Baby Food: When the Wee Ones Think They Can Eat Like Us

For the past 10 months or so, I have had a baby living in my home. (I gave birth to him, and have been told that he will, most likely, be a regular fixture around the house for the next 20 or so years.) Mr. Moo, as he is known in non-legal circles, is a bit feisty. Now that he is old enough to crawl and eat food, I find that my job as a parent can be boiled down to two things: keep him safe and keep him fed.

I’m not doing so well on the safety front as I have caught the Moo playing with plastic bags (So obviously not a toy! It says so right on the bag… jeez, kid.), trying to put the end of a phone charger in his mouth (yes, it was plugged in at the time), and making a great escape out an open door. But, to my credit, the only time he has actually injured himself has been at daycare. I’m glad I can pay people to make the serious mistakes.

The food front started off just as rocky. Mr. Moo was born a hefty babe at 8 lbs, 12 oz, but quickly lost steam until he was falling off the growth chart. He has since rebounded nicely due in large part to my channeling Julia Child and cooking everything he eats in butter. But as the Moo transitioned from a liquid to a more solid diet, I received very little advice from his pediatrician and a bunch of conflicting advice from web sites and baby food cookbooks.

As a public service, I’ve created my own list of things I think you should know about feeding babies grown-up like food. Obviously, I’m not a doctor so when it comes to food allergens, timing, and types of food, listen to your child’s pediatrician first. But hopefully this will help.

Baby with spoon in his mouth

Mr. Moo enjoys a few spicy lentils.

Try Everything First

Loads of books and web sites say that your baby’s first food should be rice cereal. Dutifully, we gave the Moo plain rice cereal for his first “solid” (quotes because it’s practically liquid). I was curious so I tried it. Um, glue has more taste. Actually, glue has a better taste. I was so disgusted, that I had to modify it. Subsequent rice cereal creations included mixed with formula, mixed with breast milk, and mixed with formula plus cinnamon. And, that was the last time the Moo ate rice cereal on its own. I still have most of the first box we bought and only use it to make liquidy stuff chunkier.

This “rule” (if you’d like to call it a rule) will also help remind you why you hate certain foods. I want the Moo to have a varied diet so I have made him creamed peas and mashed up beets. I loathe both of these vegetables (just typing the word beets makes me gag in the back of my throat). But, I tried them again just so I could tell Mr. Moo, “See? Mommy eats them, too. Mommy also spits them in this napkin, but pay no attention to that part of the demonstration.”

You Can Make Your Own Baby Food

I am not going to get righteous and say you should never buy the jarred or pre-packaged baby food. But, seriously, read the above section. Have you tried the jarred stuff? Some is just a bit ick. Of course, the main reason I didn’t go the jarred route is that I hate grocery shopping and processed baby food is found at grocery stores. Yes, it IS faster for me to make my own baby food than go down yet another aisle at that infernal store. I just blended whatever I made for myself into the appropriate consistency for the baby (omitting salt and sugar from cooking). You don’t even need a fancy baby steamer/grinder. I used the microwave and our mini food processor—or sometimes a ricer or fork. Then, if I make more than one serving, I stick the extra in ramekins or ice cube trays in the freezer for later. Bonus: You don’t have leftovers sitting around in the fridge getting nastier by the day.

Meat Might Take Some Work

Mr. Moo had his first bit of chicken when he was about 6 months old. I pureed it with prunes and he hated it. (Interestingly enough, his pediatrician told me to just shred it for him because as he said, “Would you want to eat pureed meat?” Good point, Doc.) Next, I shredded and cut it into chunks, and the Moo still didn’t take to it. I actually think he found it a bit bland. Because when I mixed the chicken with spicy beans and veggies, he was all over it. But, it could be that he’s a vegetarian. In which case, his sausage-loving father will disown him post-haste.

Rock the Herbs and Spices

I like things hot and spicy. People have often said that babies don’t like spices because of their undeveloped palates. How are you going to develop a baby’s palate if you don’t give the baby something with taste? I’m pretty sure Mr. Moo enjoys fruit because it’s sweet. And, he probably likes the vegetables because of the aforementioned copious amount of butter. So why not help the game out with a bit of nutmeg or garlic or coriander. He seems to especially love lentils with curry.

