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Every baby is different, both in the way they approach mealtimes and in their individual tastes. There is plenty to consider when you begin weaning, but try to relax as you introduce your little one to solid foods, and choose amongst these tried-and-tested solutions for the hurdles you might encounter.
Where is the best place to feed my baby?
At first, you may want to feed your baby in her bouncer or even on your lap. As soon as she is able to sit up, it’s a good idea to feed her in a highchair in the kitchen, at or by the kitchen table. She’ll become used to the concept that people sit down for a meal (hopefully together, as well!), and at a table. Your little one will also understand that when she sits down in her highchair, it’s meal time, and not playtime or anything else. She’s more likely to concentrate on eating, if this is what she expects. It will also save you a great deal of hassle in the future if she always eats her meals in the same place, because she will understand that dinner in front of the television is not an option. Finally, it goes without saying that kitchens are much easier than sitting rooms to clean up after your baby has created her usual mess!
How often does my baby need to eat solids during the first few weeks?
Begin by offering solids once a day, around a normal “meal time.” Midday is a good time to start, as most little ones won’t be too tired, and therefore more willing to try new things. This will also give your baby time to digest the new food, and not struggle with gas during the night. Don’t wait until your baby is starving, because he’ll want only one thing-his usual milk! Over the next month or so, you can increase the number of solid food meals.
When should my baby be eating three meals a day?
By the age of seven, eight, or nine months your baby should be eating three meals a day, and be ready to enjoy a wide variety of tastes. She should have doubled her birth weight, and a diet of milk may not be enough for her, so it’s important to give her red meat, which is a good source of iron and zinc, and oily fish, such as salmon or tuna, which contain essential fatty acids that are important for your baby’s brain development. Don’t give your baby more than two portions of oily fish a week.
When do babies feed themselves?
This won’t happen for a little while. At around the age of ten or eleven months, babies often refuse to be spoon fed and prefer to feed themselves. The more you encourage your baby to feed himself, the more proficient he will become-encourage him to pick up finger foods, and to have a small spoon or fork from his first days of weaning. He may use his hands to eat for many months to come, and this is to be encouraged as well, as babies learn to explore food in this way, and learn about textures and consistencies, and he’ll be more likely to try things that he may reject when you offer it on a spoon.
My baby flings her plate across the room, and wipes her hands everywhere; how can I discourage her?
A little mess is to be expected, and it’s important to allow babies to investigate solid foods with their hands-it is a perfectly normal part of development, and helps them master the art of finger feeding, which leads to self-feeding. Throwing a plate is probably not intentional, but another experiment! You can also make life easier by investing in a bowl that sticks to her tray with a suction cup.
How much food does my baby need?
Your baby needs only a little food at the outset-perhaps a tablespoon or two of purée. After you have introduced a number of different foods, you can start blending together purées, and offering fruits, vegetables, as well as meat and fish, and whole grains or pulses, such as rice, and pasta, at the same meal. You are offering him variety and new tastes at first, which will build up to form the basis of a healthy meal. Your baby will also let you know whether what you are providing is enough.
Should I avoid feeding my baby too close to bedtime?
In the early days, it is a good idea to avoid feeding your baby too late, as some babies struggle to digest their foods at first. Give her main “meal” at lunchtime, and then something gentle and nourishing in the evening, such as cheesy mashed potatoes with broccoli.
* Did you know...?
That you can introduce age-appropriate cutlery to your baby from the outset? Choose soft plastic implements with no sharp edges or points, and which fit neatly in his little hand. Most babies do not develop the skills necessary to feed themselves using cutlery until much later-at the age of two or three, and sometimes even later. That isn’t to say, however, that they cannot attempt to do so. It’s a good idea to encourage him to try, as you feed him alongside.
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Weaning can sometimes be overwhelming for your baby, and he’ll take comfort in his regular milk feeds. What’s more, the nutrients in his milk will support his growth and development while he gets to grips with the whole new world of tastes and textures.
My baby doesn’t seem remotely interested in anything but milk-how can I encourage her?
