Friday, April 18, 2014

How I Fed my Baby during his First Year

I put a lot of thought into how I would feed Birk.  However, this post is not intended to put pressure on you to feed your own offspring in any particular way.  I am passionate about food and eating the real stuff and the right stuff.  It is important to me.  A few people have asked me to share recipes and ideas for what I did with Birk.  Here it goes (of course, this is long, what do you expect!)

I do have to say, I had a couple of rules that I followed throughout the process:

1.  Don't feed him anything that I can't eat myself.
2.  Focus on vegetables.
3.  Avoid fruit by itself.
4.  Try to keep meal time fun and light.  Don't get frustrated.
5.  Avoid dairy.
6.  Avoid bland food, white food, empty carbs (obviously).
7.  Obviously no sugar, white flour, or food with no nutrients.

0-6.5 months

Birk was on a milk only diet.  He nursed approximately every five minutes.  Kidding.  He was not on a schedule but it was every 1-4 hours including through the night.  Between 1-3 months, he slept pretty well at night so he would go 5 or 6 hour stretches without eating.  But once he was around 4 months, he nursed at least every 3 hours through the night.  Conclusion.  Lots of milk.  I will forever miss this because a milk only diet is so easy.  You don't have to pack food, make food, worry about food.  

6.5-7 months
Day 1 - Avocado pieces

Birk tried non-milk food.  This did not go so well.  We wanted to start with avocado.  And I had read a lot about baby led weaning.  Where you let your baby feed themselves and skip the puree phase.  I am oversimplifying the whole thing, but you can read about it elsewhere if you are interested.  I put a few pieces of avocado on Birk's plate and let him put it in his own mouth.  He didn't.  Despite putting every other non-edible thing he touches in his mouth, he wasn't interested.  I took a little piece and put it in his mouth (against all the rules of baby led weaning).  He gagged, which then caused him to choke, which then caused him to puke what seemed like 5 gallons of milk out onto the tray.  What a great start!  It was so scary.  The video above is after all of that happened...

Day 2 - Avocado Soup

Day 3 - Avocado Soup with Dad

Let't try pureeing!  After a few days (or the next day), we tried again.  I mashed up an avocado and mixed it heavily with breast milk.  I call this, avocado soup.  After trying this many times, he started hating it less.  Avocado is nice and fatty, however, it is not sweet at all.  And if you taste breast milk (at least the foodforscot variety), it is very sweet.  You can see in the Day 2 and Day 3 videos that he ate maybe a tablespoon and was overall not super interested in the whole thing.


-More or less mass chaos.

How much and how frequent?

NON-MILK: 1 tsp. to 1 tbsp. each meal; 1 meal each day or every other day.
MILK: every three hours.

7-8 months

Second Taste Ever - Butternut Squash Puree

Third Taste Ever - Oats (mixed with Apples and Cinnamon)

During this month, I started to experiment with different types of purees, but all the purees were mild, easy flavors.  You will notice in the Butternut Squash video, that he still had a hearty gag reflex.  He kept that for many months.  

For the first part of the month, I was only feeding him once per day.  And it was at various times.  Towards the end of the month, I would occasionally feed him twice in one day.  However, he hardly ever ate much at both meals.  Here is what I tried in order:

-Butternut squash, roasted, pureed.  This was not hated, but not loved.  
-Cooked whole oats, mixed with our summer apple* sauce and cinnamon, then pureed.  This is still to this day his favorite thing to eat.  This is the first thing he ate that he seemed to like.
-Pumpkin, roasted, mixed with cooked brown rice, pureed.  This was a favorite.
-Potato & Carrot either roasted or boiled, then pureed with salt, pepper, and butter.  This was a favorite.
-Cooked whole oats, mixed with banana*, pureed.  This was rejected for the most part.  
-Cooked whole oats, mixed with cooked peaches*, pureed.  This was a favorite.

