A Tale of Feeding Babies

You had a baby, made it through the first several months using your own boob or formula and now have to contemplate the whole “real food” thing for your them. But you have no idea where to start. “What method do I use?” “How long can I do purees for?” “I’m afraid of them choking” … I’m pretty sure most of us end up Googling how to start the process and all feel the same way about it, which is somewhat apprehensive and nervous about the whole situation.

With all 3 of our kids, we started feeding them earlier than the “recommended” timeframe of 6 months. We decided to start them on pablum (rice cereal mixed with water) by 4 months.

There were a couple of reasons why we decided to do this. First of all, it went with my whole “parent like our parents did” philosophy that I mentioned in one of my earlier posts Who The F*** Are They?. A lot of our parents generation were feeding us pablum by 3 months and solid meals by 6 months and we all seemed to turn out fine so I figured why not continue the trend even though it isn’t necessarily recommended these days.

Secondly, I have my own weird way of thinking and thought if I got my babies eating at an earlier age and had them eating all food types by the 6/7 month mark, then they wouldn’t know any different and would be young enough to not fully understand what foods were what and therefor, wouldn’t have huge opinions on what they didn’t like. They would also be used to the textures of eating food, which I thought would only make my life easier later on. Not sure if that makes any sense but basically, I thought that the earlier I started food, the better eaters they would become because that would be their “normal” from a super young age and they wouldn’t know anything different. Obviously, my kids don’t like everything I give them (even at a young age) but I figured if I did it earlier, they would build those habits from a younger age and that if I did it later, they would have more of an opinion and put up more of a fuss. Yes, I may sound like a crazy person because this is definitely not a proven fact of life, but that’s how my brain is wired.

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With our firstborn, we just went for it and started the pablum at 4 months but with the twins, as we were in and out of doctor’s appointments more frequently, I did let my doctor know of my plan around 3.5 months. Her response was definite hesitation at first but then said it should be fine to do a slow introduction with my son (he was massive anyway) but maybe wait on my daughter (the pipsqueak twin) as she may not be ready. She just didn’t want me replacing a milk feeding with pablum which I wasn’t planning on doing anyway.

So, I half took her advice and started both of them before the 4-month mark but was only doing a little bit once a day and then slowly increased from then on (not replacing a feeding).

From there, we started introducing purees around the 4.5-month mark. Now, I will chime in here and say that I solely used those squeeze packs you buy at the grocery store (yes, I know they are bad for the environment) but they made my life a lot easier. I did realize how expensive it was becoming though because I was feeding two babies multiple times a day, which is when I decided they needed to learn to eat food like banana and avocado and other soft mashed items I had on hand. I also did make baby food a couple times but definitely not as often as I probably should have been because well, priorities and laziness.

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Anyway, when we introduced the purees, I attempted the one vegetable at a time sequence with my firstborn. I think I got through 3 vegetables separately before just saying “screw it” and gave her all the mixed fruit and veg packs. Turns out, before I had the twins, a friend of mine was seeing a pediatrician and they told her she didn’t have to introduce vegetables and fruit one-by-one anymore. So, I jumped on that same train and opted in for the “throw it all at them” method with the twins and it worked out just fine. Don’t quote me on this as I did not here this straight from the pediatrician and just decided it made sense and went for it. I guess I live on the edge a little.

Yes, the babies would go through weird poop phases where we would throw a prune pack down them to try and level it out but eventually, their bodies got the hang of it and all was good again. Sort of like when my dog gets the runs or constipated and I throw some pumpkin at him to make it all normal again. It’s practically the same right? I should clearly be a doctor.

Next up was the chunks of food. Now, I have been asked recently what method we did and I think my answer is that we did all of the methods in one? We tried larger chunks of food like that baby-led weaning talks about, we did smaller chunks (my thumbnail size) where I would hand feed them like a baby bird, and then we also did purees because at least we knew how much they were getting if it didn’t seem like the chunks were going down well. To be honest, watching them try and eat slippery large chunks of food was more frustrating than anything because I was constantly picking it up off the floor to give back to them so the baby bird method was more my jam until they got better at bringing the food to their mouths. This could be because they were younger and didn’t have the hand-eye coordination down yet but it seemed to be much more efficient and a lot faster to do the baby bird method. Speed and knowing what’s actually getting into their bellies was a priority for me. (Fun fact: I do not know what the proper name is for this “Baby Bird Method” so let’s just pretend this is correct).