At the outset of weaning, it is not crucial that your baby has other fluids, as her usual milk will offer her plenty to keep her hydrated. You can tempt her by offering her a new, brightly colored cup and allowing her to help herself. You can also give her a cup of water with every meal, so that she becomes used to seeing it there, and considers it a normal part of her meal. When she has reached one year old and is drinking less milk, you can offer some water. If she won’t drink water, you can offer some heavily diluted fruit juice (1 part juice to 10 parts water). Give this after the meal to avoid filling her up, and to help her body absorb the iron from her food. Try also offering her milk in a cup, and gradually diluting it with cooled, boiled water, until there is virtually no milk remaining.
My eight-month-old shows no interest in food; will he be getting enough from breast milk?
While some babies are ready for solids by six months or even a little earlier, others take more time. If this is the case, it is important that you see a healthcare professional; although breast milk is extremely nutritious, it does not contain quite enough iron or vitamin D for babies. It is important that your baby doesn’t become deficient in these, and he may require a vitamin supplement. Furthermore, there is evidence to suggest that babies who are “late” weaners may not take to solid food easily, and resist foods with strong tastes or unusual textures. It’s also important to introduce solid food sooner rather than later to give a nonallergic baby a chance to become used to potentially allergenic foods.
Make sure you seek advice from a healthcare professional, and continue to offer your baby solid food once or twice a day. If he isn’t interested, don’t make a fuss. You could try some finger foods (see page 61), which may be more appealing, and which can be “gummed” or sucked until he’s ready to take his first bite.
I’ve stopped breastfeeding my six-month-old; will she need formula now?
Yes, until they reach the age of 12 months, babies need formula milk or breast milk to ensure that they get all of the nutrients they need for optimum growth and development.
“Follow-on” milk, which is higher in iron, may be appropriate at this stage, especially if your baby is a very fussy eater. Discuss this with your doctor or health professional first.
You can offer solid food, formula, and breast milk together, if that suits you. There is no reason to give up breastfeeding at six months unless both you and your baby are ready. Your baby will need several milk feeds a day until she is a year old. It’s also worth noting that you can use full fat cow’s milk, as well as formula, in cooking for your baby or with her cereal at this age.
Do I need to use a bottle or can my seven-month-old drink from a cup?
If your baby can master a cup, and drinks his milk and any other fluids, such as water or baby juice, happily, then there is no reason to introduce a bottle. Many breastfed babies go straight to a cup from an early age, and manage to get everything they need this way. Your baby may miss the comfort of an evening or morning feed, since drinking from a cup doesn’t require the same “sucking,” nor a cuddle with mom or dad, so don’t rush to lose the bottle or to give up breastfeeding unless you need to. While long-term bottle-feeding can potentially cause damage to teeth, and become a habit, it is also very much a part of babyhood, which is most certainly not over by nine months!
Is it safe to mix breast milk with purées?
You can use breast milk in much the same way as ordinary milk or formula, and blend it into baby purées to add nutrition, and to make them more palatable and “familiar.” It is important for babies to have quite runny purées at the outset, as they will “suck” rather than use their lips to remove food from the spoon, and it can take some time to get used to dealing with the food in their mouths before swallowing. Mixing her food with breast milk will ensure it is the right consistency. Remember that, like purées, breast milk has a “shelf life” of 48 hours, and should not be used after this time; add breast milk to purées as and when you use them
* Offering other drinks
A little heavily diluted juice or water with meals will do no harm, and accustom your baby to drinking from a cup. In fact, a vitamin C-rich juice given at mealtimes will help aid absorption of iron from your baby’s food. However, remember that your baby’s tummy is very small, and it is easily filled up by drinks, when food is what is really required. Just 1–2 fl oz (30–60ml) of water or juice is fine with meals, preferably after he’s eaten. He will likely get all the fluids he needs from milk and purées until weaning is complete.
My baby was interested in her new "diet" for a short time, but now wants only breast milk again. What should I do?
It’s not unusual for babies to regress during the weaning process. It’s a big developmental leap to adjust to eating new and different foods, and to give up the comfort of milk feeds. Some babies may be slower to adjust to this change, and reluctant to carry on. Try to make the process easier, by offering her plenty of milk after her “meals.” If she knows that she’s still getting what she wants, and that her comfort feeds have not been replaced by a hard spoon with unfamiliar contents, she’ll be less likely to object. Don’t give up, though. She’ll eventually become accustomed to the new routine, and look forward to mealtimes, particularly if they are pleasant, and she is praised.