Carrot and Potatoes, a silky smooth puree

*Anything made with fruit was minimally sweet.  In fact, I often made a big pot of oatmeal for all of us and then had to add brown sugar to mine to really enjoy it.  The apple sauce we made is the full apple, we did not peel the apples.  Obviously no sugar or added anything.


-At this point, we all ate oatmeal every day and just pureed some for Birk.
-Purees were saved in the fridge, as I was still determining what he liked and would eat.

How much and how frequent?

NON-MILK: 1-2 ounces each meal; 1-2 meals per day.
MILK: every three hours.

8-9 months

This is how he eats if it is something he has had many times before.

This is how he eats if it is something new.  

During this phase, I started to introduce green vegetables now that he was capable of putting food in his mouth and swallowing.  Something that apparently did not come naturally to him.  At this point, he was consistently eating twice a day, always in the morning and then at lunch or dinner or some time in between.  When feeding him purees, I preferred to feed him while I was cooking or before I ate.  But I would occasionally feed him during the meal time too.  We continued with purees, here were the new ones:

-Delicata Squash, roasted, mixed with cooked millet, seasoned with salt, pepper, thyme (optional), pureed.  This was a favorite.
-Acorn Squash, roasted, mixed with brown rice, seasoned with salt, pepper, pureed.  Liked it.
-Sautéed Kale mixed with roasted Sweet Potatoes, pureed.  Anything mixed with sweet potatoes was a favorite hardcore.  I also did this with spinach, which is a much smoother puree.
-Boiled potatoes mixed with sweet corn (frozen from the summer), seasoned with salt, pepper, and butter, pureed.  Liked it fine.
-Roasted carrots and turnips, seasoned with salt and pepper, pureed.  Liked it fine.
-Mashed avocado.
-Cooked whole oats, mixed with blueberries, pureed.  Liked it.
-Lots of other combos of:  acorn squash, spinach, broccoli, millet, brown rice, pumpkin, other winter squashes, potatoes, carrots, sweet potatoes, etc.
-Avocado pureed with boiled potatoes.
-Butternut Squash and Oats, pureed.

Blueberry Oats on the face

 The Oatmeal!  Mom and Birk versions

 Butternut Squash & Potato, Butternut Squash and Oats, Avocado & Potato


-Oatmeal was made every 3-4 days.  I would make a big pot for all of us, the portion out 3-5 servings for Birk that were kept in the fridge.  I put them in 4 ounce canning jars.
-Purees were generally made "in bulk".  I would save a few portions in the fridge in the 4 ounce canning jars.  I put the rest in a silicon mold which froze 4 ounce portions.  I kept the frozen portions in freezer bags.  I usually had 4-6 options for him at any time in the freezer.

How much and how frequent?

NON-MILK: 2-3 ounces each meal; 2 times a day.
MILK: every three hours.

9-10 months

Birk starts to really enjoy meal time, savors his bites.  

Birk eating a very pureed food (amaranth, apricot, banana).

Birk eating non-pureed oats for the first.  

Birk eating millet, spinach, and basil.

During this phase, I started to introduce more sophisticated flavors and textures.  He got his first taste of beans and lentils.  At this point, we were giving him a chance to eat three times a day.  When we started three times a day, he consistently only ate well two of those times.  The other time he would eat maybe a bite or two and then not be interested.  This happened for about 3 months.  At this point, he did not respond well to texture.  This is when I first tried to not puree his oats or to feed him whole millet mixed with a puree.  When these were introduced, I would give it to him 3, 4 times and he would not eat them or much.  Sometimes I would go back to pureeing and try the non-pureed again.  Sometimes I would continue to try.  Either way, it took about a month for him to get used to the texture and start eating more than a few bites.

