrot you are eating.
I have just recently started offering some oatmeal. That's right, without a spoon. I figured it needed to be kinda "cake-like' so he could actually pick it up in large chunks. The first time, he hated it. It was the first time he really turned up his nose at something; you'd think I gave him a lemon! It was plain. I don't blame him. The next time, I added a bit of cinnamon. Perhaps it helped, because it has since been quite a hit. To cook it, I add just a bit of water, and don't cook it too much. I let it cool at least ten minutes, to let it really clump up.
Proteins seem a bit more difficult than fruits and vegetables. They often need to be cut in large chunks, that need to disintegrate quite easily, but not too easily or baby won't be able to pick it up! Meats that are boiled or roasted for a long time work best. Think beef short ribs instead of a steak. While you might be tempted for leaner cuts of meat, these are really tough for the baby just starting out. If the fat is cooked into the cooking liquid then the baby is actually consuming quite a bit less fat. A pork tenderloin might work if cooked in a lot of liquid, but if it is roasted or overcooked, it might be impossible for baby. Poached chicken also provides a lot of broth for more cooking adventures. After a few different meats, baby seemed to get the hang of it. Now that he can also pick up smaller pieces of things quite easily, it doesn't matter quite so much.
Beans, however, work very, very well! Cannellini beans are quite large, as are kidney beans, and easier to pick up than a black bean to start out. Carter won't eat plain beans though; he loves them if they have a bit of sauce on them. A pine-nut free pesto, or any perhaps a few beans from Mom's soup or even chili are much loved. Sometimes, the spicier the better! Hummous, and falafel type preparations are also favourites. I give him beans I have cooked in the slow cooker with minimal salt instead of canned beans, which can be high in sodium. I tend to squish the beans just slightly so that he can mash it up in his mouth easily, instead of swallowing it completely whole.
Foods that he's really liked have included: greens beans cooked in a tomato-onion sauce, cannellini beans in a spicy sauce, bollito, sweet potato fries, olive oil fries, falafel, oatmeal, pineapple, mango, roast chicken, swiss chard, pork butt, beef short ribs, strawberries, kiwi, asparagus, roast fennel, black bean burgers, turkey meatballs, miso chicken thighs with grated carrot, and tiny tastes of Mom's mostly oatmeal pancakes.
Everyday go-to foods include: apples, pears, plums, broccoli, spinach, squash of all kinds, sweet potatoes, cups of water (especially from Auntie Leanne!) bananas (cut like an ice cream cone). Don't forget to try different varieties of apples, pears, and squash. So many of us get stuck in ruts of enjoying only the same kind of apple or the same kind of pear. In general, fruits need to be very ripe. I try to offer a mixture of raw and cooked foods everyday (ex. raw pear, cooked apple). I also try to offer a variety of textures as much as possible.
He has had bits of rice cakes, sprouted grain bread, and pasta. But he didn't care for them much. I do consider them a bit too processed for consumption by a baby anyways, so I mostly try to avoid it. Watermelon and spaghetti squash have been completely ignored.
Uhhhh, doesn't he choke since you give such large pieces?
Nope! He did gag quite a bit once. Just once. Now he just gets annoyed when the peel of certain foods get stuck on the roof of his mouth, although he is getting better at using his tongue to move it around. Actually, I just recently reviewed the recommend shapes of foods for a nine-month old baby. I couldn't help but think, "won't they choke?". The foods were all cut into small pieces, meaning that IF the baby was successful at picking it up, it would most certainly be swallowed completely whole. There would be little, if any, mixing with saliva (good for digestion), as the pieces really couldn't be chewed. I've found that with larger pieces of food, Carter can suck/chew/squish small pieces off and then kind of chew it. If he bites off a piece that is too large, he pushes it out with his tongue. Interestingly enough, he has become very adept at separating foods from the peel, even kiwi. I will never peel food for him, so he had better get used to it!
When do I nurse the baby less? And how much time before or after nursing do I give solid foods?
Unfortunately, it doesn't really work that way. Baby decides. I have never seen any relation to how much solid foods Carter has eaten to how much he nursed. At one dinner he consumed an entire chicken drumstick, and nearly an entire apple! At nine months, he now nurses less often, but sometimes he has eaten an absolute tonne of food, and still nursed a lot. I've thought of nursing and solid foods as two completely separate things, mostly because they are.