My baby has gone off breastfeeding completely since I introduced solids; is there any way to encourage him to continue?
It is very important that your baby continues to have breast milk or formula until he is a year old. If he won’t take to your breast, then you will have to consider introducing a bottle.
Why not try breastfeeding more during periods when your baby is looking for a cuddle and some comfort, rather than something to eat?
Bedtime, and first thing in the morning, are ideal times to have a good, long feed, and your baby will probably get most of what he needs from these two feeds. You could also try offering your breast an hour or so before his meals, so that he gets the foremilk, and a little of the nutritious hind milk when he’s hungry enough to want it. He can then eat a little later, and try different foods as you wean him.
Can I use a little squash to get my baby to drink some water?
Even high-fruit squashes tend to contain high levels of sugar and/or artificial sweeteners, which are not recommended for young babies. Unless your baby has become accustomed to sweet drinks, such as full-strength fruit juices, she should not be resistant to drinking water, and introducing a sweetener will make the process of encouraging her to drink more water in the future that much more difficult. Most babies in this age group will be getting the fluids they need from their normal milk feeds, and from their purées, and probably don’t need to drink a lot more; however, if the only thing offered is fresh water, this is what they will learn to drink, if and when they are thirsty.
* Diluting juice
It's best to offer water to your baby, but if she won't drink water, offer heavily diluted fruit juice (1 part juice to 10 parts water) after a meal. This is because juice is full of calories, which can fill your baby’s tummy, without offering her the range of nutrients that she needs. Also, some juices can be quite acidic, and hard on your baby’s tummy. Finally, juice is very high in natural fruit sugars, which can potentially cause tooth decay and encourage a sweet tooth.
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Food allergies are on the rise, but still remain uncommon in little ones, and are very often outgrown. It helps to be aware of the symptoms, and to know where to turn. The best advice is not to panic, and to talk to your doctor if you have any concerns.
How will I know if my baby has a food allergy?
Food allergies are much more common among children in families with a history of allergy. Babies who suffer from eczema are particularly at risk-and the more severe the eczema, the more likely there is to be a food allergy. Some food allergies are fairly easy to spot-as soon as the food is eaten, often for the first or second time, a reaction occurs.
Delayed allergies may also be a problem for infants. In the past, these were sometimes called food intolerance, but this isn’t the correct term, because an intolerance doesn’t involve the immune system.
Delayed allergic reactions do involve the immune system, but parts of it that take longer to respond. This means it can be difficult to pinpoint a particular food as the problem, as sufferers may continue to eat and drink it. Milk, soy, egg, and wheat are often the main culprits, and symptoms include eczema, reflux, colic, poor growth, diarrhea and constipation. These get better only when the food is removed from the diet. However, all of these symptoms commonly occur during childhood and an allergy is only one possible explanation. You’ll need the help of an experienced doctor to diagnose a food allergy.
*Immediate food allergies
These typically affect the skin, the respiratory system, and the gut. Seek medical advice.
• A flushed face, hives, or a red and itchy rash around the mouth, tongue, or eyes. This can spread across the entire body
• Mild swelling, particularly of the lips, eyes, and face
• A runny or blocked nose, sneezing, and watering eyes
• Nausea, vomiting, tummy cramps, and diarrhea
• A scratchy or itchy mouth and throat severe symptoms (anaphylaxis). This is an emergency.
• Wheezing or difficulty in breathing
• Swelling of the tongue and throat, restricting the airways. This can cause noisy breathing (especially on breathing in), a cough, or a change in your baby’s cry or voice
• Lethargy, limpness, or collapse
* Delayed food allergies
• Poor growth
• Swelling in the small bowel
• Constipation and/or diarrhea
• Raising knees to chest with tummy pain
• Frequent distress and crying
We have a family history of allergies; should I avoid certain foods?
If you have a history of allergy in your family (including asthma, hayfever, eczema, as well as food allergies), and your baby suffers from eczema, she is more likely to have food allergies. It was thought that potentially allergenic foods (milk, eggs, tree nuts, shellfish, seafood, wheat, and soy) should be avoided until babies are a year old, and peanuts for the first three years of a child’s life. However, some recent studies have suggested that there is no value in delaying the introduction of these allergenic foods.