At this point, he was also being tested for his iron levels at his well visits.  Although they were not low, they were not high.  I did various this at this point to try to help with this including:  adding apricot and prune purees into his oatmeal, adding greens, beans, cooking in a cast iron skillet, etc.  I also love using millet.  It is such a fast grain to cook (compared to rice) and has a totally neutral flavor.  Here were some new dishes we tried:

-Millet, zucchini, basil, apple sauce, pureed or everything chopped super fine.
-Boil dried apricots or prunes in water until very soft.  Puree.  Freeze in ice cube tray.  Add to dishes as needed.
-Cranberry beans and brown rice, pureed.  All the beans I made for Birk from dry.  It is important when giving babies beans to give then plenty of time to cook.  Soak over night.  Rinse.  Boil for 2 hours.  The soaking and long cooking helps with gas and keeps the texture very soft.  Birk has always liked beans.
-Steamed asparagus and cooked millet, pureed.  Seasoned with salt, pepper.  Not a favorite.
-Spinach, basil, millet, pureed.
-Cooked lentils, kabocha pumpkin, seasoned with oregano, salt, and pepper.  This was a favorite.  Scot claims that this tastes like Sugar Cookies, however, no one agrees with him.
-Cooked amaranth, pear, and pumpkin, pureed.  This was intended to give him some variety at breakfast.  He liked it.
-Cooked amaranth, banana, apricot, pureed.  He ate it well at first, but seemed to get sick of it.

Left: Avocado face.  Right: Thanksgiving dinner (mashed potatoes, butternut squash/kale puree, pumpkin puree-dessert)
Birk's first restaurant food - Carrot Ginger Soup from a vegan restaurant


-same as last month.

How much and how frequent?

NON-MILK: 4 ounces per meal; 2-3 times per day.
MILK:  every 3-4 hours.

10-11 months

Up until this point, he really didn't put food in his mouth.  This is him self feeding.

Then, he FINALLY puts food in his own mouth.  Avocado.  

The start of self feeding for us!  This was by far the most difficult stage of eating.  At this point, Birk was just getting his first four teeth, not that they help much anyway.  But I found it very difficult to find food that he could feed himself but that also followed my rules.  Not to mention, he just didn't put food in his mouth.  At this point, I was still mostly doing purees but giving him finger food at every meal.  Here are the finger foods that I found worked best for his novice pincer grip (he didn't have one at all, see above video for the method he developed):

-oat pancakes (this recipe, but I used a Chia egg and apple sauce for the liquid).  I made a full batch and froze them.  They lasted about 3 months.  I thought he would devour these, as they are all his favorite flavors.  He didn't, however, they were tempting enough for him to practice feeding himself.  They were very convenient to have in the freezer.
-avocado.  Perfectly soft.  Difficult to grab, but ended up being the winner for Birk.  After enough practice, he really perfected his technique of eating avocado.  This has been his all time favorite, go to food.  See above video.
-pieces of bread dipped in a veggie sauce.  He would have trouble if they were too soggy, so to encourage him to feed himself, I'd give him the plain bread.  Then the next piece would have a little sauce on it.  Repeat as necessary.  The veggie sauce could be any pureed veggie, soup, etc.  We eat lots of stuff like this so I just pureed whatever I had.
-roasted root veggies - carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes, etc.  I tried turnips, beets, rutabagas, and other similar root veggies and found they do not get very soft when roused.  I preferred to cut them into small pieces prior to roasting because the skin that formed when roasting helped him pick up the pieces.  However, sometimes that skin made me nervous too so I would remove it before giving it to him.

Otherwise, purees were similar:

-veggie purees mixed directly with millet.
-always mixing green veggies like spinach, kale, and broccoli with either sweet potato or butternut squash.  Cutting it with a grain also helped.
-his oats were now whole!  always!  so much easier!  We stopped pureeing grains, in general.
-he liked anything pureed with lentils.  Lentils puree up much better than beans.

Overall, Birk was very bad at feeding himself this entire time.  This was a difficult transition for all of us!

One method was to let him eat directly off the plate.  Worked this time!


