Sunday, November 7, 2010

Removing the "huh?" out of starting solid foods

At LE's 4 month mark, I was eager to get her started on cereal in the hopes that it'd help her sleep longer than two hours at a time. I went out and bought the cereal, attempted to feed it to her, and she refused. She didn’t know what the heck a spoon is and the bland, sticky stuff on the end of the foreign object was not appealing to her. Four attempts later, I still only managed to get a spoonful here and there in her. Then, after waiting a week, adding cinnamon, and trying again… she opened her mouth for it!  I couldn’t believe the amount of pride that I felt for her doing such a seemingly simple task that I do so mindlessly as an adult.
Even though I was really eager to get her to start eating, I quickly realized I didn’t know much more than that. I could figure out how to mix up the cereal, but how much should she eat? How often? In addition to or in place of her milk?
I'm hoping this post will help show you first-time moms out there that it's not hard to introduce solids, and please, please make your own baby food! Not only is it more nutritious and way cheaper, but it's so (reiterate: SO) simple. If you already have a pretty well-stocked kitchen, you probably won’t need more to buy any more equipment other than what you already have. Although some people I’m sure swear by them, you don’t need the special baby food puree systems like Beaba.
Here's What You'll Need:
  • Small to medium sized pot (preferably with a lid)
  • Steamer (you could just use the pot if you want, but this is better for some veggies)
    • Mine is the stovetop kind (see photo of the carrots below). You could use the countertop ones, too.
    • THRIFTY TIP: If you don’t have a steamer but want to steam veggies, you can use a metal colander that rests on top of a regular pot. Put some water in the pot and the veggies in the colander.  
  • Ice cube trays (I have just 2; you can find them at the dollar store, Wal Mart, etc)
    • Or, you can use any small freezer-safe containers that you want.
    • THRIFTY TIP: Some places will say that you should buy a whole slew of containers or trays, but you really don’t need to. If you have more puree than what will fit in your containers, freeze what you can and refrigerate the extra. A few hours later or the next day or so, pop out the frozen ones into Ziploc baggies or larger freezer-safe containers. Reuse the trays for the rest of the refrigerated food.
  • Ziploc style baggies or large freezer-safe containers, used to store the food in the freezer.
  • Plastic wrap (optional)
  • Writing utensil to label the bags or containers
  • Blender, immersion blender, potato masher, manual ricer, or food processor.
    • I use this immersion blender, and it works wonderfully. It's under $30, and you can use it for a ton of things other than just baby food. 
  • Your baby will most likely not be eager to take that first bite off of the spoon. They may be curious, but after the first taste of something other than their formula or breast milk, they may get turned off. Don’t be dismayed or force it. Just stop and try again a couple of days later. Rumor has it, breast milk fed babies take to solids faster than formula fed babies because breast milk tastes different depending on what foods the mom ate.
  • Until your baby is one year old, breast milk or formula should be the primary source of nutrition. That means that the solid food that you are giving is in addition to the milk! It is not a replacement of a meal. The goal is to work up to getting your baby to eat solids at breakfast time, lunchtime, and dinner time.

Let's Get Started!

Cereals  (as early as 4 months old, or when your doctor advises)
I did not waste my time making my own rice cereal. The box of cereal can run from $1-3, and it will last you a long time. My first box lasted 3 months! Plus, it’s important to buy cereal for babies so that it’s sure to be fortified with iron.
Start with just a tiny bit mixed in with formula or breast milk. Don’t anticipate success the first couple of times that you are trying to introduce it, so don’t waste a lot of your precious milk by making more than a spoonful. Simply add warmed breast milk or formula to the cereal keeping in mind the cereal thickens as it’s mixed in; a little bit goes a long way. Make the first tastes very runny, and feel free to add some cinnamon! 

Veggies (as early as 6 months old, or when your doctor advises)

The first tastes of veggies are really so, so simple to make.  These are veggies that have a low risk of allergies and are easy to digest.
  • Carrots (see image below!)
  • Sweet Potato – same instructions as carrots
  • Green Peas (see image below!)
  • Apples (ok, this is a fruit, not a veggie) Wash, peel, and core then follow the green peas method, increasing the cook time until the apples are tender
  • Squash (I didn’t do squash yet because summer squash isn’t in season) same instructions as carrots
  • Avocado – give little tastes that are mashed in your fingers; Must be consumed immediately as it will not keep!
  • Bananas – use bananas with brown on the peel to ensure it’s sweet enough; mash some with a fork and stir in a little breast milk or formula to thin out; Must be consumed immediately as it will not keep!  