Match Your Baby’s Clothes to His/Her Food

What sort of Martha Stewart rule is this, you ask? It’s not for the sake of being matchy-matchy. Give a baby blueberry yogurt while said baby is wearing a white onesie. Then, you tell me why my baby wears navy blue anytime he’s about to eat dark-colored food.

Invest in a Dog

For a similar reason to the whole matching food to wardrobe rule, a dog will save you a healthy amount of time picking food up off the floor.

Take Your Baby to Restaurants

Hey! Stop throwing things at me, you people without babies! Let me finish. Take your baby out to LUNCH at restaurants that cater to families. You can tell a restaurant caters to families when:

  1. They have a children’s menu.
  2. They have high chairs (usually stacked up by the restrooms).
  3. They have a baby changing station in one or both of said restrooms.
  4. They do not have very nice carpeting on the floors (see the Investing in a Dog section for more information on this).
A baby eating cheese

The Moo is very discerning about his cheese bits.

I suggest taking young children to restaurants so you can begin to train them on how to properly eat in an adult environment. Yes, this can be an exhausting, embarrassing, messy business. But, if you suddenly drop your 6 year old in a dining establishment without the proper training, you can bet it’s going to be a whole lot worse. Lunch is good because it usually comes in between naps and is a quicker, less formal meal. I usually bring a back-up yogurt in case the Moo doesn’t like what I order him (sides, pancakes, bread, or the occasional grilled cheese usually work). Just remember the cardinal rules on dining with child: Clean up whatever gets dumped on the floor by your offspring and be ready to drop a wad of cash and leave if your lovely tot turns into a screaming devil.

Pretty Easy, Right?

So, that’s all you need to know about feeding a baby. OH! You need to know how much food to give the baby or in what order to feed certain foods? Um, I just feed Mr. Moo until he either shakes his head “no” or starts spitting the food out at me. And, as you can probably tell, I started feeding him solids pretty early on (as soon as he could sit up with help) and I just threw all sorts of food at him. The only things he hasn’t eaten are choking hazards (popcorn, nuts, jelly beans) and peanut butter. But when I do feed him peanut butter, I don’t think it’s going to be PB&J, but maybe pad thai or something fun.

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  1. #1 by Erin Maloney Sorenson on 6.14.2011 - 7:52 pm

    Lizzie–
    You’re funny! I loved reading this. I have never followed the food rules with my boys. Will’s first food was avocado and he still loves it. He also loves hummus, soft cheeses (even the stinky kinds!!!), and all sorts of ethnic cuisine. Ever since he was able to, he’s eaten what we eat, and we don’t eat bland food very often. People often comment on how “unpicky” he is.

    We have done the same with Patrick, but he seems naturally less adventurous as an eater, but more adventurous in about every other area of life. Go figure! And I agree about taking babies to restaurants–they have to learn how to eat in public sometime, and we need to get out to stay sane. I’m a fan of restaurants with terrible acoustics–high ceilings, wood floors, etc. Drowns out the inevitable fussy periods.

    I have to admit I do buy baby food at the grocery store…not as much now that Patrick is 15 mos old…but I do keep them on hand. I LOVE the pouches they sell now–the Happy Baby Organics are actually really good. Many of the varieties are fruits/veggies mixed, and that makes the veggies actually taste good. In a pinch, I’d suck one of those bad boys down. 🙂 Patrick doesn’t seem to like veggies–even doused in butter–so these veggies in disguise have been a lifesaver.

    Thanks for your blog–it’s fun to read!

    Erin

    • #2 by e.marie on 6.14.2011 - 10:27 pm

      i’m glad you like it… i haven’t tried the pouches, but he gets organic jarred food at daycare twice a week… (mostly turkey dinner concoctions)… the moo is hit or miss with hummus… i think it’s more of his expectations… if i give it to him after something else, he thinks it’s apple sauce and starts to make faces… but if he gets it first, he loves it… kids are so weird… i’m glad yours are unpicky eaters… i’m hoping for the same!

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