Baby's First Foods, part 1

Second Friday of the month: Babies / Health / Feeding

Baby's first smile, first coo, first time to 'close-open' his fist...these are just a few of our baby's many 'firsts' that we don't want to miss. And getting a taste of his first 'solid food' is another milestone that parents, most especially moms, prepare for and tend to obsess with.

What's healthy, what's safe, when to feed certain foods... these are just some of the questions I had in my head when I had my first born. And just recently, these same questions pop up as I am surrounded by new moms who are preparing for this somewhat daunting milestone of baby eating his first foods.
Comfy babies on the bouncer, the boy and the girl had their first taste of rice cereal at 4 months.
I used Nestle Cerelac Rice Cereal (plain white rice).

Several months ago, I had posts about breastfeeding and the baby boom in my circle of friends.  Back then, I knew about twenty or so expectant women. Before 2009 ended, I already counted past 30, and most of them were first time moms!

As we ushered in the new year, breastfeeding joys and woes were the hot topic, and then questions and conversations were moving towards baby's first foods. So, I thought now is the best time to share this food chart given to me by our pediatrician almost seven years ago. This chart proved useful for me as a very practical guide on the stages of feeding for my baby's first 12 months.

I took the liberty of re-creating the chart for a quick and easy reference.
Take note of the general rules. Feel free to print out a copy.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, it is best to introduce solid foods when your baby is between 4 to 6 months. Both my children had their first cereal at 4 months. For some babies who are not yet developmentally ready, it is fine to start a little later until 7 months.  Most doctors advise solid feeding at the age of at least 6 months, especially for babies with a family history of allergies.

Babies only require breast milk until about 6 monthsproviding all the nutrition that they need, after which certain nutrients from solid foods are required. In the first six months, water and juice is generally unnecessary as baby gets all the water he needs from breast milk (or formula, if you choose to). By the time he starts eating solid foods, you can offer a few sips of water between feedings.

I did my share of homemade baby foods for my boy and girl, and here are a few of their favorites which any busy mom or care taker can prepare for the curious, the difficult, or the ravenous infant.

Start with half a banana
Cut and mash on a sterile plate or bowl, with a clean fork
Serve immediately

This is a favorite among babies since bananas are naturally sweet, fragrant, and has a soft texture when mashed. I don't see the need to prepare in advance nor stock up on this since mashed bananas will turn brown quickly. Besides, this is the most simple, instant "super food" that anyone can have. Widely available and most easy to prepare.

By 10 months, chop up bananas and serve as a great finger food!

Peel, wash and cut in cubes, around 1 cup
Boil in a pot of 1 cup water, cover
Simmer until fork tender, around 15 to 20 minutes (add a little water when it's getting dry)
Transfer to food processor or blender and mix until you have a thick, smooth consistency.
Cool and transfer to a clean jar or food keeper.
Spoon a portion on baby's bowl
Mix breastmilk just before feeding

For a thinner, smoother consistency, simply add milk, as needed.

There are a few varieties of camote in the market and I prefer the orange variety which has a sweeter taste. Squash, carrots and potatoes can also be used for this recipe. By the time my babies reached 8 months, I have already combined carrots with either potatoes or squash.
This mashed butternut squash tastes like camote (sweet potato)

Aside from the blender, I also used this Braun submersible hand blender (below, left), and a manual baby food mill / food grinder (the brand escapes me at this time) -- Munchkin is the brand. I have the exact one below. Just grind, detach the mill, and serve without transferring to another bowl.

Peel, wash and cut in cubes, around 1 cup
Boil in a pot of 3/4 cup water, cover
Simmer until fork tender, around 15 to 20 minutes (add a little water when it's getting dry)
Transfer to food processor or blender and mix until you have a thick, smooth consistency.
Cool and transfer to a clean jar or food keeper.
Serve warm or cold.

Pears can also be used for this recipe. The texture will not be a smooth as apples though.

Whenever possible, choose fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables in season. You may refer to the chart for the right time to start.  In my experience, buying jarred baby food didn't hurt either as it offered more variety for baby, and the convenience when traveling.  I just made sure I alternate in serving homemade and store-bought foods.
Resusable food jars

A few things I learned while preparing baby food:

1. Make sure you use sterilized utensils, cutting boards, plates and bowls.  Assign an exclusive set if possible to avoid cross contamination of raw food bacteria to the prepared baby food

2. Have a set of small, clean plastic food keepers or glass jars on hand. When I buy jars of baby food, I keep the glass containers and reuse them as I portion the prepared food in each jar. I saved on buying new food keepers and I don't even have to transfer the food to a bowl anymore 'coz I just feed directly from the jar. Unfinished portion are kept in the fridge only until the next feeding, after which, leftovers from the jar should be discarded.

3. Ice cube trays are also handy in portioning your homemade baby food. Just pour and freeze. Put frozen the food cubes in plastic bags and they are ready anytime you need them. You can also check out my friend's tips on making and storing baby foods here.

4. Prepare enough food to last at least 3 days, or 3 individual servings per variety. Since it is advised to wait 3 days before introducing a new food, I thought this is a practical solution to monitor, at the same time control the portions. I keep them refrigerated up to 3 days only to maintain freshness. If you are able to produce more, stock them in the freezer.

Feel free to share your food and feeding tips here. It's always nice to learn something new from each other!

Part 2, continued here

Braun product photo from Braun.com
Munchkin product photo from Amazon.com