Saturday, July 21, 2012

(Baby) Food for Thought

I never gave much thought to baby food.  (Along with the 3.7 million other things you need to know to raise a human being.)  The way I figured it, you had a baby, and for six months or so you fed that baby either breast milk or formula, and then after six months or so, you’d be ready to supplement with table food.  Or at least baby table food.

Sounds simple enough.  Somewhere in the back of my mind I knew that the introduction of solid food was inevitable, but admittedly, we didn't give it much thought.  For those first six months, we were busy trying to wrap our heads around the fact that we had just created a baby, and we were mostly focused on trying to keep this new person alive.

Then, at our daughter’s 6-month well visit, we were advised to start offering her cereal.  Cereal was easy.  We could do cereal.  Mix a little breast milk or formula with cereal and voila, you have a meal.  Piece of cake.

What I was truly unprepared for was when the pediatrician gave us the go-ahead to offer her anything that could be pureed, excluding honey and nuts.

"Offer her anything."

Wait.  What?

A little background is in order.  My husband and I love to cook, but we approach meals very differently.  He plans meals in advance, choosing recipes, shopping for the ingredients for those recipes, and making preparations in advance (like defrosting something that's frozen, chopping onions or peppers, measuring out herbs, that sort of thing).  He's very methodical about meal planning.  He usually knows a day in advance what the next day’s meals will include.

Then there’s me.  When I get hungry, I open the fridge.

Since I'm home with our daughter, the primary food prep for her meals falls into my lap.  And I'm finding that my "catch as catch can" philosophy to eating isn't really the best way to feed a baby.

So, when the doctor gave me the go-ahead, you can imagine my shock.

“Offer her anything.”  Anything?  I truly didn’t know where to begin.

In time, I found some wonderful resources online and I developed the confidence needed to be able to make my own baby food.  Two of those resources are Wholesome Baby Food and Baby-Led Weaning.  So far, I've gotten more use out of Wholesome Baby Food, especially regarding making purees, general nutritional information, and whether to buy organic or conventional.  Baby-Led Weaning is going to be helpful now that we're moving on to finger foods.

I'll admit, I found it extremely helpful that there hasn't been a food that my daughter didn't like.  My heart breaks for moms and dads of babies who are either picky eaters or who have digestive issues that make introducing solid food a challenge.  My advice for those parents is to trust your pediatricians, but also trust yourselves and your babies.  Babies have this amazing ability to rise to the occasion, surpass our expectations, and amaze us.  But they all do it in their own time, and we have to give them the opportunity to do so.

And so, I offer some advice.

1.  You don't have to make your own baby food.  I've always felt that what we feed our babies (breast milk versus formula, homemade versus store-bought baby food) is not nearly as important as what we teach them and how we love them.  So whatever path you choose, don't sweat it, and don't let anyone make you feel badly about it.

2.  You can make your own baby food whether you work full-time or are a stay-at-home parent.  All you need is a few hours each weekend to prepare and organize your food for the week.  You also need a decent blender, a couple of ice cube trays, and freezer storage bags.

3.  Organic produce is far less expensive if you buy frozen instead of fresh, and for the purposes of baby food, I feel frozen is better since it lasts longer.  Most supermarkets now sell frozen organic produce.  Personally, I like to buy from Trader Joe's because I find their prices to be very fair.

4.  If your baby doesn’t like something, don’t despair and don’t pitch it.  Try again in a day or so.  From what I understand, babies’ tastes can change pretty regularly.  Same goes for their attention span, so you might even try the offending food later that same day.

5.  Somehow, you're going to have to find a way to trust that your baby, with practice, will be able to safely chew (or gum) and swallow the food you put into his or her mouth.  Personally, that's something I've struggled with. I keep thinking that if I give her something larger than, say, a speck of dust, she's going to choke on it and I'm going to have to call 911 and perform the Heimlich maneuver.  But so far (knock wood!), she's managed to either melt or soften or gum down anything I've put into her mouth.  (Of course, that excludes things she's put into her mouth herself outside of mealtime, including shoes, cell phones, and even a rock.)

6.  When your baby first starts eating solids from a spoon, be prepared for a colossal mess.  But they'll get used to it, they'll learn and they'll get neater about it.  Then, whey your baby first starts eating finger foods, be prepared for another colossal mess.  But they'll get used to it, they'll learn, and they'll get neater about it.  (And no, you aren't a bad parent if you eat the peas or shredded cheese that you find in the high chair as you're cleaning up.  My general rule of thumb is that if it's from that day, it's fair game.)

Good luck and bon appetit!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Wedding Love

I love weddings.  I loooove them.

I'd be remiss if I didn't say the most important thing about a wedding is that two people have decided to commit themselves to one another.  Because really, at the end of the day, that's all that matters.  And that's a beautiful thing.

But I confess that the party part is nice, too.

I especially love weddings that seem to be an extension of the bride and groom themselves, where their personalities seem to resonate in every detail.  Like this one.

Somehow I stumbled upon a blog called My Suitcase Heart, written by a woman named Janis.  She chronicled her and her husband Michael's wedding and I was so taken by it!  I might have actually fallen in love.  You know how sometimes you read a story or look at a picture and you love it so much that your heart hurts a little bit?  Pictures from their wedding did that for me.

Janis sent along a few pictures for me to share, but do visit her blog and enjoy the entire day.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

A Photo A Day: 07/17

These are a few of my hydrangea blooms.  I love how different blooms from the same plant can have such subtle variations in color.

