This is the face of my daughter having her first experience with food. Carrots, to be exact. She was skeptical. Because I love her and want her to be able to serve on the Supreme Court someday, I won’t post the picture that came about a minute and three bites of carrot later, the one of her face when a good portion of the carrots were coming back up. (Yes, I was that mom, the one who stops to take a picture at a moment of great childhood emotional distress. My daughter is so lucky to have me.)
Because I tend to obsess over every teeny-tiny facet of parenthood (and life), I read a lot before giving my daughter her first solid foods. I worried about the rigors to her pure and dainty, breastmilk-only digestive system. I worried about pureeing food instead of baby-led weaning. I worried about whether six months was too early for trying food. Of course, my pediatrician, whom I’ve mentioned before is amazing, gave me some common sense guidance on these things, basically amounting to “feed her” and “don’t overthink it.”
So, on that fateful day, I got out all my long-anticipated supplies: the steamer, the Baby Bullet, the steamed and purified baby dishes, the tiny and adorable baby spoon. (Side note: now that some time has passed, just thinking about all the preparation sounds exhausting to me. I now just throw a handful of Goldfish crackers in her direction. At the time, it seemed quadruple-bypass-surgery serious. I was like, “The scalpel, nurse! Um, I mean, husband, can you hand me the spatula?”)
And then, she ate. The first day, carrots were not greatly appreciated, but as time went on, she started to enjoy eating and having a change of routine. Milk was still her meal of choice (to the point of attacking me in her desperate desire to latch on the moment I returned from work), but she loved sitting in the high chair and trying things out. We tested each new food for a week to monitor for food allergies and we worked our way through carrots (liked them), green beans (loved them), zucchini and squash (she liked it, Mommy tried not to gag at the smell),and green peas (absolutely despised them, but I liked them) before moving on to oatmeal, meats, and fruit.
The world of baby gourmet can be full of ups and downs, but there are a few really unexpected benefits. For instance, when it comes to eating “real” food, there are a lot more stains and spills. However, this also leads to a whole new and previously untraversed area of baby fashion, properly known as bibs. You’ve got your traditional ruffles, your tried-and-trues, your funny-or-punny commentary, your hipster styles.
And, your own palate may just change. After all, instead of eating your evening meal at 9:00 P.M. after everyone is settled and you’re ravenous and you scarf down hummus and a pile of pita chips, you start eating veggies and chicken and wholesome things at 5:30 P.M. with baby. After all, you can’t in good conscience dig into a carton of Blue Bell while you’re making your baby eat steamed zucchini, right? (I’m totally lying on this point; the ice cream is coming out after bedtime.)
If you’re getting ready to start feeding your baby “people food,” here are a few of my best pro tips for making it work:
- Start with solids at one meal a day. When we started doing feedings, we decided to do them at dinner so we were all together and we weren’t as rushed.
- Offer one new food per week. By offering one new food at a time, you can watch to see if baby has any allergies or sensitivities. Plus, you don’t have to make yourself crazy by trying to whip up seven different types of purees in a week’s time.
- Once my daughter was eating three meals a day, I bought enough small containers that I could prep food for several days and leave it in the fridge for my nanny. You can also buy freezer-friendly containers and blend up some extra if you are afraid you may be short on time some weeks.
- Present things multiple times. Pears and eggs were both total “I turn my nose up at this, get it out of my sight” foods for our girl to begin with. We were persistent and continued to offer them with meals. Now, both are favorites to the point that if I leave the fridge open while getting out other ingredients, she’ll grab them and attempt to help herself. She told her dad, “Ellie dinner egg,” while walking away with a hard-boiled one still in its shell!
- Eat the same things. Once your little one is ready to eat real meals, commit to eating the same things they are. (You don’t have to puree yours, unless that’s what you’re into.) It’s good for you and them. For you, it means getting more fruits and veggies in your diet because you’ll be watching what baby eats and making the best choices on their behalf. For them, it means they’re not eating a bowl of carrot chunks and chicken goo while you’re feasting on jalapeño Cheetos and Dove bars right in front of them. (Save those for your secret closet snacks when you just have to take that mom-breather.)
Just one final parting thought: It should also be noted that wine can be consumed from an opaque plastic cup if necessary to share in sippy cup communality. Also, it is not necessarily a parent fail if your child points to every soda or canned juice in the fridge and says, “Want beer?”