Wednesday, June 03, 2009


Or, What Would Baby Carrie Eat?

It seems that these days we have two options for feeding babies--either we can spend a fortune on matching little jars (admittedly useful for all those VBS projects) or we can spend a fortune in time laboriously creating gourmet meals at home. Some sites dedicated to making baby food make it sound like a meal I wouldn't expect to get unless someone gave me a very large gift certificate.

Neither of these options appeal to me. I have always made my own baby food, in a fairly simple manner (cook up extra of whatever plain meat/vegetable is around, puree in blender, freeze in ice cube trays). Nonetheless, with twins life becomes even more complicated and I don't always have the perfect balance of meat, starch, green vegetable, yellow vegetable, and fruit that I carefully fed to the older two.

Then one day the older children were playing Laura and Mary as usual and I asked myself: "What did Ma feed Baby Carrie?" She didn't have little jars and she didn't have a blender or freezer or even a baby food grinder. I bet she didn't even follow the four-days-before-introducing-a-new-food rule. Yet somehow Baby Carrie survived.

The obvious answer finally dawned on me: breastmilk (or good-quality formula) is complete nutrition for babies. It's not enough to keep older babies happy, especially when they see everybody else eating that interesting food, but as long as they're continuing to nurse, they're getting a well-rounded supply of nutrients, and pretty much any food will work to give them practice swallowing and digesting. No doubt Ma simply fed Baby Carrie the mushier parts of whatever meal she was already cooking: hasty pudding; boiled squash, mashed potatoes, pease porridge cooled off.

Eventually babies have more complicated nutritional needs, but by that time they also have more complicated mouths that can chew softish food and have practiced enough on the really mushy stuff to swallow more complicated textures without gagging.

And the four-day rule? For common allergens or if you have serious reasons for concern, this makes sense. (I found out that D3 had an egg sensitivity that way, although I'm still keeping my fingers crossed that she'll outgrow it.) But it occurred to me one day when I was cooking pea soup for everyone else and worrying over the fact that I had yet to introduce the babies to onions, celery, parsley or marjoram, that I had never heard of anyone of normal health and constitution being allergic to any of the above. Babies don't need to eat all their food in bland, limited-ingredient mixes.

I haven't entirely given up on my blender and freezer, because I don't always cook that much mushy food (especially in the summer) and because the babies go to bed before the rest of us eat supper, but I have stopped worrying if I run out of this or that.

(Now there's one difficult question: What about meat? I happen to think meat is a pretty important part of the diet even early on, because of the need for iron--I don't do special baby cereals--and we all seem to have high protein requirements. I slow-cook and then use the blender. I have heard, however, of mothers who simply pre-chew the baby's meat. It's not really that gross--I mean, consider how else you feed them. It just seems like an awful lot of chewing for twins. So I've never actually tried it.)


Fe said...

With number one, I was very particular. Vegetables and fruits in careful order, spaced properly. Mooshed well (with some breastmilk if needed for consistency). Then mashed a bit but still lumpy, then cut into small bits. I gradually added in meats (never puréed, always as a strip about as big as my little finger—a meatsicle... a real favourite) and then after 12 months the highly allergenic stuff. We started introducing him to solids at 6 months, but although he was interested in the concept, he didn't really take to them for a couple of months. Within a month of that though, he was having table food consistency.

With number two, I still introduced the foods gradually, but was far less fussy about the consistency. She didn't ever get rice cereal, and nothing was really puréed. She had a similar reaction to Puggle, so by nine months was on table foods.

Cygnet (number 3) is 9 months old. At about 7 months I realised I'd been very slack about introducing food. So we started giving him whatever seemed most appropriate of the foods we were eating. That was very hit and miss though, only when he was awake for a meal. After about a month I gave up. I've just given him whatever we're having (we don't usually have honey as part of a main, I'm not expecting an egg allergy, so I'm not avoiding it as an ingredient, and I'm still avoiding nuts). Sometimes he'll have a bowl of it, but mostly we'll just pick bits off our plates to hand to him. He is still breast fed and will be for some time to come.

They have such a well developed gag reflex that I haven't found a need to mush or pre-chew. I do check for stones/pits if need be, and don't give round things without halving them. He has crunchy fruits and vegies as long as it's at the table and an adult is around. Temperature is probably the only thing I'm still fussy about (I guess, chilli as well... but that's less of an issue because _I'm_ such a wimp with spicy:-) ) He's eating enough solids that I'm dumping the contents of his nappies in the toilet now, rather than them being able to just be washed off.

CappuccinoLife said...

I gave up baby cereal a long time ago.

And my first sons first solid food was spicy "dirty rice" and sausage. At 5 months. :O So, that's not the way we normally feed them, but he was literally begging.

We just mash up what's on the plate and stick it in the baby's mouth. I buy jarred food if it's deeply discounted and it's like dessert for them, but not a regular part of the diet. We just avoid giving them foods that are common allergens.

Cara said...

Sounds similar to us! We do breast milk only for 12 months due to allergies, and recommended by the doctor. Then we wait for grains until 18 months to 24 months. The doctor said I could do meat before a year if I pre-chewed it... but I just go ahead and wait til 12 months. Starting at 12 months I just limit dairy but anything that's generally healthy and not a choking hazard is good to go. I watch when introducing dairy since we have allergies to that.