If you have ever fed a baby, you know it can be both challenging and fun; from the first spoonful, to the way they purse their lips when they are trying to figure out the taste, to their smile when they enjoy it, to their cries when they don’t, and to their tiny kicking feet asking for more.
Starting your baby on solids is one big adventure. The adventure that doesn’t come without concerns: am I feeding him too little? am I feeding him too much? should I introduce her to wheat or is it too soon? what if she chokes? and the questions go on and on.
But that’s not what today’s post is about. I know every mom and dad has done plenty of research and have discussed every possible option with their pediatrician, so I won’t be discussing first foods and feeding techniques. Instead, I’ll be sharing with you five of my personal everyday reminders for a happy healthy feeding time!
1. Don’t settle for bland
Don’t be afraid to use herbs, spices and aromatics. You don’t know how a teeny tiny sprinkle of thyme or oregano can change a dish and make it more appealing to your baby. Babies get a taste of food from the womb so don’t settle for bland now. Tickle your baby’s tastebuds. My baby girl wouldn’t eat sweet potato; a dash of cinnamon and nutmeg¹ later and she gobbled the whole thing up. When cooking up chicken/beef and vegetable soup, use one or a mix of the following: a clove or two of garlic, carrots, a bay leaf, cinnamon stick, onion, peppers, ginger and any fresh or dried herb. They will release their flavor during the simmer but discard them before pureeing².
2. Make your life easier when preparing their meals
In an ideal world, you would cook your baby’s meals from scratch every single day. But in reality, when hunger strikes and you’re juggling seven hundred other tasks at hand, you’ve got to have a backup plan. I’m a stay at-home/ working from home mom and on days I barely have time to brush my hair (I bow to you, working moms and single parents). So, what I do to make my life easier is freeze portions of food³. I have frozen pureed lentils, mixed vegetables, chicken and veggies, green beans and meat,… I rarely freeze anymore because she’s more into finger foods4 now and feeding herself but it has been a lifesaver. Of course preparing your baby’s meals at home is better, but for those busy times or days out, a good store-bought jar of fruits or pasta bake will have to do. But not just any! There are plenty of brands in the market that use salt or sugar and other additives. Those are the brands that I would steer clear of. Where I live there are two brands that suited my baby’s palate and my nutritionist eye and those are Hipp (UK) and Wild Harvest (Canada). Both are organic and contain only the fruit/vegetable and water. We have tried just a couple of flavors but they were good.
2.Don’t let your personal preferences get in the way of introducing new foods
My husband and I don’t like persimmons (kharma or kaki in Arabic), my daughter loved them. She can eat them days in a row, with breakfast or in the afternoon. Just because you do not like a certain food doesn’t mean your kid won’t either. On the other hand, if your child doesn’t like what you have prepared, even if it took you a lot of thought and effort, don’t force them to eat it. It is not personal. They may not be in the mood, or it’s just that they have a different palate than yours. Try it some other day, try a different combination. Don’t give up though, they more often than not will acquire a taste for it.
3.Let your baby play with food
Your baby should be able to feel his food. Don’t worry about the mess. Just give your child the time and space to enjoy the eating experience and to work on his fine motor skills and coordination. Give baby-led weaning a try or if you want to offer pureed foods mix it up early with some finger foods such as zucchini or carrot strips. Do not be so afraid that your baby might choke and delay this phase. As long as the food is soft and you are always near to make sure he doesn’t bite more than he can chew, he will be fine. It is important, however, to know what to do in case of choking. A good tip here as well is to forget the plate, just put the food on the high chair tray. There’s nothing water and soap can’t clean.
4.Don’t force them to “clean” their plates
Some days they will eat four or five tablespoons of one dish, the next they will only eat two. Don’t force them to finish. When your baby starts turning her face to the food or stops picking up little chunks, she may be already full. Wait for a while and then offer again. If her reaction is till the same, stop. Let her recognize satiety cues. Don’t start creating bad eating habits this early. And sorry mom, if finishing my plate could have eradicated world hunger, I would never have left a spoonful. So please when you kids are older, don’t pull out the guilt card on them. When offered the right kinds of foods, no kid will willingly go to bed hungry.
These are my advice from my experience with my almost 9-month old baby girl. Every time I feel compelled to avoid the mess, I remember the coordination skills she is learning. Every time I feel like she hasn’t had enough to eat, I remember that she will let me know when she’s hungry again and that I want her grow up with a healthy relation with food.
Every mom, every dad knows what is best for their child and what works for them. What are your tips for a smooth and healthy feeding time?
1.Please check with your pediatrician first. You might want to try one herb/spice at a time, just in case of allergy. No salt or sugar of course. 2.At a later stage you can puree the aromatics with the food (minus the bay leaf and cinnamon stick) 3. I put the pureed food after it has cooled down in a silicon muffin tin and freeze. I then remove the frozen food and put it in plastic bags and write the date on the bag. Frozen baby food will last one month. 4. If she can eat anything I am preparing for us, I take out a portion for her before adding salt and extra seasonings.