-for oatmeal, we would just make 1 cup of oats for Birk and portion it out in the 4 ounce canning jars.  We would do this every 4-5 days.
-For any puree or pseudo puree, I was still freezing batches, as before.  But often times I would just have enough for a few days in the fridge.
-I would also freeze roasted veggies and the oat pancakes.  An important tip with freezing these types of things, you need to lay them out and flash freeze them on a baking tray before transferring to a freezer bag or container.  That way you can easily retrieve pieces.

How much and how frequent?

NON-MILK: 4 ounces per meal; 2-3 times per day.  (and maybe less, this was a rough patch)
MILK:  every 3-4 hours.

11-12 months

Dipping roasted sweet potatoes into a pureed lima bean sauce.

This is very often how meal time goes.  

Self feeding started to pick up here.  We were traveling a lot during this period which changed our habits a bit.  Although he allowed us to spoon feed him his oatmeal in the morning, it was around this time that he did not want to be spoon fed purees.  He wanted to feed himself!  I found a lot of great finger foods for him during this time:

-sticky brown rice (or while traveling, any rice)
-tofu - he loves tofu.  I would season it up with different spices:  cumin, coriander, paprika, turmeric, etc.  He ate it in different asian sauces that we were eating.
-black beans, cranberry beans - cooked from dry.  Overcooked so they split and so they were very soft. Tip:  store beans in their liquid so they don't dry out.  Even while feeding him, I kept the beans in a bowl of liquid.
-roasted sweet potatoes continued to be a favorite.  I started dipping them in veggie sauces so that he could get other veggies in.  See video above.
-avocado is our go to emergency food.
-started give him little pasta shells with different veggie sauces:  pestos, spinach/tomato, tomato, etc.  I started with brown rice, gluten free pasta.  It is very soft.  He loves pasta.
-hard boiled egg yolks.  He was a big fan however, they are difficult to eat.  I almost always was feeding him something else with the yolks, so often I would just coat the other food in the yolk pieces.
-Started making veggie curries with boiled veggies (all the root veggies, since thats what we had from our CSA) and mixing with coconut curries.
-banana - out of pure desperation when we were traveling, Birk started eating bananas.  It is the one and only food that is finger food friendly and available EVERYWHERE.  At first, he would eat about a quarter.  One time he ate the whole thing.  Usually he eats half.  He doesn't actually seem to love bananas actually, but he will eat them.
-fish - tried halibut and salmon.  It is a good finger food and he did like it.
-steamed broccoli with sauce (I would add it to pastas).  A very good finger food.  Not his favorite, but he is coming around.

Left:  Birk eat avocado.  Right: Birk eating/squishing beans.  


-nothing to freeze anymore.
-hardboiled eggs were cooked ahead of time and kept in the fridge.

Traveling Tips

-Always had a banana and avocado.
-Bought packets of instant oats.  Individual containers of unsweetened, organic apple sauce.
-We went to Hawaii for a week, but were gone from home a total of 2 weeks.  I bought some emergency squeezable pouches because there were plenty of moments when it was impossible to find something for him to eat.  My research led to me this brand.  Per my rule #1, yes I did eat every single one I gave him.  Even though the flavors I bought weren't bad, he did not eat much.  And I didn't give him any that were pure fruit.  It helped us in a pinch.  Some of them have nice mixes of greens and fruit, which were a favorite of me and Birk.  He also liked pure sweet potato, which I bought with the intension of mixing into some rice at a restaurant.
-Vegetarian restaurants almost always had lots of option for Birk.
-Almost any ethnic restaurant (in other words, non-American food) usually has some stewed veggie dish with rice
-Whenever I go out with Birk, when possible, I bring food with me.

How much and how frequent?

NON-MILK: 4 ounces per meal; 3 times per day.
MILK:  every 4 hours; sometimes he sleeps 5-6 hours at night without nursing.

1 year!

Orzo with Spinach pesto and roasted red peppers.  

Birk eating Chana Masala (I made and brought to restaurant) on his first birthday.

Birk is just starting to try to use a spoon.