With our firstborn, she was feeding herself chunks by 6-months but the twins were a bit slower and got this down pat around 8-months or so. They were eating all types of foods but I was still baby birding it (mostly for the boy but I think he’s lazy and appreciated the service). Also, they are 9-months now (so much older than 8-months) and I still do this from time to time.

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Example of what I would let them feed themselves or “baby bird” style. I would also cut those grapes into quarters for one of the twins

I may as well talk about choking and gagging here as I know it’s a big fear of most new moms as it was for me too.

Babies will 100% gag when trying new textures or chunks of food for the first time and it’s pretty intense and scary to watch. I would tell myself that they were just working their gag reflux and that it’s a new experience/texture but that didn’t make it any less scary. The other side of it was that the more different textures they tried, hopefully the gagging would become less and less as they got used to it.

Choking on the other hand is terrifying. I would highly suggest all new moms to take an infant first aid course before having a baby and bring along Grandma and Grandpa or whoever will be around your babies most and/or feeding them. It was very helpful and eye-opening when they told us things like why babies are more likely to choke on certain foods and signs to look out for with choking vs gagging, etc. I personally think the course should be mandatory for new parents so that they know what to do and to make feeding the baby a bit less scary.

Next up, the allergens. We waited a bit with our first child to introduce egg whites and then I think we did peanut butter around 6/7 months. With the twins, I forgot about the egg white thing and just started making scrambled eggs from the get go around 5 or 6 months. As for peanut butter, I just put my finger in the jar and then popped it into their mouths for a few days before spreading it on bread for them but I don’t think anyone should take my advice on this as I have a friend who recently found out that their baby has a pretty intense peanut allergy and while some signs and symptoms showed up immediately, they went down until a few hours later when he woke up from his nap and had massive hives that just kept spreading. Super scary, especially when it got more intense a few hours after introducing it. She mentioned that you’re best to just put a little on their lip first and then wait before trying again and then dilute it for round two. Also, best to do this after a nap so you have more time before they go to sleep again as you don’t want to put them down after testing it. Maybe I should get her to do a Q&A on this for “Real Mom Sh!t” as she’s pretty well versed in allergies after going through it with her son. Good idea?

Back to non-allergy foods, here’s a rough timeline of what we fed the babies and when. This may not work for everyone. Again, it’s just what we did and is not necessarily doctor recommended.

4-months Pablum
5 months Introduced purees if pablum was going well
5-months onwards Continued purees and started adding mashed banana, avocado or other soft foods that weren’t completely pureed so that they could get the texture of small chunks
6-months Baby bird style feeding (thumbnail sized chunks or a bit smaller if nervous). Also tried large baby-led weaning chunks but never worked too well for us
7-months Thumbnail sized foods for them to feed themselves and baby bird style here and there for speed and full belly purposes. Also still did squeeze packs occasionally
9-months onwards Chunks for them to feed themselves and a squeeze pack as filler here and there

To make mealtime easier for us, I usually always prepare certain foods to have on hand in the fridge for the week. This way, my husband can easily feed the kids and not have to think too much about it and we can quickly get food in front of them for when they get hangry.

I usually prep everything in larger chunks and then cut or make them smaller as we feed it to them. Our toddler eats the same foods for the most part so the bigger chunks are handy for her. See photo below:

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Steamed broccoli chunks
Chop into regular bite-sized pieces and steam for 8 minutes

Cooked yams in chunks
Peel skin off, cut in loonie sized chunks or strips and toss in olive oil. Cook at 400 for 22 minutes or until soft enough to squish between fingers

Roast chicken
I will either roast one for dinner once a week or buy a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store and take apart to keep in Tupperware in the fridge for the week

More items to have on hand that we cut into appropriate sizes as we feed:

Hard boiled eggs
Avocados
Bread (like feeding the birds)
Cheese (baby bell and/or cheddar)
Cottage cheese
Frozen butternut squash chunks
Frozen edamame beans
All types of berries
Mandarins, bananas, pineapple, mango…any fruit

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Size reference for them feeding themselves and “baby bird” style.

Other foods we feed them are things like scrambled eggs, pasta, small pieces of meat (whatever we are cooking) and anything small enough or soft enough that they may like. At dinner time, we do try and feed them a modified version of what we’re eating but sometimes that can be tough to get everyone’s dinner ready by 5:00pm. During quarantine, it’s been more do-able but when I’m back at work, this will most likely be a lot more challenging, which is where having the food on hand in the fridge comes in handy.

And that my friends, is a long post on feeding babies. It really is just a magical and exciting time isn’t it? Especially if you’re like me and can’t stand the mess that comes along with babies constantly dropping food on the floor.