Archive for the 'Food' Category

The Solids Saga – giving up on baby-led-weaning

If you have followed my previous posts about baby food, you know that we were trying to do “Baby Led Weaning” with our daughter, instead of the traditional pureed baby mush. In theory, it seemed like a great idea, and made perfect sense to me. I just adjusted my cooking a little bit and eliminated salt and sugar from our diet, and offered Olivia whatever we were eating. The idea was that she could eat as much or as little as she wanted, and then get the rest of her nutrition from breast milk (so I continued to feed her on demand). Apparently some babies dive right in and love it, but a few babies really hang on to breastfeeding for a long, long time, and it seems that Olivia is one of those babies. She simply was never very interested in food.

I tried everything I could think of, and some days were better than others. Somtimes she would eat a lot of somthing and I would think that I’d figured it out, but then we would end up right back where we were before, with her only eating a few bites here and there, and some days not eating anything at all. At eleven and a half months she was still getting about 90% of her nutrition from breast milk.

Make no mistake, I am a huge fan of breastfeeding, and I’m not in any rush to wean her. She seems healthy enough, and her growth has continued to be off the charts. Nutrition is the last thing I’m worried about. But at the same time, I am getting tired of feeding her every two hours, and of being tied down. I’d like to be able to leave her with relatives for more than two hours. And I want her to try all of those exciting foods out there!

We have tried purees several times in the past, but Olivia hated them. She only wanted to grab the spoon from me, and if I tried to put anything in her mouth she would arch her back and scream. A lot of people told me I had to “teach” her how to eat by holding her down and forcing the spoon into her mouth. I’m sorry, but that just felt wrong to me, and the times I tried it, it didn’t work anyways; it only made her madder.

I was starting to accept my fate that maybe Olivia wasn’t going to start eating until she was 18.

But then, little by little, I started finding things she would eat reliably. One was Cheerios, and the other were those pouches of pureed fruits meant for toddlers. She loved them so much that she would devour a whole one in one sitting if I let her!

This is what finally led to our breakthrough… One day at the supermarket near my brother-in-law’s house, I ran across a bin of small plastic cups with chunky straws in them, meant for older kids. Since Olivia loves straws, I decided to get one and put purees inside it, like a milkshake. Believe it or not, it worked perfectly! I let her watch me mix the puree and fill it into the cup, and then I took a sip from it acting as if it were the BEST thing in the world. She instantly wanted it, and she ate an entire cup-full of baby food in just five minutes!

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Now that the world of purees has finally been opened to me, I have been having lots of fun cooking various concoctions for her. Her favorite is banana-spinach milkshake, but she also likes turkey with veggies and rice. Unfortunately it is hard for me to cook a lot for her since we aren’t at our own house right now, but once we get back I’m sure my fridge will be chock full of experimental baby food…

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Grandparents are Allowed to do Anything

On our trip to Michigan back in August, I had a lot of parenting conversations with my mom.  After all, she has a lot of experience since she raised six of us!  At some point, my mom told me that she didn’t let me have any sweets until I was at least two years old, but that her mom (my Grandma) had given me ice cream behind her back!  We both agreed that that wasn’t ok.

Then, just a day later, my mom and I went out to the grocery store, and we stopped to have chocolate shakes as a treat together.  I went to the bathroom for a few minutes and my mom held Olivia for me.  When I came back, this is what I saw:

My mom pulling the chocolate shake away from Olivia

My mom pulling the chocolate shake away from Olivia

My mom said “She really wanted it, she grabbed it before I could do anything!”  Olivia had chocolate shake running down her chin…

Now, at this point, remember that she was only 6 months old, and hadn’t even started solids yet, let alone dairy, sugar or chocolate!!  A million things could have happened.  Fortunately everything was fine.  In fact, she didn’t even like the shake, probably since it was so cold – she spit it all out.  But she wanted the cup back – probably because of the straw.  Yes, Grandparents can get away with anything.  And I really couldn’t be mad since it was so funny.

Orange Peels Taste Better than Oranges

For the past few weeks (has it already been a month…?) we’ve been letting Olivia share in almost all of our meals, giving her some of whatever we are eating, as long as there is very little salt or sugar.  We have given her tons of variety, but for the most part, she really didn’t eat much.  P1080975Not interestedUsually I would sit her in the high chair, and within a few minutes she would throw up her hands and lean back in the high chair with a bored look; “just what exactly do you think I am, anyways?  a TODDLER?  I eat milk, silly.”

The only thing she was interested in was her sippy-cup of water, or plates and spoons.  With any of these, she would occupy herself for hours.  But with food?  Well, she’d pick at it, but that was about it.

I swear to you, I really tried everything.  I tried home-made purees.  I tried some random finger foods, and I tried smearing purees on toast.  I tried cutting all the foods in nice easy-to-grab stick shapes.  I tried tons of different textures, colors and flavors.  Sometimes she would pick at them for a bit and maybe even put it in her mouth for a few seconds, but she never ate more than a crumb or two.  Most of the time she didn’t even get that far.  One day after refusing to even touch the food on her high chair tray, I let her back down on the floor, and within minutes she had scooted over to a giant ball of dust and popped that right into her mouth.  (!!!)

