Monday, August 20, 2012

The anatomy of: beginning solid foods

I did not look forward to Natalie turning 6 months old because I knew that was when we should begin feeding her solid food. I did not want the mess and the extra work when I knew Natalie would still be getting all or almost all her caloric intake from breast milk. Although it is true that starting solid food is a little messy (and I'm a neat freak, obviously) and there is some extra work, in the last couple of weeks it has started to get a lot better. In retrospect, my initial fears of solid food were a little silly, if nothing else than for the fact that it truly is the start of weaning, something I have been looking forward to beginning.

Solid food gear

Before you can really begin solid food you need some basic gear -- a place to seat the baby, sturdy bibs, and some unbreakable and sensitive-gum friendly dishes and utensils. We have made some splurges in this process, or more aptly our generous friends and family splurged for us, but I must say that almost everything we've used thus far has been great.

High chair and accessories

When I wrote about our baby registry choices I called the Stokke Tripp Trapp high chair our "wishful thinking" big-ticket item. I was absolutely thrilled that a group of girlfriends gifted me with it at my baby shower. Not only is it pretty, as I knew before we'd put it to use, but it also takes up little space which makes it a true winner for me in the world of baby gear. Babies are so small, why must so much of their gear take up so much space? Not this magical contraption. If you're not willing or able to splurge on this purchase, the booster-seat-on-a-dining-chair option seems like a great route to go.

Because the high chair was a gift I felt justified in purchasing two additional and seemingly essential accessories: Stokke Tripp Trapp Baby Set and Stokke Table Top. Both are investments, both have received mixed reviews from other Stokke Tripp Trapp users, but I am pleased with these two products coupled with our high chair. (Disclaimer: This may be partly due to the fact that I used gift cards to purchase the Baby Set at Buy Buy Baby, and I only dropped $60 on Amazon for the Table Top, though at the time of this writing the Table Top is even cheaper on Amazon.) The price tags are high, which is probably the biggest drawback of this high chair system. But, if you are able to stomach the price or get gifted these items, you will not be disappointed.

The Baby Set fits Natalie well, though for what it is worth she is on the small side. Still, even for larger babies the front piece of the Baby Set can be easily taken on and off the high chair, allowing for babies to enter and exit the contraption with minimal fuss and hopefully limited tears.

The Table Top really does its job by staying in place. It's large enough to cover an adequate baby feeding area while containing the mess. It is also easy to take off and wipe down.

I opted not to purchase any of the cute seat cushions that coordinate with the Tripp Trapp. I'm happy with this decision because it would just be one more item to clean, and I think a real advantage to the Tripp Trapp system is how easily it can all be cleaned. Also, our dogs are in dog heaven when Natalie's eating solid food and will gladly lick up anything that falls on the high chair's legs, or the floor, or Natalie's hand when she reaches down to pet them.

Bibs

Hands down, get the Baby Bjorn Soft Bibs. Though the name is a bit of a misnomer -- these are not really soft at all -- the product is amazing. Truly catch-all. Two should suffice.

Dishes and utensils

We have...
3 Boon Stayput saucers -- so far, these are as advertised (they stay put!), and the compartments are the right size for Natalie's serving portions.

3 Boon Catch Toddler bowls with spill catchers -- I want to love these, not only because of the "spill catcher" but also because of the suction-cup bottom. Unfortunately, the suction cups are not particularly effective, or at least not on the Stokke Table Top, which is made of plastic.

2 sets of Oxo Tot bowls -- Love these. Great sizes, microwaveable, covers fit nicely.

2 sets of Oxo Tot spoons -- I don't think there's much of a science to choosing a baby spoon, but these are holding up nicely, and so far having 4 spoons total has served us well, though I could imagine investing in one more set as Natalie starts to eat 3 meals a day.


We have some other solid food gear we haven't tested out yet, but so far what we have is serving us well. Most importantly, everything is dishwasher-safe.

Making baby food

The choice to make at least the majority of Natalie's baby food seemed like the best decision for Natalie from a health perspective and the best decision for our family from a financial standpoint.

