As parents, making sure we’re giving our little ones everything they need in terms of food and nutrition is a pretty high priority.
I breast fed my little one for about 3 months, though I was a nearly exclusive pumper so she drank mostly from a bottle pretty much from birth. Why? Because she was a biter, and breastfeeding just plain hurt! I tried, about 7-8 weeks in, to get her to feed from the breast, because I felt slightly guilty that I was missing that “bonding” part of breastfeeding, but she wouldn’t have any part of it. After some discussion with myself and my husband, I realized that was A-OK. She was getting the nutrients and nutrition she needed from the breast milk, and that was all that mattered. [Exclusive pumping was its own special kind of Hell, and I will write a separate post about that in the future, but it was well worth it to give my baby healthy nutrients and antibodies, especially since she was born on the smaller side.]
I went back to work when Maddie was around seven weeks old. I continued pumping for about a month after going back to work. Talk about work – that was hard work! Not only having to pump every two to three hours at work, but having to continue to wake up to pump every two to three hours at night as well….and then get up and go to work in the morning. That all proved to be too much for me, eventually, and again, it’s OK. Maddie got the benefits of my breast milk for the first three months of her life; I did good. That’s easy for me to say now, but the doubt and insecurity definitely lingered during that time. Was I failing her? Was I giving up too easily? The answer is a loud and resounding NO. But, that’s just hard to understand and believe ‘in the heat of the moment’ when hormones and emotions are running amok.
After that, she drank straight formula – Similac – and she tolerated it and the transition perfectly. We were lucky. I’ve heard of others who have very picky eaters and have had to try multiple formulas to find one their little one would eat. Not Maddie; she took every change in stride and didn’t complain once. We’re blessed in that aspect.
Then, starting around four months, we started introducing real food. Being a bargain shopper and couponer, I had found coupons for some of the baby food pouches, then subsequently found several on clearance, so I stocked up on those. The pouches ended up being great. Maddie loved all the different flavors and varieties. I loved that she was being exposed to a wide variety of healthy foods. I also loved that the pouches were easy to use – squeeze onto a spoon and serve – and could keep for 24-48 hours after being opened. Two of the brands I really enjoyed were Plum Organics and Sprout Organics (it doesn’t hurt that both offer lots of coupons for their products!). We continue using the pouches to this day, though nowadays she holds the pouch herself and eats directly from it.
We also fed (and still feed) the pureed baby fruits and veggies that come in the glass jars. We’ve gone with Beech Nut foods – cheap, healthy, easy to feed, and palatable. I still hold the spoon to feed her. She’s getting to the point where she wants to hold the spoon, so I’ll often put some food on the spoon and then give it to her to put in her mouth. I’m not sure when the “baby can use utensils” stage comes, but we’re not there yet. As a consequence, I have ended up feeling over the past couple of months like I need to increase the amount of ‘finger foods’ I give her that she can feed to herself.
Don’t get me wrong, we do “puffs” – Sprout, Plum Organics, Gerber, and Beech Nut all make good ones – which she enjoys. She feeds herself, they’re not terribly messy, she likes them OK – all in all a win. But, they’re fairly empty calories, don’t seem to contain a whole lot of nutrition, and they’re simply not her favorite taste. She tends to chew/suck on them for a little bit and then spit out what’s left.
Maddie has also eaten small pieces of whatever we’re eating from around six months old. This is not usually done in “meal” format, but more “here, try a piece of this.” Pieces of biscuit, cornbread, pancakes, pasta, chicken, broccoli, peas, green beans, etc. were all good for a few bites.
But then I started reading about how babies by 12 months should be eating “meals” with the family, and mostly consisting of finger foods. I felt like I was missing something. What is a meal to an 11-month-old? “They” would suggest cutting things into “small pieces.” Well, how small? Small enough to just swallow, or a little bit bigger so as to encourage chewing? These are the questions my brain always seems to ask when I try to research something as complex as feeding a nearly one-year-old. After doing some digging, I got some good ideas.
As I understand it from compiling the multiple articles I read, a “meal” should be about the size of the baby’s fist. And “meal time” seems to be more about a schedule than about eating. It’s trying to get them in the habit of (1) eating when everyone else eats and (2) understanding that there are certain times of day that we eat food. Makes sense. A “meal” should incorporate two to three different food items, preferably across the major food groups.
Some ideas of finger foods that I read about and liked were: small pieces of cooked vegetables (we do this a lot), small cut up pieces of cheese or shredded cheese, slices of deli meats, scrambled eggs (Maddie loves these), hard boiled egg (we haven’t yet tried this), small/short pieces of pasta, toast spread with a thin layer of peanut butter, meatloaf/meatballs, crackers. I like this list from Your Kids Table.
One other thing on the above list was beans. “Oh!” I thought, “Great idea!” So I promptly went to the pantry last night and pulled out a can of kidney beans (should have gone with black, but I didn’t). I cut them up into small pieces, and….she loved them! But, what I quickly realized, was that she wasn’t so much a fan of the skin. So, I had to laugh at myself, because I spent an hour last night cutting beans up into three pieces, and then carefully peeling the skin off each piece until I had a glass baby jar full of bean innards. But, now I have a great, healthy food on hand to feed the baby, and they will last for a while! Here are some photos so that you can laugh at me with me!