It is amazing to watch his journey in eating.  Amazing and like really hard.  My Rule #4 is a hard one.  After making Birk food, I have to muster up all that is in me to NOT get frustrated when he throws it on the floor or feeds to Copper.  Now a days, he eats quite well at the beginning of the meal.  But resorts to throwing and feeding Copper once his initial hunger subsides.  Right now, I tell him not to do it and motion that he should put the food in his mouth.  He usually listens and puts the next bite in his mouth.  Repeat a few times.  Then eventually, he just sits and enjoys the rest the meal as an observer.  This might change at some point, but that is how it is going now.

-The Veggie Sauce - 1 jar of tomato sauce (20 + ounces), 1 jar of water, 1 butternut squash, peeled, seeds removed, chopped into pieces, 1 head of broccoli, chopped into pieces.  Put all in pot.  Bring to a boil.  Boil until tender.  Puree with stick blender.  Put on pasta, rice, veggies, or use as a dip.  You can add apple sauce if necessary.  Season with salt and pepper.
-Cauliflower/Spinach sauce - Boil chopped up cauliflower in water or veggie stock (enough liquid to just cover).  Once it is very tender, blend with immersion blender….add dijon, half of a cup of shredded cheese, several large handfuls of spinach.  Blend again until smooth.  Season with salt and pepper.  Put on pasta, rice, veggies, or use as a dip.
-Scrambled eggs.  He loves them, I plan to add spinach soon.
-Roasted red peppers.  He really liked them at first.
-Chickpeas are one of his favorite beans.  I cook from dry in big batches.
-Hummus - I make my own for him with basically chickpeas, olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and garlic.  He eats on little pieces of bread right now.
-Indian food - oh my…it has to be his favorite thing.  He loves Chana Masala.  All the stewed veggies in the different Indian sauces.  Paneer is an obvious favorite.  Rice.  He likes it all.
-Polenta.  Cook polenta, pour into a brownie pan.  Refrigerator until solid.  Slice and then sauté in butter.  Serve with a sauce or hummus. 
-Whole wheat pasta.  Orzo is a great cut (see above video).  Or shells are good because they can hold a lot of sauce.  Above he is eating orzo with a spinach pesto and roasted red peppers.  


-nothing to freeze anymore.
-hardboiled eggs were cooked ahead of time and kept in the fridge.

How much and how frequent?

NON-MILK: 6 ounces per meal; 3 times per day.
MILK:  every 4-5 hours; more frequently at night; more consistently sleeping 5-6 hours at night without nursing.


As of now, I still stand by my limited dairy and limited fruit rule.  However, over the past three months, he has only gained one pound!  When he was an immobile, milk chugging infant, he packed on the pounds.  Now he is crazy, active, and always busy.  I am happy with the amount he eats, but am always considering added some easy calories.  My theory is that once kids start eating fruit and cheese, they will struggle to eat the healthy stuff.  He is not a particularly adventurous eater.  For the most part, I have to give him something 5, 10, 15 times before he will start really consuming it.  I will let him taste fruit or cheese or yogurt, but I don't give it to him as part of his meal.  I could consider including plain yogurt in his diet for all those bacterias.  At some point, I will add fruit as a snack, but just not sure when that will be.  I think I am going to permanently leave fruit out of meal time.  We don't eat fruit as part of our meals, so that is easy enough.  As you know, I am not a big cheese person, so that is also not much of an issue.

What about sugar?  I am still not sure when that will be introduced either.  Definitely not until he understands the concept.  Once that happens, we shall see.

I made just about every recipe from this cookbook:


Once I introduced food, I started giving Birk water to drink from a cup.  Our Dr. was the first one who recommended not using a sippy cup.  You can see his progression.  He is pretty good at drinking from a water bottle with like a 1 inch diameter opening.  He can also use a straw, which our Dr. said is good for speech development.  Even though he enjoys drinking water, he is still quite bad at it.  At a year, we are just periodically giving him water throughout the day and at meals.

Birk's first try drinking water.

Birk still learning to drink water out of a cup.

Birk gets better at drinking water out of a cup.