Mostly I've seen that it is best to nurse the baby before offering solid foods. But there are parents who believe the opposite, because they want to wean the baby faster. Again, I consider nursing and solids two separate things, and let's face it, you can't force a child to breastfeed. Just try it, I dare you! So, even if I tried to nurse Carter before eating, it wasn't necessarily going to happen! I often did try to in the beginning, because I didn't want him to suddenly start screaming for milk when all covered in avocado... But, I wasn't going to wait until he nursed! If I had the food all ready, then I offered the food. And a baby who wants milk isn't a baby who wants food; from my own experience, can't wean him or fill him up any faster than he wants.
My baby doesn't like vegetables.... Or what have you.
I generally think that if I continue offering a variety of healthy foods, and if the baby eats healthy stuff, then it isn't exactly the end of the world. Even if it doesn't seem "balanced" to us. Eventually, they will change their mind. The way I look at it is that they know what they need. Plus, we all go through phases don't we? I've had phases where all I want to eat is sushi, and then suddenly, for months I don't want it. I've done the same with all kinds of foods. Carter wouldn't eat carrots for at least a month, but now he'll eat them. I just kept offering them occasionally, and he decided to eat them again.
Carter used to eat a lot of vegetables. But... that was because he was only given one food at a time! He used to be quite enamoured with broccoli and avocado. Currently, if given the choice, he will choose fruit, meat, and beans over vegetables. Not always, but most of the time. He'll often nibble on vegetables towards the end of the meal, or once he's truly warmed up, but it doesn't seem to be the bulk of what he's consumed. Oddly enough, he only likes squashes or yams fresh out of the oven, and never reheated! He also loves sauteed swiss chard or spinach, but only if it is with a bit of onion or shallot. It's extra tasty that way!
I also think babies are very observant, and if they don't see us eating what they are eating, they are less likely to eat it. They also hear what we say, even if we think they aren't listening or understanding. I figure that if I am going to feed Carter something I don't like, I had definitely better never, ever say anything about it in front of him, as he will most certainly change his mind.
My baby won't eat anything.
I would be frustrated. Sometimes they just do that. However, there have been days, and even a couple weeks when Carter didn't eat any solid foods, and while it can be a bit frustrating, it does end. When he was teething, he wouldn't even put toys in his mouth. If I put a taste of food on my finger, he'd be tempted and taste it, and then promptly push it out of his mouth. Not hungry Mom! Oh well.
I've read that the high-chair you have can tip over easily, and that it is hard to take the baby in and out.
I also have read, and seen tragic videos, of babies falling over in their Tripp-Trapp chairs. However, they might also not have been put together correctly, etc? I don't know how they fell over, but there are tonnes of baby paraphernalia that is sold that also might not be "good" for baby (seemingly everything if you read too much....) I kinda equate it to putting a bumbo seat in a car... hey they write those warnings on there for a reason!
The company has come out with new "extenders" which are also designed to keep the chair from tipping over. Tripp-Trapp also has many recommendations regarding the type of flooring and table that is needed for it to be safe.
All that being said, in my opinion, it seems that it is very unlikely that the chair can easily tip over. I am not about to test it (!!), but it seems very remote, at best. This is just my personal opinion of course!
At first, it seemed difficult to take Carter in and out of the chair, but it is very easy to put him in and take him out from the back of the chair. To be honest, we haven't used the straps since the beginning.... yes, we are terrible parents... because he kept trying to eat them, and they were just getting covered in everything. Again, it is so unbelievably remote that Carter could even possibly push himself out, or tip over, especially as we are sitting right there, and never leave him unattended. We do intend to use the straps, but I can't really comment on how hard they are to use. I will say that they are definitely child-proof (idiot-proof?...please don't comment...) straps!
When all else fails?
Remember that there are people with three kids, and then they have twins. I'm assuming you are reading this... or certainly this far, because you are feeding your first baby. What I want to say is that no one is perfect, and while it is tricky enough with one, I'm pretty sure that lots of families with several children don't really worry about it so much once they get past one... And those kids turn out perfectly fine too.