I remember when my daughter, Finley, was six months old. I went to the grocery store and bought a couple jars of baby food. After opening a jar of strained green beans, I knew instantly I wasn't going to feed her anything I wouldn't eat myself -- I definitely wasn't going to eat that jar of green beans!
From that day forward, I committed to making my own baby meals from scratch. My sister, Jill, and I grew up with wholesome, flavourful food, and our company was born because we wanted the best for our kids. Here's what we have learned after 10 years of feeding babies:
A baby's relationship with food begins with their first bites. What babies eat early on has a profound effect on how their eating habits develop as they grow up. Exposure to a wide variety of flavors and textures develops their palate for good food. My kids' first food, besides cereals, was broccoli. To this day they still love their trees!
Don't give up if baby has rejected a food. If baby has rejected a certain food item, keep trying. It takes persistence, but eventually they will come around and learn to love it. It can take sometimes up to 20 tries, but it's worth it in the end to develop good eating habits. One tip: make sure the texture is right. Sometimes baby rejects a food because of the texture, not the flavour -- ensure the consistency isn't too thick, thin or chunky. Baby will be able to express which one they don't like: texture or flavour.
Mix favourites with not-so favourites to develop a taste. If you don't have it in you to persist upwards of 20 times for baby to adapt to their greens or proteins, try mixing with their favourite foods. If baby does not enjoy chicken puree, then combine with a little cereal and some mango or another favourite fruit. You can gradually reduce the fruit for more balance.
There is an actual technique to crafting perfect baby food texture. Babies typically start solids with pureed foods, but not all purees are alike. There is a balance between liquid, blend time and cook time to get a desired texture that baby won't push back out. When they progress to the next level of texture, again it's a balance between particulate size, puree and liquid. Who knew?
They are highly influenced by your eating habits. You are a role model, the light of their life, and they look up to you for guidance. If healthy foods are part of your meal, they will follow suit.
Babies are open to variety. Be creative and try lots of variety with baby. Texture, ingredients, herbs and spices... there are so many interesting ways to be creative and adventurous when feeding your baby. You will be surprised to see how adaptable they can be with exposure.
It's a "Baby Gour-mess." Feeding babies is a complete mess! Forget about making the food, let's talk about how much fun those babies are having with their food. Every day, it's a little food fight and you are their personal caretakers, cleaning up after every meal and snack. Jill and I would leave work every day with food in our hair and on our shoes, which is how we coined the term, "Baby Gour-mess."
Feeding recommendations have changed A LOT over 10 years. When I started my daughter on solids 10 years ago, it was recommended to start on rice cereal between 4 to 6 months, followed by pureed vegetables and fruits at 6 months. Meats were to be introduced along with dairy products around 8 months, and textured foods around 10 months. Absolutely no nuts before 12 months, and you were scared to feed baby finger foods before 10 months. Organic was not as advertised then as it is now, and there were still baby foods with sugar added, preservatives, thickeners and fillers lining the shelf.
Over the past 10 years, a lot has changed in the way parents feed their babies and what consumers are looking for in their products. Recommendations now suggest introducing allergens early on to avoid allergies. The movement of baby led weaning recommends giving finger foods as early as possible. I love to see the evolution of the feeding experience, but it can be tough to keep up with. I say, go with what works best for you and your baby.
Feeding babies is an emotional experience. I never would have thought that the act of feeding a baby and the preparation of baby food would be such an emotional experience. We feel such love when creating recipes to be enjoyed by babies; we love watching their little faces and body language as they embark on this journey. It's a beautiful thing.
We have a very important job. Everyone on the team at Baby Gourmet knows just how important their role is in the early development of baby. Not only are we responsible for making the best feeding experience for babies, we are giving parents a few hours of their time back so they can spend it with their little ones.
Follow HuffPost Canada Blogs on Facebook
Follow Jennifer Carlson on Twitter: www.twitter.com/babygourmet