General Tips for First Tastes
  • Most baby foods are freezer friendly. You can defrost in the fridge overnight, on the counter for an hour or so before feeding, or just heat it up frozen in the microwave or on the stove.
  • Applesauce can be used in just about everything! I keep some in the fridge at all times, and when something gets warmed up too hot, I spoon some of the applesauce into it to cool it off.
  • Cereal can be used to thicken up anything that’s a little too runny. LE really liked cereal made with really runny carrots + pumpkin pie spice. Cereal can also be used to tame the taste of something, like tart apples.
  • Don’t be afraid to add spices! Experiment, but use your head. Don’t add hot spices, and steer clear of salt in the starter foods. LE’s favorites are curry powder, cinnamon, apple/pumpkin pie spices (which are mostly cinnamon plus cloves and ginger).
  • Until after 12 months, stay away from trouble foods, like peanut butter, nuts, honey, eggs, sugar, and cows milk. Also, be extra careful if your family is prone to an allergy of a certain food, and some sources say to stay away from wheat and berries (especially strawberries but blueberries are fine).
  • One ice cube = about one ounce.
  • As with all of my groceries, I adhere to the dirty dozen, clean fifteen lists when deciding whether or not to buy organic. You can do as you want. Here's a link to the list and a link to a PDF wallet printable. 
  • Only introduce a new food once every few days so that if there’s a sensitivity or allergy, you will know what it’s from without further trial and error.
  • THRIFTY TIP: Coffee mugs are great for microwaving and serving the food when they aren't spooning food to themselves yet. 

    After the First Tastes: 
    • Make soup purees that you would eat, too, like Butternut Squash Soup. Or, if you are making soup for your family, make a separate pot with similar ingredients for your baby.   
      • For example, make a simple chicken soup with water, chicken meat, celery, carrots, onion, a few peppercorns, some thyme or oregano, and a bay leaf. Simmer on the stove until it’s all tender, remove the bay leaf and peppercorns, and puree. This freezes well! 
    • Feed foods that are in bite-sized pieces instead of just purees.  Get creative! You'll probably notice that you baby will want to taste all of your foods, too. Give tastes from your plate if it’s tender and small. Remember to stay away from trouble foods, like peanut butter, nuts, honey, and cows milk. Also, be extra careful if your family is prone to an allergy of a certain food, and some sources say to stay away from wheat and berries (especially strawberries but blueberries are fine).
    • Buy some Cheerios-style cereal to let your little one try to feed himself with. They'll first start with palming the whole thing, then using three fingers, and then just the two fingers to pinch the cereal. It's great for their fine motor skills, it is fortified with vitamins, they get to practice chewing, and they tend to like the different texture.
    • Instead of feeding pureed carrots, give a few bits of cooked carrots that are broken into bite sized pieces. Or, give some cooked beans or bits of cauliflower. Anything that can get broken up by gumming it to death is great (once again, stay away from trouble foods as mentioned twice above). Your baby will try to stuff as much in his mouth as possible, so give small quantities at a time and monitor him to be sure he doesn’t choke. 

      Some Good Resources I Used:  

      Have fun with it! It’s such a great time!


      1. I am also a homemade baby food fan - my twins are 2 and I still make ALL their food from scratch. Cheap and nutritious

      2. This is a great post; I found it via Pinterest. Thanks for the very informative "recipes" and tips! I will be having my first baby in May, so I'll have to keep these on file. Any idea how long these keep in the freezer? 4-6 months maybe?

      3. Christina- Just follow the same freezer practices as you would other foods (soups, etc). I'd probably say 3 months, but that's just my preference in general; other people don't mind holding onto it later (especially if they are better at wrapping them up than I am; I tend to get freezer burn). That aside, you probably won't need purees for very long; every kid is different, but my daughter preferred whole beans and other mushy foods after just 1 to 1 1/2 months of purees. I only made purees about 2 or 3 times.
        Good luck!

      4. Nicole - Thank you for all of the GREAT information and ideas! I have gone back to your site SEVERAL times for guidance! I found it via Pinterest.....what would we do without Pinterest! I feel like such a better Mommy now that I have Pinterest! haha
        Anyway, just wanted to say THANKS SO MUCH for all of your great tips, photos and information! I LOVE making homemade baby food for my Son! I think it's absolutely worth every minute! :) Ashley
        P.S. Your daughter is absolutely beautiful! Those eyelashes are to die for! :)

        1. Thanks for your comment! I'm glad this was helpful for you. :)


      I love to read your comments, though your comments may take a while to show up as they are approved individually. Due to waaaay too much spam, I have added a word verification feature... sorry 'bout that!