Monday, October 26, 2009

Time for solids: The skinny on healthy feeding

My extreme dislike of peas is a family legend. At the tender age of four I went toe to toe with my dad at the dinner table, sitting for hours refusing to eat my peas and finally being sent to bed. I think I won that round, as dad never tried that tactic again. So when it came time to feed Pooka her first meal I put a considerable amount of thought into what that first meal would be. It became clear last week that she needed more than mommies milk to get through a night (she woke up ravenous at 3 AM three nights in a row, which is very unusual). I was very happy that we made it just shy of 6 months of exclusive breast feeding.

The first issue was what to feed Pooka for her first meal. I was armed with several books to help me make this decision. First, I had decided to make homemade baby food as often as possible. I have two books on home made baby food, the Organic Baby and Toddler Food Cookbook, by Lizzie Vann and Cooking for Baby by Lisa Barnes and have found them both very useful. To be honest though, at the outset you are steaming a single vegetable and pureeing it in your blender or food processor, so the cookbooks are a little irrelevant at this point. Many of my mom friends are also big fans of the Beaba BabyCook, which steams food and then purees it all in one bowl. It is BPA free but unclear whether it contains PVC or phalates, so make sure you do your research if you plan on using it daily. Personally, we live in a studio so adding another appliance to our counter didn't seem like a good idea. I actually use a hand or stick blender (sometimes called an emulsifier) which is great because I can use it right in the pot or a bowl, takes up little space, is portable for trips away, and makes a fab smoothie right in the glass you drink it from. I parcel out enough puree for a few days in the fridge, then freeze the rest in trays. Right now I am using the Beaba Multiportion Trays which are silicon and BPA, PVC, and phalate free. The silicon makes it easy to pop out a single portion when you need it, but I have found that I only need to fill them halfway to make a Pooka size portion at this stage. I also have the Kid Co BabySteps Freezer Trays that are designed more like an ice tray with a lid. They are BPA and phalate free and like an ice cube tray, you need to smack it on the counter a few times to loosen up a baby food cube. Kid Co also makes a manual or electric food mill as an alternative method of pureeing foods for baby (the battery operated food mill is great when you are on the go and want to feed baby from the table).

So now the question was what that food should actually be. I was inspired by two books, Feeding Baby Green by Dr. Alan Greene and Hungry Monkey by Matthew Amster-Burton. Feeding Baby Green is a fantastic book describing how babies start experiencing tastes while still in the womb and continue exploring new tastes through the first 2 years. He discusses windows of opportunity to expand your child's palate and hopefully encourage them to eat a wider variety during the picky toddler years when children experience Neophobia (otherwise known as "I will only eat french fries and chicken nuggets, and don't even think about bringing that green thing near me!"). He suggests trying as many as 10-15 times before your child excepts a particular food, and making sure to feed your child produce from all 21 categories he lists in his book. He also dispels many myths about food allergies and outdated modes of thinking when it comes to feeding babies and toddlers. We're on board with his program, I only wish it had been out when I was pregnant! Hungry Monkey is more of a foodlogue about a gourmet dad's effort to expose his daughter to a variety of foods, particularly those that people say kids shouldn't eat. It's humorous and encourages parents to think a little outside the rice-cereal box!

So Pooka ate her first solids a little over a week ago. We decided to bypass the rice-cereal for now. Her first meal was peas and she can't get enough. Seriously! By the end of her first meal she was literally opening her mouth, leaning forward, grabbing my hands and pushing the spoon into her mouth. Thinking my luck would hold I introduced Pooka to one of my favorite veggies a few days later, green beans. On her first bite she made a lip quivering frown and spit them out. Hmmmm, certainly not what I had expected, but perhaps apropos since I loathed peas as a child and she adores them. Since then she has enjoyed roasted acorn squash and had a mixed review of raw avocados. Per Dr. Green's method we tried the green beans again last night which garnered a slightly less strident rejection, but I think we still have a ways to go!

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