This is the third in a four-part series on Feeding Babies Frugally.
People make too much of a fuss over baby foods. Ever since the baby food industry put so much effort into making and selling attractive foods, we feel like we’re depriving our children if we don’t prepare something similar. But you can make good, nutritious food for your baby with a minimum of time. And if you train your baby to eat solid foods on her own, you will save yourself hours of time in the future.
I never enjoyed feeding my babies with a spoon. It occupied my hands and forced me to sit in one spot, making it harder to look after the older children. I have six children, so this was a biggie for me!
I remember the moment when I realized that kids can learn to eat with their fingers and a spoon at seven or eight months. All kids have to get through it, so why not start sooner than later? While they are safely strapped in and eating (or playing with the food), you can be chatting with them and cooking the next meal. How’s that for multitasking?
IMPORTANT NOTE: Babies have a strong gag mechanism that usually pushes up food that has gone down the wrong way. But never leave a baby unattended, in the highchair or out. Babies don’t make noise when they are choking.
Tips for starting solids:
- For baby’s first solids, mash with a fork. Bananas and sweet potatoes are good choices. You will want to feed baby with a spoon for the first week or two until he gets the hang of swallowing.
- Once baby enjoys textured, mashed foods from a spoon, cut soft foods into bite size pieces and place several on the high (or low) chair tray. Initially most of the food will end up in their hair and on the floor. If you don’t have a dog, spread old newspaper under the chair This learning stage is messy and the most time-consuming part of the process. Think of it as an investment in their future independence.
- There’s no need to use a blender for a six-month-old’s food. Freezing ice-cube trays of blended foods can be helpful in a pinch and is preferable to purchased foods, but they are not necessary. Blending and freezing both cause food to lose vitamins.
- Instead of preparing special food, cook for the family with baby in mind. Avoid salt, hard foods like nuts or raw carrots, overly sweet food like dried fruit. Add allergenic foods like eggs, fish and dairy after you have removed baby’s portion. Be especially cautious if you have allergies in the family.
- Once they have tried a few different foods, offer a few types at each meal. This way baby can choose whatever meets his nutritional needs at the moment. Trust your baby. Sometimes they want more protein, sometimes more green vegetables. Mixing everything together in a soup means they are eating more or less the same thing all the time.
- Don’t give up on a food because baby rejects it. Most babies will try a new food after seven or eight exposures, so keep putting it on the tray.
- Avoid purchased snack foods, cereals, cookies and crackers even if they are marketed for babies. Sure it’s convenient, but your baby’s stomach is too small to fill up with unhealthy calories. Why let them develop a taste for the added salt and sugar?
- If you are breastfeeding, nurse before and after solid foods, or whenever the baby wants, to preserve your supply. Look at the solids as an addition, not a replacement. Babies continue to get most of their calories from breastmilk through the first year of life. Breastmilk is higher in calories than most solid foods.
- If your baby drinks formula feeding, gradually replace the formula with a variety of nutritious solids. The formula companies market heavily to parents of older babies, but formula doesn’t contain anything that can’t be gotten from solid foods. And it contains unhealthy sugars, fats and preservatives.
- At nine or ten months give baby an unbreakable cup with a small amount of water. Sippy cups prolong the learning stage.
Look for more detail in Part IV. Make Your Own “Convenience Foods” for Babies.
Other posts in the series Feeding Babies Frugally:
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