Feeding Baby

1 Dec

My baby boy is six months old this week!  It’s hard to believe that much time has gone by since giving birth!  He is developing at a rapid rate these days!  He is sitting, rolling both ways, beginning to talk, and developing a wonderfully joyful personality!  What comes next?  Solid foods!

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies are breastfed exclusively for at least the first six months.  Well, we’ve met that mark; now baby is showing signs of readiness including: being able to sit independently, reaching out and grabbing for food & beverages, and loss of tongue reflex. (Instinctively, babies younger than six months will push things out of their mouth- to prevent choking- which is the tongue reflex.)

Many doctors will say that babies are ready for solids as early as four months; however, research shows otherwise.  According to The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, there are at least two positive reasons for waiting to start a breastfed baby on solids:

“First, you want to maintain your milk supply, and the more solids the baby takes, the less milk he will want; the less he takes from the breast, the less milk there will be.”  (p.224)

“The second reason for waiting is that the younger the baby, the more likely it is that any foods other than mother’s milk will cause food allergies,”  (p.224)

Many physicians will tell parents to start the baby on rice cereal; however, rice is very difficult for a baby younger than about 10 to 12 months of age.  I’ve been told by a trusted IBCLC (lactation consultant) that if a parent insists on starting with a grain, that oats are preferable to rice.

With my first baby, I conceded to everything the doctor told me; then, certain things starting not “feeling” right.  Going with my instincts, I did more research the second time around and I’m certainly glad I did.  With all of the problems with processed foods, I have been preparing and making my own baby food for a few years now.  Sound complicated?  It’s really not.  If you know how to boil or steam food and how to turn a food processor on, you can do it in the comfort of your own home!

Making your own baby food is healthy.  You can purchase organic whole foods and know that your baby will not be ingesting any harmful pesticides, chemicals, or other artificial ingredients including preservatives.  Or even better, you can grow the fruits/vegetables yourself!

Even though organic food is more expensive, if you are making your own baby food, it’s actually cheaper than purchasing jarred baby food in most cases.  I got a coupon for a free bag of organic baby carrots from Kroger, so that’s what I decided to start with.  (Also, some doctors will tell you to avoid meats and start with vegetables, when really it doesn’t matter as long as you avoid the foods that trigger allergies – for at least the first year, sometimes longer if you have a family history of food allergies.)

I had a friend ask me once if you could somehow contaminate the food you’re preparing.  Her impression was that store bought baby food was somehow “safer”.  To that, I replied, prepare it as though you’d prepare a meal for yourself and there is no more risk of contamination.  For example, wash your hands, make sure you use clean utensils/cutting board, be careful not to cross-contaminate if you’re preparing more than one thing at a time, make sure you store the food properly, etc.

Preparing food at home means that you can tailor it to your baby.  You can expose your children to food from your culture.  You can provide them with a wide array of colors and textures, not to mention flavors!

Like I mentioned before, I decided to start with carrots, because I got the free coupon.  I got a bag of the organic baby carrots and boiled them in a pot for about 20 minutes, until they were soft and could easily be penetrated with a fork.  Once they were ready, I drained the water from the pot and poured the carrots into a food processor.  The one I have is a Cuisinart, with two speeds – “chop” and “grind”.  (You don’t need anything fancy or expensive.  It’s definitely something you could probably find pretty cheap at a garage sale or even Craig’s List.  Or, for an older baby, you could simply use a fork to mash up the table food.)

I ground the carrots until they were completely smooth.  I then hand expressed some of my breast milk and added several ounces, until I had a smooth puree.  If you don’t want to use breast milk, you can always add filtered water.  I then spooned a dollop of the carrots into ice cube trays.  I was able to get 24 servings from that one bag of carrots.  If I had paid for those carrots by purchasing bottles of baby food, it would have cost me just under $24, when the cost of an organic bag of baby carrots is $3.

I then froze the ice cube trays until the food was solid.  You can then put the individual cubes into Ziplock freezer bags and store them that way as well.  To thaw, I leave them out for a few minutes before dinner or run the baggie under warm water.

Keep in mind that when you first introduce your baby to solids, if you are nursing, you should nurse first, the try the solids.  It’s a good idea to go slowly and if your baby turns their head away, or pushes the food out, give it a few weeks and try again.  With my first daughter, she was about ten months old before I could really get her to eat solid foods.

Also, it is a good idea to wait 7 days between each new food introduced.  That way, if your baby develops a rash or sore bottom, you will have a good idea of which food caused the reaction.  And when babies first begin to eat, a teaspoon is a good sized serving!  Gradually, they will be able to eat more.

I decided to start my baby this week as he is turning 6 months, because I see that he is ready.  Remember that you are the best gauge for your baby.  You know your baby better than anyone else does, so don’t feel pressured by what anyone else says.  My baby had mixed feelings on the carrots.  I could tell he liked the idea of sitting in his booster seat and eating food (like the big kids), but I’m not sure he actually liked the food!  He ate it, and did not spit it out, but he made some pretty funny faces!  I will try again tonight and see how it goes from there!

Bon Appetit!

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