The jury is still out regarding what the best weaning policy is for babies at risk of food allergies, and more research is required. If your baby is in this “high-risk” category and you’d like more advice, it is a good idea to see your doctor or a dietitian
How are allergies diagnosed?
If you suspect an allergy, you must see a doctor with experience in allergy. There are many private allergy tests available, such as hair analysis and kinesiology; however these are costly, inaccurate, and can put your baby’s health at risk. The best way to diagnose immediate allergies, where the reaction occurs within two hours, is with a skin prick test and/or a blood test. These determine which foods, if any, are triggering allergic symptoms by detecting the presence of antibodies called IgE - which help to identify the problem foods. The allergens that will be tested are usually those about which you have expressed concern, although your doctor may also test other foods in the same group, other common foods (from the “big eight,” for example: cow’s milk, wheat, soy, fish, shellfish, eggs, peanuts, and tree nuts), or anything else that appears possible. The results must be interpreted by an experienced doctor.
What about delayed food allergies? Are these very difficult to diagnose?
If your baby experiences a delayed reaction to a food (where symptoms take up to 48 hours to appear), the best way to diagnose the allergy is for you to keep a food and symptom diary, and eliminate the suspected food or foods for a minimum of two weeks, and see if the symptoms cease. The foods need to be reintroduced under the supervision of a doctor or dietitian who is experienced in allergy. It’s never a good idea to try an elimination diet without support from an expert, because the nutrients lost in key parts of your baby’s diet are crucial to his growth and development, and will need to be replaced.
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New tastes and textures
With so many delicious, nutritious foods available, you can be forgiven for becoming confused about what your baby should and shouldn’t be eating. It’s a good idea to start slowly, and take your time in introducing new foods. Once your baby gets used to the idea that food can be fun and delicious, she’ll be an instant convert.
Should I put off introducing wheat until later?
Wheat can be introduced to your baby from six months onward. If there is a history of allergies in your family, you may wish to introduce new foods one at time and over two or three consecutive days, so that if there is a reaction, you’ll know what has caused it.
When can I introduce dairy products?
By six months, it is perfectly safe to add some cow’s milk and dairy products (such as yogurt, cheese, and butter) to food. You can give cow’s milk with your baby’s cereal, or use it when making a cheese sauce, for example. Again, if there is a history of allergies in your family, follow the advice given above when introducing a new food. Cow’s milk, and other milks, such as soy, rice, and oat milk, can be used in the preparation of your
baby’s food, but should not be offered in place of his normal milk feeds, which need to be continued until he is at least 12 months old. When cooking, always use whole, rather than low-fat milk, until your baby is at least two years old, as he’ll need the calories to fuel his rapid growth.
Is it OK to give my six-month-old baby yogurt?
It’s fine to introduce yogurt to your baby at six months. Be careful when choosing yogurts, however, as many contain artificial sweeteners and flavorings that aren’t appropriate for babies. Ideally, you’ll want to find one without any added sugar, and blended with fresh fruit purée. Many babies prefer fromage frais, because of its creamier consistency; choose one that is free from artificial additives and sweeteners. Otherwise, you are better off adding a little of your own purée to some plain yogurt, and introducing dairy products this way. Live yogurt is fine for little ones, and will encourage healthy digestion, but all milk products offered to babies should be pasteurized. Make sure you choose whole-milk yogurts, never low-fat, as your baby will need these extra calories.
Can I give my baby pasta?
Once your baby is able to chew, stirring tiny cooked pasta shapes into her purées is a great way of introducing texture. As your baby gets used to the concept of chewing, the size of the pasta shapes can increase. This is a good way to gradually move from smooth purées to more challenging textures. Larger pasta shapes, such as penne, farfalle, or fusilli, make good “finger food.” Make sure the shapes are big enough for your baby to hold.
What other grains are healthy and suitable for babies?
It is a very good idea to offer different grains, not only because they provide your baby with a variety of nutrients, but they also introduce him to different textures and tastes. Oats are a good starter food-try your baby with oatmeal or the. Rice, couscous, and quinoa are good, too, as they are quite soft to chew. A little later on, you can introduce grains like millet and buckwheat, but at first, choose grains that are easily digestible and won’t fill up your baby’s tummy before he's tasted the other foods available on his plate.