Making your own baby food doesn't require much in the way of gear investments. The biggest ticket item is whatever kitchen tool you plan to use to do the pureeing. In our case we chose our food processor, but I know we could have easily used a blender. There is the popular Beaba Baby Food Maker which allows you to steam and puree foods all in one device, it just seems like a lot of money for a gadget you're likely to only use for a couple of months.

The only new item we needed to purchase for making our own baby food was this set of two Tovolo Perfect Cube Silicone Ice Cube Trays. The 1 ounce ice cube compartments are an ideal size for freezing baby food portions. I was looking for ice cube trays that are BPA-free and dishwasher-safe, and these meet both criteria. As an added bonus, it's easy to extract the contents of one cube at a time, but that doesn't really matter to us because we empty all the frozen cubes out of a tray at once and then store the contents in a labeled Ziploc freezer bag.

One small lesson I've learned is that 1 ounce of baby food is a lot for a baby, or at least our baby, getting a first taste of solids. If I was doing this over again I would freeze partly filled ice cube trays when a baby is just starting out with a food. Thawing and reheating a complete ounce of food is often too wasteful.

When it comes to the physical act of pureeing, I don't think we have much to add to the dialogue except to say Natalie really prefers the smoothest purees possible, so we've added a lot of water to the batches. She hasn't taken to mashed avocado or banana, so we've even pureed those. The consistency she most prefers is the kind achieved in the Plum Organics pouch blend. We had a free sample of the pear and mango blend that she thoroughly enjoyed. I can see the appeal of those pouches. They're healthy and convenient though of course a little pricey.

Our solid food schedule

As you have probably noticed or guessed, I am a bit of a rule follower, so Matt and I have chosen a fairly traditional approach to starting food.

We began with rice cereal right after Natalie turned 6 months old, using the recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics that babies be exclusively breast fed until 6 months old. We offered Natalie rice cereal once a day for three days before beginning to introduce different types of fruits and vegetables. The first few times Natalie had rice cereal we mixed it with breast milk, but after that initial span of a few days we started mixing it with water instead. I don't have a strong reason to share as to why we did this other than the simple fact that she won't be drinking breast milk for the rest of her life and needs to learn to adjust to other flavors.

At first Natalie would only tolerate a few bites of rice cereal. Then she would start screaming. I thought my worst fears regarding solid foods were being realized: she hates it, I hate it, our floors hate it. Turns out, though, all it takes is a little patience. Within a week or two she was eating most of her helping of rice cereal, and today she even seems eager for more.

After we got Natalie eating rice cereal we started to add one new fruit or vegetable puree every 3 days. Although there really is no particular order in which babies need to be introduced to foods (and we've read plenty of conflicting information from health professionals), here's what we've done so far, just to give you an idea:
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Bananas
  • Pears and mangos
  • Carrots
  • Avocados
  • Apple sauce
  • Peas
  • Cauliflower

Next up:
  • Peaches
  • Bananas mixed with blueberries

Not surprising news: Natalie is not a huge fan of vegetables, particularly peas and cauliflower. This has resulted in me singing, "All we are saying is give peas a chance!" over and over again to no avail. Natalie has also demonstrated that she would rather choke than eat cauliflower, as she has now revealed on three separate occasions.

When Natalie was 6 months old we were giving her one meal of solids per day. In the beginning it was just rice cereal, and then it was just rice cereal and one other item, and eventually we started giving her three foods at once. We continue to keep rice cereal as part of each meal and incorporate one vegetable and one fruit on a rotating basis.

At 7 months we started giving her two meals of solids per day. Almost like clockwork she simultaneously started going from 5 breastfeeding sessions per day down to 4. This was heavenly.

Our plan is to have her start eating 3 meals of solids per day at the 8-month mark.

Like all things with babies, it seems like once you get a routine going it gets better. Tomorrow's adventure: peaches.

1 comment:

  1. Really good post Steph! Glad Nat is liking solids better. I'd hold off on getting two more oxo spoons. In a few months she is probably going to be going after food using her fingers and after that you will probably want a spoon that is a little wider. I found the oxo spoons to be good for small bites of purees but now they are too small. Sammy really likes the boon modware utensils.

    Couldn't agree more with your last statement. All it takes is a few days of patience from both the parent and baby and a new routine develops and off you both go on your merry way.

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