It’s a mystery how our little gourmands work. If only they could talk and tell us how they feel and what they feel like eating. I’ve run into many moms at the supermarket, the farmers market, at yoga, where this is a hot topic of conversation yet everyone leaves with a question mark still sitting in their heads. I know their frustration. There isn’t a ton of (good) information on what to feed babies, how much and when. What there is, is often contradicting. What are we newbie moms to do?
We are left to our own devices and instincts to introduce our babies to the world of food. It’s a big task! Giving our babies a sound nutritional foundation from which to spring is key to their health for the rest of their lives*. We are responsible for setting a good example. You’ll definitely think twice about having that danish for breakfast when you’ve got a little one beckoning for some of your food! Parenting is the most reflective practice I’ve experienced yet.
Contrary to what we adults may think, babies have surprisingly open-minded palates. Not to mention a keen ability to “chew” food even if they lack the hardware (a full set of teeth) to perform such tasks. When I was living in Japan, I was astonished to see babies snacking on dried fish and sea vegetables. Kids took bentos to school for lunch, filled with rice, fish or other protein, natto (fermented soybeans), etc. As if kids just want candy. Of course, if candy were constantly available, what kid wouldn’t eat it. We’re hard-wired to crave the sweetness. We’re not, however, designed to eat it round the clock. Nor are we designed to eat processed sweets or processed anything.
We are lucky that we get our produce from an organic farm that is about 1 hour away. Local AND organic is a luxury that is difficult to find despite increasing numbers of farmers markets. Organic food is nutrient dense, it is real food and it is very important both personally and professionally, but that importance multiplies exponentially when I think about Claire eating.
The produce from the CSA is slightly more bitter overall. It’s stronger in flavor and tastes like it just came from the Earth. It did!
She eats whatever we get each week in our cherished box. She’s eaten most vegetables; beets, sweet potatoes, dark leafy greens from escarole and dandelion greens to spinach and chard, squash, potatoes, carrots, celery, corn, peas, etc. She also eats most fruit (no citrus or berries yet) and animal protein. Claire just isn’t into purees so I dice her veg and steam. For greens, I steam and then put them in the food processor. I then add a drop of olive oil or coconut oil to increase the bioavailability of the fat-soluble vitamins. She loves it.
Getting into food combos has been fun. Her favorites have been:
- chicken and avocado (I put a few pieces of roasted chicken in the food processor till it was fully shredded and found that I can then form little balls with the soft chicken.)
- beets and potatoes
- spinach and carrots
- nectarines and chard
- ground beef and spinach
- egg yolk and parsley (or cilantro)
I haven’t yet introduced grains but plan to in the next few weeks. I’ll probably start her on amaranth and quinoa. She also is not consuming any kind of dairy. (The question of dairy is for another post entirely…maybe 2!)
Up until a couple of months ago, Claire’s only food had been mother’s milk. Her food has been raw. It hasn’t even been exposed to air. Needless to say, the introduction of food can wreak havoc on a developing digestive system. I noticed this especially after giving her lentils, therefore I haven’t pushed any other beans or pulses. (Processed foods are much harder for baby’s delicate digestive system to digest.)
After a worrying amount of time in the constipation doldrums, I called the doctor’s office. The advice I got from the nurse was, “don’t give her toast, make her bran muffins, if it doesn’t get better, give her corn syrup.”**
None of that advice was applicable to us, so I went to work. I began to give Claire raw coconut water daily. I gave her prune juice diluted in water. She ate plums for breakfast. I then made a prune and apricot compote (see recipe below). These all gave mild results. It wasn’t until I began giving her cod liver oil that her system got back on track. It honestly worked like a charm!
I started by adding a 1/4t to her food which she ate with the same enthusiasm. Now she takes it by the spoonful (still 1/4t) before she eats.
Introducing your baby to food can throw you for a loop. It threw me for one! There are so many rights and wrongs, so many opinions, comments, comparisons. What I have found is that following my instincts has served me well…so has following tradition. Claire eats the same food I eat. Bitter greens? Yup. Sweet vegetables and tart fruit? Yes. Astringent vegetables, salt? Uh huh. I’m not sure that you’ll find what I’m doing in a book, then again, maybe you will. I’m just interested in maximizing Claire’s nutrition as well as giving her ample opportunities to explore different flavors. I’m not interested in “kid foods”. If we’re having salmon for dinner, she’s having some version of it, too. So far, so good. She loves meal time and kicks her legs and waves her arms in excitement as she sees her plate being prepared. I’m told this will change. Like all else in parenting, there is no such thing as linear progression and there will always be a ton of surprises!
Let us know what you’re doing, what’s working and what isn’t. New moms can use all the support we can get!
Enjoy your food journey with your little ones!
Prune and Apricot Compote
Makes 1 C
1/2 C pitted prunes, roughly chopped
1/2 C dried apricots, roughly chopped
1 cinnamon stick
1. Soak the dried fruit and cinnamon stick in a sauce pan with enough (filtered) water to cover, overnight.
2. Remove the cinnamon stick and place saucepan over medium heat, bringing to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cook until the liquid becomes thicker and syrup-like.
3. Let cool and serve 1-2 T per sitting to baby. You can also mix with other foods such as sweet potatoes or spinach.
It’s also great for you to top your yogurt or granola;)
*If you haven’t seen HBO’s Weight of the Nation, please do!
**I should note that we LOVE our pediatrician, who is also an acupuncturist. There is a wide range of views held by the nurses in the office, however!