When should I introduce eggs?
Eggs can be safely introduced at about six months of age. Make sure they are fully cooked, however, and not served runny or soft-boiled. Egg allergy is less common than people think, but children with a family history of allergy or those who suffer from eczema are more likely to have an allergy to eggs. If your baby is in this “high-risk” group, you may wish to introduce eggs over two or three consecutive days, so that if there is a reaction, you'll know what has caused it.
At what age should I introduce fish?
Fish can be introduced at six months. It’s sometimes hard to find jars of purée containing fish, which is why making fish dishes for your baby is especially important. White fish, such as cod, haddock, sole, or plaice, are good first bets due to their mild flavor and digestibility. Sole, sweet potato, and broccoli purée is a great recipe for introducing little ones to their first taste of fish. Oily fish, such as tuna and salmon, can be introduced at six months too, and these are rich in essential fatty acids, which are important for your baby’s brain development. Mixed with root vegetables, such as carrots or sweet potatoes, these can make tasty purées for your baby. It’s important not to discourage little ones from eating fish, because it's such a great food. If overcooked, it can be dry and tasteless-it needs just a few minutes in a pan or microwave. Also, be vigilant in removing all of the bones. As with all new foods, if there is a history of allergies in your family, you may wish to introduce fish over a few consecutive days, so you can watch for a reaction.
Can I give my baby chicken?
Yes, do introduce chicken and other meats, once she is comfortable with simple purées.
Chicken, in particular, is a great first meat, since it has a mild flavor and is tender. The dark meat actually contains twice as much iron and zinc as the white meat, so try to give her the dark meat as well as the breast. You can also make this with the chicken thigh meat-just cook the chicken a little longer. Some babies object to the texture of meat, and chicken can be a little stringy if it is overcooked without liquids. Slow poaching will usually produce light, tasty, and easily chewed chicken.
Are there any finger foods appropriate for this age group?
Finger foods are to be encouraged, because they help your baby to develop the skills necessary to feed herself, and to persuade her to chew and explore new tastes and textures at her own speed. First finger foods should be able to be “gummed” to a suitable consistency for swallowing. Always supervise your baby due to the risk of choking.
* Finger foods
1. Melt in the mouth:
• Steamed soft carrot sticks, broccoli, and cauliflower florets
• Pear, banana, apple, blueberries, mango, peach, strawberries
2. Bite and dissolve:
• Steamed new potatoes
• Toast fingers
• Miniature rice cakes
• Well-cooked pasta shapes
• Mini sandwiches with soft fillings
3. Bite and chew:
• Oven-baked potato or sweet potato wedges
• Cucumber sticks
• Cheese, cut into sticks
• Small chunks of fish or chicken
• Dried apricots and apple rings
At what age can my baby tolerate “lumps”?
Different babies tolerate lumps at different stages, but most babies will give foods with lumpier textures a go at around eight months, once you’ve established a good repertoire of purées and finger foods, although you may have to wait a little longer if your baby finds them difficult to manage.
To begin with, try mashing food, then add in lumpy foods with a soft texture, such as rice, couscous, or tiny pasta shapes, to your baby’s favorite purée. Babies prefer overall lumpiness to a smooth purée with an occasional lump. At first your baby may refuse anything other than smooth purées, but over time, he’ll learn to control food in his mouth, and then chew, “gum,” and then swallow them.
If he gags or seems distressed, don’t worry; simply go back to his regular purées for a week or so, and then try him again with smaller pieces of mashed food
My baby has six teeth; is she able to bite and chew now?
The ability to chew is not just about having the teeth to do so! Some babies manage to eat a wide variety of foods with no teeth at all, mastering the art of “gumming” to make them smooth enough for swallowing. Biting is obviously more difficult without teeth, but it’s amazing what babies can achieve when they set their minds to it! It’s absolutely worth introducing some finger foods that will require your baby to bite off pieces and chew or gnaw. Start to introduce lumpier textures as soon as she seems ready, then mash, rather than purée her meals, until she has enough teeth to chew whole, well-cut foods properly.
At what age can I chop foods finely instead of puréeing them?
