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."
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!