how we're surviving: starting solids
If you've met me for more than five minutes or have ever peeked at my Instagram, it is evident that I love to eat. My mom says that, as a baby, I would start to cry every time I finished my meal. Thirty years later, nothing has changed.
So, you can imagine my delight when our pediatrician gave us the green light to start Aveline on solids at four months. I'd been preparing for this moment since literally before she was born: some research says that a baby's palate is shaped even in utero, so I was scarfing everything from Indian to Italian while I was pregnant. All for the baby, of course. And after she was born, I knew that whatever I was eating actually flavors my breast milk, meaning that if I really wanted her to like uni and Gruyere cheese, I had no choice but to eat them all the time. Again, for the baby. Sacrifice, thy name is mother.
I fantasized way more than was necessary about what her first bite of solid food would be. Macaroni and cheese! Pumpkin pie! Maybe even Wagyu? I was game to puree anything. Sadly, those dreams were dashed at the doctor's office. "Single food purees," our pediatrician told us. "Fruits, veggies or grains." So boring! But, the reason for this, of course, is to rule out allergies (and also not to totally overwhelm taste buds that have only had milk before). So, while it's certainly less exciting, I understood the precaution.
For Avvie's very first bite, we settled on carrots. I figured it was better to start with a vegetable, and they are definitely more appetizing than say, plain broccoli. It didn't go quite the way I expected. But within a few days, she was getting the hang of opening her mouth for the spoon, swallowing, and most important, enjoying it. In that first month we tried everything from raw raspberries to oatmeal to the yuppiest kale-quinoa-chia seed puree. I mostly spoon fed her, but we also tried a few methods that are championed by baby-led weaning groups, like giving her a huge piece of apple to gnaw on so she learns about the connection between taste and texture.
And now, after our six month checkup, we have the green light for everything except honey (which you should avoid until at least one year old), so she's scarfed down hard boiled egg, baked beans, smashed avocado with lemon juice, and even whitefish salad. But mostly, she's still eating purees three times a day, which she seems to dig.
Obviously I'm no expert, since we've only been eating for about two months, but here's what I've learned so far:
Your baby is not Rene Redzepi
Don't give your baby ants or live shrimp as her first food. (But, fun fact! Mike and I DID eat live shrimp when we went to Noma.) Start with the basics (plain carrot, banana, etc.) and don't be upset if she doesn't seem to like eating at first. She'll get the hang of it soon enough, but what's most important is to just keep trying. Eating solids is an entirely new concept for babies and it's not intuitive; it takes time.
Timing is everything
Avvie eats solids three times a day, within about 30 minutes after she nurses or has a bottle. I've found that if I try and feed her right before it's time to have her milk, she'll fill up on that and hardly drink, which is no bueno.
Invest in some fun feeding tools
Since we live in a tiny box (aka Manhattan), we opted for a clamp-on high chair instead of a traditional floor model. We've been really happy with the Inglesina Fast Table Chair and bought the tray that clips on top of it. I also recommend getting a splat mat for underneath the chair, since there is a small gap between the chair and the table. Obviously, 99% of her food ends up falling to the floor from that narrow space. We've been very happy with these Boon feeding spoons and I also love the OXO Tot travel spoon, since it has its own case. I bought this squeezable Boon spoon as well, but haven't had a chance to test it out yet. I have a love-hate relationship with our mesh feeder: it's great that she can gnaw/suck on her favorite fruits like bananas, peaches, and watermelon in it, but it's a huge pain to clean.
Sample different baby foods
You guys: the fruit purees are DELICIOUS. I'm thinking about buying a bunch of the banana oatmeal ones for myself so I can stir them into my yogurt. We've tried basically every organic puree brand that's out there; to be honest, I don't think Avvie has much of a preference, other than the fact that she likes the sweeter ones better. But in terms of availability and interesting flavors, I like Plum Organics, Happy Baby, Peter Rabbit Organics, and Ella's Kitchen. Avvie is also obsessed with Baby Mum-Mums, especially when I spread a little soft cheese on top.
Cook some stuff, too
Full disclosure here: I am not one of those moms who is making all of my own baby food. When I can buy organic sweet potato puree for under two bucks, it's just not worth it to me to spend the hours doing it myself. That being said, Avvie is certainly tasting some of the food I'm making for the adults: she loves things like kefir and hummus, which are already at a texture that she can eat. And I've been having fun tweaking her baby oatmeal and stirring interesting flavors into it like almond butter or cinnamon.
What are your baby feeding tips? Drop 'em in the comments!