The same advice goes here, really. Keep an eye on your baby, and assess what he’s able to manage. If he is comfortable with a variety of finger foods and lumpy purées, then move on to chopping and mashing, and leave your food processor for more difficult foods, such as dried fruits, seeds and nuts, and tougher cuts of meat.
Did you know...?
That many babies who refuse lumpy foods will happily chew on finger foods? Introducing lumpier textures can be a stressful time for parents, but don’t despair, because if your baby is chewing on finger foods, this means he can easily cope with lumpier textures. The muscles a baby uses to chew are the same ones used for speech, so encouraging your baby to chew will help his speech development too.
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Sole, sweet potato, and broccoli pureé
Preparation Time: 8 Minutes
Cooking Time: 6-8 Minutes
Makes 3 Baby Portions
When introducing fish to babies, I like to start with something like sole because it is very tender and mild. Here I combine it with sweet vegetables, which should help to tempt the taste buds. You can also substitute salmon for the white fish.
½ sweet potato (about 7oz), peeled and cut into small dice
2 broccoli florets (about 1½oz in total), cut into small pieces
4oz sole or other white fish fillet, skinned and cut into little-finger size strips
1⁄4 cup milk
2 tbsp shredded Gruyère or Emmental Cheese
1. Spread out the sweet potato and broccoli in a steamer (or use a metal colander set over a pan of simmering water). Cover and steam until really tender, 6–8 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, put the fish into a small saucepan, cover with the milk, and cook until it flakes easily, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the cheese until melted. Put the vegetables and fish mixture in a blender or baby food mill and purée. Add a little more milk, if necessary.
3. Cool as quickly as possible (put the purée in a glass bowl set in a second bowl of ice and stir for 4–5 minutes), then cover and refrigerate. Or, freeze in individual portions; when needed, thaw overnight in the refrigerator.
4. To serve, heat the purée in a microwave or small saucepan until piping hot, stirring occasionally and adding a little more milk if necessary. Cool to warm and check the temperature before serving.
Creamy apple and oat purée
Preparation Time: 7 Minutes
Cooking Time: 10-15 Minutes
Makes about 8 Baby Portions
Choose sweet apples to make a sweet applesauce, with plenty of nutrients and healthy fiber. Oats make a great addition to your baby’s diet; they are packed with vitamins, minerals, and essential fatty acids. Best of all, they help to stabilize your baby’s blood sugar levels, keeping him calm and full of energy.
3 sweet apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
2 tbsp water Pinch of ground cinnamon (optional)
1 tsp agave nectar (optional-to add more sweetness) Per portion
1 tbsp baby oats
2 tbsp breast milk or formula
1. Put the apples in a saucepan with the water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover, and cook very gently until soft, 10-15 minutes.
2. Add the cinnamon, if using, and purée in a blender, or mash until smooth. Sweeten with the agave nectar, if using. Cool the applesauce and keep refrigerated until needed, or freeze in individual portions and thaw as required.
3. To serve, warm one portion (approx. 2 tbsp) of the applesauce and stir in the oats and milk. Cool slightly and check the temperature before serving.
Chicken and corn chowder
Chicken is a good first meat for babies since it is tender and has a mild flavor. Mixing it with corn in smooth chowder is a clever way to introduce chicken to your baby. Another good combination is chicken with sweet potatoes and apple.
Preparation Time: 10 Minutes
Cooking Time: 10 Minutes
Makes 4-6 Baby Portions
1 skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into ¾in cubes
11⁄4 cups canned naturally-sweet corn packed in water, drained
1⁄3 cup water
1 potato, peeled and diced
1–2 tbsp breast milk or formula
1. Put the chicken, corn, and measured water in a small heatproof bowl and set the bowl in a large saucepan. Put the diced potato in the saucepan alongside the bowl. Pour boiling water over the potatoes in the pan so the water comes halfway up the sides of the bowl. Bring the water back to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover, and cook until the potato and the chicken are cooked through, about 10 minutes.
2. Lift the bowl out of the pan. Drain the potatoes and put them in a baby food mill set over a bowl. Add the chicken, corn, and cooking liquid from the bowl and purée the mixture (puréeing with a food mill will get rid of the skins from the corn; if you use a blender, you will have to press the mixture through a sieve after puréeing). Add a little milk, if necessary, to make a soft, smooth consistency. Cool quickly, then refrigerate. Or, freeze in individual portions; thaw overnight in the refrigerator as needed.