“I don’t get it!” I told her.  “You like dust more than hamburgers and noodles?! ”

I got the dust-ball out of her mouth, and she gave me a devious grin.  I’m telling you, this girl KNOWS that she is being difficult!

So then I went and got the food from her high chair, and put it on the floor in front of her.  She took one look, turned away, and scooted off into the next room.

I re-read Gill Rapely’s book on baby-led-weaning, and decided that maybe I was giving Olivia her meals at the wrong times, and that she might be too tired or hungry when I sat her down to eat.  I made a huge effort to sit us down to eat at that perfect sliver of time right after a nap and nursing, before she got too tired or hungry again.  It did help a little bit, but she still was not all that interested in anything.

green onion

Olivia eating a green onion (it’s on the tip of her finger)

Until one day when I made a beef and broccoli stir fry with green onions cut into little rings.  I put a little in front of her as I had been doing every day for weeks.  She eyeballed it and sat back in her high chair.  But then, after a few minutes of staring at the food, she suddenly perked up.  You could see that something had caught her eye.  The interest was mounting inside that little brain.  She leaned forward and extended one finger and slowly approached a green onion.

She chased that green onion all around the high chair, and it fit perfectly on her little finger.  Then she picked it up and put it in her mouth.  I figured she would just push it back out, but she didn’t.  In fact, she chewed on it with her little teeth and pushed it around with her tongue.  And then she picked up another, and another!  After she had eaten about five of the green onions, she looked at me and started grinning.  Through those clenched teeth I could see her mouth stuffed with a bunch of green onions.  It was such a hilarious sight!  I don’t think she ate more than a few tiny chunks off those onions, because most of it ended up “falling” back out onto the table.  It was obvious that she liked them, though, and that’s when it finally dawned on me that my “stick-shaped” foods were not what she wanted.  She was starting to master her pincer grasp, and she wasn’t at all interested in large chunks anymore.

So after that I started cutting things into tiny pieces for her, and suddenly her interested was piqued.  All of a sudden she started trying to pick up bits of everything, the more microscopic the better.  I also noticed that she prefers dark foods.  And yet, she very rarely actually swallowed anything.  So far my biggest successes have been green onions and spinach.  Odd choices, I know.  I really thought she would have liked apples, pears and bananas, but she doesn’t seem to like the textures of those because she has yet to actually get any of them into her mouth.  As soon as she picks up a chunk of banana, she starts waving her hand around as if she were being attacked by a snake.  And no matter how much I try to explain to her that her mouth would be a great way to get that banana off of her finger, she just doesn’t listen!  Imagine that.

Now that it is cold season and we have had three colds one directly after the other, I decided Olivia needed some more vitamin C.  I started peeling an orange and I was going to let her try to pick up the individual juice sacs.  But Olivia was so excited by the sight of me peeling the orange that she was practically leaping out of her high chair to get at it!  To keep her happy I gave her a large chunk of orange peel to chew on while I finished.  I figured she would taste it and immediately drop it since it’s quite bitter.  But lo and behold, she *liked* it!  She kept chewing on it and chewing on it, sucking off little bits here and there for more than fifteen minutes!  And although I put some actual pieces of orange on her tray, she was not a bit interested in those.

Imagine living in a world where babies were all the same….?  Where they all followed the state-recommended schedule of foods?  Ahhh but how boring would that be.

The Solids Saga – Part 4 – I Finally Understand

If you’ve been following my previous posts regarding food, you’ll know that I have been a little unsure of how exactly to introduce solids to Olivia.  I wanted to do baby-led-weaning, but at 7 months, Olivia was still gagging on everything she put within a foot of her mouth.  Even water.  I’m not sure why it took her so long to loose the gagging reflex, but it really didn’t happen until she was 8 months old.  And I’ll be honest, I was worried.  I was starting to think I was doing everything wrong.

She is NOT interested in this piece of toast with bannanas.

I did try giving Olivia some purees, even some pureed meat, but she didn’t take much of it, and mostly just made my life difficult by trying to grab the spoon and throw the food everywhere.  I really didn’t like the idea of force-feeding her, so I decided to just back off.  She seemed healthy enough… and at 10.5 kg she wasn’t exactly lacking in the weight department.  (That is around the 95th percentile for weight, in case you were wondering…)

In the mean-time, I ordered the “Baby Led Weaning Cookbook”, and when it finally arrived, I read it cover to cover.  Let me tell you I was shocked to see that they hardly talked about gagging at all.  Just a half page.  And they said that babies usually learn how to deal with the food and stop gagging after a few days or maybe weeks.  They talked about 6 month old babies who were chewing on pieces of chicken, and 7 month-olds who would eat an entire apple, and then spit out the seeds!  “What is wrong with my baby?”  I thought.

