My biggest inspiration for this blog is my son Nicholas. He just turned 2 last month, which I cannot believe. The last two years have been a whirlwind. So much can change in such a short amount of time. Some of my first few posts will be spent catching up on the last two years of dietary adventures. Although I was very sleep deprived for the first 12 months plus, I will do my best to recollect any important details. I thought it would be best to start from the beginning; Nicholas’s first ‘solid’ food.
When Nicholas was about 4 or 5 months old, I took a course on how to make homemade baby food purees. I was a little leery on feeding him anything out of a jar, especially when he seemed so small and vulnerable. However, what ended up really selling me on this idea was tasting the difference between the pre-made and homemade versions. As I may have mentioned; I love food, and I want Nicholas to love food as much as I do. Therefore, it makes sense to me to introduce him to the full potential of flavours as early as possible. The packaged varieties just don’t cut it for me flavour-wise. Plus we have access to farm fresh organic produce and making the purees was so simple. It wasn’t really a hard choice to make.
I waited the recommended 6 months to introduce ‘solids’ and spent quite a bit of time contemplating which foods I would introduce first. The recommendations on infant feeding had just been revised, so I no longer had to worry about avoiding the long list of allergens. Now almost anything goes, with the exception of dairy (not until 9-12 months) and honey (not until 12 months). You are also encouraged to introduce meats or iron rich foods early on as an infant’s iron stores begin to dwindle around 6 months of age.
Here is a link to Health Canada’s infant feeding recommendations:
I finally decided on acorn squash as his first food. We had some fresh from our farm share. He loved it! I can’t quite remember the exact order of the foods which followed but I know broccoli, quinoa, and sweet potato were in there. I also can’t remember which meat I introduced first, but it was probably chicken or turkey. He gobbled everything up, just as I had hoped. My 6 month old; the foodie!
Here is a pic of Nicholas getting his first taste of solid food. Based on his expression, his mind is completely blown.
Making purees is really simple. Anyone with a blender can do it.
Here are the basic instructions on turning foods into baby food purees:
Fruits and Veggies:
- Cut the fruits or vegetables into small chunks and steam or boil until soft. *Avocados do not need to be steamed, and it’s debatable whether bananas need to be cooked first for younger babies, as raw bananas may constipate them.
- Cool and then transfer the cooked fruits/veggies into a blender, Magic Bullet, or food processor with breast milk, the leftover liquid you used to cook, or a combination of both. Blend well until you get the desired consistency.
Tip: I liked to use at least some of the left-over water you used to steam, as you are adding back some of the nutrients that were leeched from the veggies as they cooked.
I also sometimes freeze the left-over liquid to use when making grains. This adds extra flavour as well as nutrients.
- Cut the meat into small chunks or break apart a package of organic ground meat and place it in a medium sized pot with a tight fitting lid.
- Cook the meat in a pot with some water in the bottom (about ¼-1/2 inch) and the lid on, so you are basically steaming or simmering the meat. Heat should be med-low.
- Keep stirring and make sure the water does not boil away so that the meat does not start to brown.
- Once the meat is cooked through, cool and transfer it to a blender, Magic Bullet, or food processor. Add breast milk or water, and blend until you reach the desired consistency. Mmmmm, meat smoothie.
Tip: I always use dark meat, as it has a higher iron content. The extra fat in the dark meat also creates a better consistency.
- Put your whole grains in a blender, Magic Bullet (or similar), and blitz with the grinder blade (2 blades which lay flat) until they are your desired grind. Start with a very fine powder and work your way up to lumpier textures.
- Boil 1-2 cups of water, depending on the consistency you are aiming for and add ¼ cup of powder (Oatmeal may take less water ¾ cup – 1 cup). *It may take a bit of trial and error to get the consistency just right.
- Bring back to a boil, then turn the heat down to simmer and cover.
- Cook for 10 minutes, whisking regularly to avoid clumping.
Tip: When making oatmeal, steel cut oats are best. Avoid using instant oats or quick oats. When making rice, use any type of brown rice.
Notes on Consistency: Generally, you want to start with a smoother consistency and work your way up to a lumpier texture. I would recommend working your way up to a lumpier consistency fairly quickly to get your little one used to a variation of textures. Introducing a wider variety of textures early is being linked to less picky eating later on.
Storing and Freezing: It’s most convenient to make big batches and freeze the purees in small mason jars or a stainless steel (or other freezer safe) ice cube trays. Once the cubes are frozen, you can transfer them into a larger container. You can then just take out a cube of this and a cube of that, warm it up in a small sauce pan, and serve. Frozen purees can last in the freezer for up to 6 months, but are best consumed within 3 months.
I haven’t tried freezing any of the grains as I hear that they do not freeze well. It’s easy enough to make a pot of what you need, and keep it in the fridge to use over the course of 2-3 days.
Always label the containers so you know what’s what. After all, how else would you tell the difference between a chicken cube and a turkey cube, or a kale cube and a spinach cube? I occasionally think my memory is up for the challenge but it rarely works as well as I hope.
Here is my go-to website for all things baby food:
Baby Led Weaning/Feeding (BLW)
For those of you who have never heard of BLW, it’s basically giving your baby finger foods right off the bat and skipping the whole puree stage. The foods need to be a big enough so they have a ‘handle’ to hold while they gnaw on it. The idea is that they will have more of a chance to explore ‘real’ foods and will begin chewing and swallowing the foods at their own pace. I’ve read up quite a bit on this subject, and I have a few friends who used this method. I would actually say that I used a combination of purees and BLW for Nicholas. However, while I understand the concept and agree with most of the philosophies, I just wasn’t comfortable committing to it fully. I enjoyed making the purees, and I was a little nervous about giving Nicholas whole chunks of food to gnaw on at 6 months. I was also anxious to get as much solid food into him as possible to see if it would get him sleeping longer (which is a story for another time). It didn’t. It did however give me more confidence when I started introducing finger foods. I started to give him soft foods with ‘handles’ earlier than most other moms I knew and earlier than I would have otherwise.
A place to start for more info on Baby Led Weaning:
I don’t really feel there is a right and wrong choice between purees and BLW (as long as you are introducing lots of textures with the purees). It just comes down to what works best for you and what seems right for your baby. All families are different and all babies are different, and there isn’t always going to be a one size fits all approach. I think the most important part is making sure your little one is eating a healthy diet. If you are able to provide homemade nutritious foods, it doesn’t matter what form it’s in. Keeping everyone healthy and happy should take top priority.