3. To serve, heat in a saucepan or microwave until piping hot. Let cool slightly, and check the temperature before serving.
Food from a jar
All of us are busy, and it does make sense to rely on some ready-made purées for your baby from time to time. Balanced by a regular selection of healthy, home-cooked fare, your baby will thrive and learn to appreciate different tastes and consistencies.
Is there anything wrong with using jars occasionally?
There is nothing wrong with relying on the odd jar of food to get you through a busy period, or when you are traveling and do not have the means to keep fresh purées cool. The problem is that their nutritional content may be compromised because of the heat treatment necessary to make them safe to eat throughout a fairly long shelf life.
These foods tend to be bland, and lack the natural flavor and aroma of fresh foods, which can mean, in the long-term, that your baby’s palate is shifted in favor of less challenging flavors and textures. Giving fresh food from the beginning tends to make the transition to family food easier. It’s worth noting that if you think you don’t have time to prepare homemade baby food, it doesn't have to be as time-consuming as you may have thought.
My baby will only eat food from a jar; what can I do?
Not surprisingly, many babies are reluctant to move back or on to homemade foods once they have been introduced to the bland, unchallenging flavors and textures of jarred food.
First of all, you can simply refuse to buy any more jarred food. Your baby is young enough to be able to shake a bad habit fairly quickly, and if she realizes that there is nothing else available, she’ll undoubtedly eat it, after making a bit of a fuss. If she’s stubborn, you can consider mixing some of her favorite jarred food with your own purées, gradually adding more of your homemade concoctions until she is accustomed to the taste and the texture. Experiment with different flavors, and try to come up with combinations that appeal to her. If she’s very fond of her store-bought apple purée, for example, mix a little of that into some steamed, puréed carrots. You can also start introducing your baby to your family meals, by offering her a little on the side in the form of a finger food. She’ll be more likely to experiment with something that she can pick up and try herself, and which looks much like what her siblings or parents are eating.
What additives and preservatives should I avoid when I need to use jars?
Most manufacturers are fairly responsible when it comes to preparing baby foods, and the most damaging food additives do not usually appear. However, this is not always the case, and if your baby is venturing off the beaten track to try different foods, there are quite a few things that it’s advisable to look out for.
The first are sugar and salt, which are not appropriate for babies, and should be avoided for as long as possible. There is also some new, convincing evidence that sodium benzoate, tartrazine, sunset yellow, and some red food colorings can cause problems, particularly in children who may show some signs of attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Obviously you won’t have a clue whether or not your baby falls into this category, but you may wish to avoid these additives anyway.
They offer no nutritional goodness whatsoever, and may cause harm. It’s also important to avoid nitrates, although occasional use is OK.
Finally, avoid artificial sweeteners as much as possible. These are comprised of chemicals that may have a detrimental effect on health. Fresh and natural is your best bet, so avoid anything with a name that resembles something from chemistry textbook.
Should I avoid GM foods?
GM (genetically modified) foods should probably be off the menu. Although we are still not sure what the long-term effects on health might be, these foods are very much an unknown quantity, and until further research is completed, I’d recommend that you avoid them.
Do I need to choose organic fruits and vegetables for my baby?
There is no conclusive evidence that organic foods are healthier than those that are conventionally farmed; however, some studies suggest that organic produce has higher levels of key vitamins and minerals. Also, the long-term effects of the pesticides routinely used on non-organic crops is still unknown, so some people suggest avoiding pesticides until more is known about these chemicals. The bottom line is that there is still a lot of conflicting advice and evidence, so it’s up to you. Many of us find that some organic foods are expensive, so if you can’t afford them, don’t feel bad. Your baby will be perfectly fine on a diet of ordinary fruits and vegetables.
* No time to cook?
Lots of fruits such as bananas, papayas, and peaches, do not require cooking provided they are ripe-simply mash them with a fork to make instant baby food. These are also great when you have no equipment to make purées on vacation. Also, if you get into the habit of cooking for an hour or so once or twice a week for your baby, and freezing your efforts, you’ll soon build up a good selection of homemade “jars” to choose from.