Peas and rice from a pork chop dish we had

The other thing which surprised me is that most of the recipes in the book are basically just regular “food”.  Things like Tomato Roasted Chicken, and Chili con Carne.  Pancakes.  Scrambled Eggs.  Thai Green Curry.  The main thing is not to add any salt or sugar, and avoid any heavily salted foods like ham.    They don’t even give any kind of “recommended” age range for any of the foods.  That’s when I finally understood the whole point.  Babies really CAN eat everything from the very beginning.  You really don’t have to be worried about them choking on a noodle or the banana sticking to the roof of their mouths.  There are no “steps” to follow, and there are no schedules.  I was so caught up in the idea of there being a “method” to follow that I was blinding myself to the simplicity of it all.

Pasta with tomato sauce and tuna fish – the first dish Olivia really enjoyed eating

So I started making meals out of the book for Oscar and I to eat, and giving Olivia a little bit on her own plate.  She mostly ignored the food, or if she did touch it she threw it on the floor without even tasting it.  Then I realized that she was usually too tired or too hungry at mealtimes, and so she wasn’t interested in playing with anything.  I tried harder to get meals ready early, then to feed her, give her a rest, and THEN bring her to the table for lunch.  That was when it finally started working.  The first meal she really “ate” was a pasta with tuna fish and tomato sauce.  I was really impressed that she liked it and kept bringing bits of it to her mouth!

Chickpea patties with cucumber & yohgurt sauce (and tortillas – not pictured)

So now I include her in every meal, and she sometimes takes very small bits of it, other times she just plays with it, and sometimes she just wants down from the high chair without even looking at the food.  I am letting her go at her own pace, and I am no longer worried.  And the best part – she’s finally learned how to deal with food… she’s only gagged on food a few times in three weeks!

So now I’ve pulled out all the stops.  She’s had chicken, pork and beef, all in large chunks or strips.  She’s also had eggs, dairy and gluten with no issues.  So basically she eats with us for every meal now.  She hardly swallows anything, so she really is filling her hunger with breast milk still, but that’s ok with me.  I figure it will go in it’s own time.  One of these days she will realize that food also can satisfy hunger, and then she will start to eat more and more.  That’s why it’s called baby-led-weaning after all.

So yes, my 9-month-old is still 99% breastfed.  But she is also very healthy and strong, so I am not worried.

Spaghetti with green cauliflower

Pasta with mushrooms and carbonara sauce

The Solids Saga – Part 3 – Cantaloupe

Yesterday I took Olivia to the mall with me, since I was desperately in need of clothes which actually fit.  Those last couple of pregnancy pounds just aren’t making their departure just yet.

We spent quite a long time, and I found tons of clothes, which is good for me since I really don’t like shopping for clothes, and usually don’t find anything I like.  So to celebrate, and to make sure my new clothes don’t get baggy, I decided to take Olivia to the ice-cream Cafè.

Normally I would’ve called up my best ice-cream friend, Lisa, but she’s in Berlin, so Olivia was the only excuse I had.  (Lisa, I miss you!!  When are you coming back?!)

We had the “Cantaloupe Cup”:

The cantaloupe cup - ice cream

The Cantaloupe Cup (minus one piece of cantaloupe, which Olivia has in her hand)

Olivia got to eat the cantaloupes, and I had the cup.

Cantaloupe really seemed to go over well – she chewed and chewed and chewed on it!  I don’t think she actually ate any, but that’s fine.  The good news is, she only gagged herself once, and even then it wasn’t very bad!  but I was keeping a very close eye on her, this being a restaurant and all.

I think the skin being on the cantaloupe helped a lot, and also I took bites out of it to give her a better shape to grip.

She liked it so much that I bought her one to take home!

Olivia with a Cantaloupe in the Stroller

Green Smoothies

Since I do all of the cooking in our house, I realized a while ago that I play a large role in my family’s health.  Oscar is not picky at all, and he will eat basically anything I put on the table even if it’s burnt to a crisp.  But now we have a child, and soon enough she will be eating food too, and she may not be quite so accepting.  So I want to do this right from the beginning, so that I don’t create any bad habits.  And that, of course, starts with what I put in my own mouth.

Unfortunately I happen to be a huge fan of everything unhealthy…  meats with lots of marbled fat running through them, savory dishes with lots of carbohydrates (lasagna, creamy noodles with ham…), not to mention every kind of ungodly dessert known to man.  But I am not one to just give up everything I love and turn into an all out health nut.  I really believe in “All things in moderation”.  So a little reduction on the unhealthy foods while increasing the healthy foods will suffice for me.  After all, I don’t want to scare my husband off!

That’s why, when I ran across something called a “green smoothie”, the idea really caught on with me.  The green smoothie was invented by Victoria Boutenko, who was looking for a good way to get her family to eat more leafy greens.  The basic idea is to blend leafy greens like spinach, kale, etc together with fruits in your blender.  You can really do any combination you want, but adding some lemon or ginger helps it to taste a bit more “zingy”.    It’s also a GREAT place for all those leaves from the tops of carrots and radishes!  (just make sure they are organic, since you don’t want lots of yucky pesticides getting into your system.)

So here is my very first green smoothie!

Green Smoothie

mmmmm!


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