Monday, July 16, 2012

A Photo A Day: 07/16

This is an apron I had made for my niece from Love, Elaine on Etsy.  (I also had a coordinating apron made for my nephew.)  I had to take pictures of them anyway, so I used this as the subject of today's photo.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

A Photo A Day: 07/15

I adore photography, both looking at it and making it, and I'm so inspired by what I see on the interwebs.  In an effort to improve my skills and gain some more confidence behind the camera, I'm joining the trend of posting a photo a day.

But in reality, it will probably be a photo most days.

Here is today's.  It's a picture of my daughter, not napping.

Nap time.  Or maybe not.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Things I Wish I'd Known About Parenthood


(Pause for effect.)

Sure, I knew life would change.  How could it not?  I was prepared for some change.  What I didn’t realize is that my former life would be rendered completely unrecognizable.

But that happens when you make a life, when you make a human being.  Life changes.  You change.  You have this teeny tiny human being who relies on you for everything.  Everything.  Life can't possibly be the same after that.

For all its indescribable awesomeness (and really, there just aren’t words), motherhood is, no doubt, the hardest job I’ve ever had.  Despite the hard work, the sleepless nights, the indecipherable cries, the poop explosions, and the countless other things that threatened my sanity, I wouldn’t give any of it up to go back to Life Before Baby.

Speaking of Baby, she’s 9½ months old at this writing.

Because she’s our first child, there were a few things that I would have found helpful to know in advance.  Lots of people will want to give you advice.  (Apparently, including me.)  But it’s my sincere hope that even a smidgen of what I’m about to share is helpful.

If you're due to have your first baby soon, or if you've recently had your first baby, allow me to say what a million people have said before me:  Enjoy it.  It really does go by fast.

Now, my advice:

Childbirth is amazing.  A-maz-ing.  It might not be a walk in the park.  In fact, it probably won't be.  But there’s a great prize at the end, so give it all you’ve got.  Try to be present for all of it, even the parts you'd rather not remember, because that prize is going to want to know the story of how it came into the world.

You’re going to have an extra person with you when you get home.  A very needy extra person.  But remember:  you can do it!  You can even do it without help.  (But if you’re offered help, try to take it.)  Just make sure that you're able to take some time to yourself to recharge your batteries now and again.  You’ll be a better parent because of it.

Babies are messy.  I'm going to say that again.  Babies are messy.  I’m not going to describe how, because you might be eating as you read this.  At least until you have a good sense of exactly what will be coming out of your baby, don't buy expensive clothes, and get into the habit of putting burp cloths or towels down on furniture that you care about.  When your baby starts solids, I suggest giving up all hope of having a tidy home until they master the art of self-feeding.  Which I think happens at around age 30.

Eating can be a challenge.  Whether you breastfeed or formula feed, remember that eating is a skill that babies have to learn to master, and it can take some time to get to a place of comfort and routine.  Patience and support are key.

Practice good posture.  Try to start at the beginning.  I have no data to back this up, but I have a theory that the heavier a baby gets, the more that baby's parents resemble Quasimodo.

Get some sleep.  You'll need it.  People will suggest that you nap when the baby naps.  This is a very good idea, especially in the beginning.  Especially if your baby cries a lot or has an erratic sleep schedule.  (Truth be told, this will probably be the case.)  You’re going to need to be well-rested.  Believe me.  (Full disclosure here:  This falls under the category of Advice I'll Freely Give But Probably Won't Follow Myself.)

Sleep is overrated.  Get things done instead.  In time, you’ll catch up on your own sleep, and those times when your little darling is napping will become golden to you.  You’re going to really enjoy a few moments each day to foster the feeling of getting something accomplished.  Even if that something is emptying the dishwasher.  Or brushing your teeth.

Let your baby learn how to fall asleep.  This one was very hard for us.  Both my husband and I loved having our daughter fall asleep in our arms.  But at 4 months of age, I realized we were going to have to start to wean her, unless we wanted to have to rock her to sleep until she turned 12.  There are lots of methods and philosophies on getting babies to fall asleep by themselves.  Find one that works for you and your baby.

It’s normal to feel frustrated at times.  And angry.  And blue.  Just remember:  it isn’t your baby’s fault, and make sure you don’t take it out on your little one.  Or your partner.  Parenthood is hard.  Hard.  Surround yourself with people who love you, who will support you, who can understand or at least empathize with what you're going through, and who will give you ample opportunities to ventilate about what you’re feeling and experiencing.  

Listen to others’ opinions, but follow your heart.  Most people aren’t shy about offering advice on how you should raise your baby.  They mean well, so respond kindly to them.  But then learn to trust your parental wisdom (which grows stronger with time and experience) and make sure you decide what's best for you and your baby.

Find a pediatrician who will talk you down from a ledge, not up to one.  Most pediatricians will allow you to interview them, free of charge, before you make a final decision.  Take advantage of this.  Find the right doctor, even if it means interviewing a small handful of them.  This person will be caring for your baby until your little darling goes off to college, so you’ll want to find someone that you (and your baby) feel comfortable with and confident in.  And remember, you can always change your mind and find a new pediatrician.

Trust your judgment.  There's no manual.  But there is daily on-the-job training.  And from birth until the bitter end, no human being anywhere in the world will every know your baby better than you do.  That means something.  That means something pretty huge.  Trust yourself

When things get tough, tap into something bigger.  It helps me to remember that there are lots of moms and dads out there who want babies but can’t have them.  And that there are lots of babies out there who need caring moms and dads.  Whenever I find myself at the end of my rope, I remember this, and it really does help.

Thanks for reading.  Now go have the time of your life.