I'm frequently asked questions about all the glorious obstacles we are faced with when it comes to feeding the most important members of our family, our children. First off, I start by telling moms to "do what works for them."
As concerned parents, we are always seeking advice and experience gathering, but at the end of the day, the best advice is the one that works best for you and your child. Do not try to force something that doesn't make you or your child comfortable.
With this being said, I decided to take a few of the common questions and share my responses, because at some time or another, one of you readers may be faced with the same issues. If these suggestions work for you, great. If not, keep trying and you will find the answer!
Disclaimer: The questions below have been rephrased for clarity or to omit personal details.
1) How do you go from baby food to finger food without having a heart attack? I have a 13-month-old with a terrible gag reflex. What are some good finger foods and how do you cook/prepare them?
- Jessica Jane
Starting solids can be a very stressful experience, so don't panic -- you are not alone. The fear of choking is very real, especially when you are watching your little one struggle and gag to make the transition to finger foods. I was always on the edge of my seat, ready to give the Heimlich to my 8-month-old!
In my experience, the easiest way to transition is to gradually move from a smooth puree to a slightly thicker and chunkier textured puree before moving to bite-sized pieces. They need to get used to particulates in their mouths before taking the leap into finger foods. This gradual transition prepares them for texture.
If you make your own food, instead of pureeing into a fine, smooth consistency, try pulsing in the blender/processor to create a chunkier texture -- no larger than a grain of rice or pearl of barley. This texture will encourage them to smack their gums. If you are noticing a gag reflect, add a little more fluid to thin out or mash with a fork.
Once baby is used to chunky purees, you can transition to finger foods such as small pieces of slightly overcooked pasta, or cooked and diced sweet potato or carrot, all of which are very soft and malleable for baby to break down. Baby Gourmet offers chunky purees such as vegetable, beef & barley as well as mushies, a healthy, no-sugar-added, melt-in-the-mouth finger food that can help you through this transition and for on-the-go convenience.
2) To snack or not to snack? Should you offer your little one snacks between meals, and if so, what kind? I currently offer Mushies and Greek yogurt, but I want to mix it up and give some variety.
- Sarah Willock from Brampton, Ontario
I believe babies can send cues as to when they are hungry. Outside of the standard breakfast, lunch and dinner, I feel snacking can occur as baby is growing. Babies may not eat much at mealtime, so will be looking for something in between. It is completely up to baby and mom to determine if baby should snack.
I always offered snacks to my babies -- the wider the variety, the better. Our Mushies are a great, no-added-sugar snack for on the go, but if you want to add more variety, consider homemade mini muffins, cooked chopped veggies, yogurt and diced avocado or fresh fruit. I've included a recipe at the bottom of the article for my Harvest Pear, Pumpkin & Banana Mini Muffins; one my son's favourite snacks. The Baby Gourmet puree replaces added fat with natural fruit... very yummy!
3) My 21-month-old refuses to eat meat. How do I ensure he gets enough iron?
- Tiffany from Calgary, Alberta
Introducing meat can be a difficult experience, usually because of the texture and chewiness. As baby grows, so does their requirement for iron, so I can understand your concern for ensuring they are getting enough of it.
First off, look at how you are introducing meat. If you are simply cooking it and dicing into bite-sized pieces, I can see how it can be rejected. Have you tried using ground meat?
Try using ground beef, turkey or chicken and adding it to your pasta sauces, soups or a cheesy quesadilla. If this does not work, look at alternative sources of iron and ways to incorporate them into your meals, such as lentils, black beans, quinoa, tuna, eggs, spinach and broccoli.
I've added a recipe at the bottom of the article for one of my family's favorite go-to pasta dishes and the top-selling toddler meal from our early farmers market days, Creamy Beef & Pasta Bake.
4) How do you get your 18-month-old to take his medicine? My son has to take Benadryl for his sinuses and he hates the taste.
- Rachelle Dixon from Kansas City, Missouri
My son was a little more finicky when it came to taking his medicine, so I had to use a syringe (dropper) to squirt it into the side of his cheek, followed quickly with a drink of water between drops. As he has grown, I have tried every flavor and found one he will take (grape).
I also asked my sister about her experience with medicine rejection, as I recalled she experienced this stressful situation. She would have her daughter plug her nose, take a sip of chilled medicine, then follow with a swig of orange juice. Chilling the medicine was key to subduing the flavor. I have also heard of having your child suck an ice pop beforehand to numb the tongue and taste buds, which makes swallowing the yucky stuff a little easier.
5) I am a first-time mom and finding it a bit difficult to know what to give my little one. For breakfast, I have been giving her oatmeal, and for dinner I have been giving her the sweet potato, apple & chicken (puree). What can I give her for lunch, and what other things could I give her for breakfast and dinner? She is six months.
- A Facebook fan
I was a first-time mom too... I know the stress that feeding can cause! First off, you are doing great! Every baby is different and the amount can vary from one to another. Follow you baby's cues; they will tell you when they are full and have had enough. I would start adding some puree into your morning cereal. For example, you can stir in some harvest pear, pumpkin & banana or juicy pear & garden greens.
For lunch, I would serve cereal again with another veg and fruit. The cereal is a good source of iron and protein (especially if mixed with breast milk or prepared formula). Dinner, add a little fruit puree for after dinner. I used to serve a little cereal with each meal, because of the added nutrients.
In general, all babies are slightly different and have varied likes and dislikes. Be patient with this experience, and don't give up trying new things -- even if baby doesn't take to it on the first try. Creativity is key, so don't be afraid to try new approaches. Texture plays a big role in the early days of exploring food, and it's important to play with various textures and tastes. Don't take anything personal -you're doing great! Happy feeding!
Do you have a question that you would like answered? Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to weigh in!
Baby Gourmet Harvest Pear, Pumpkin & Banana Mini Muffins
(photo credit: Upper Pond Jane)
These mini muffins are a perfect, on-the-go snack for babies who are feeding themselves and able to tolerate bite-sized pieces, best for 12 months and up.
They are easy, healthy and loved by all ages!
1 cup all purpose flour
½ cup whole-wheat flour
½ cup brown sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt
½ tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. each of allspice, ginger, cloves (or 1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice)
2 pouches of Baby Gourmet Harvest Pear, Pumpkin & Banana baby food
½ cup milk
1/3 cup canola oil
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Combine dry ingredients and spices in a medium bowl. In a large bowl, whisk baby food, milk, oil and egg. Add dry ingredients and mix until moistened. Spoon in greased mini muffin tins. Bake 15 minutes. If using standard muffin pan, bake 20 minutes.
Makes about 60 mini muffins.
Creamy Beef & Pasta Bake
(photo credit: jonolist)
The recipe was a farmers market favorite when Jill and I were selling our meals direct in 2006. This cheesy, beefy recipe still lives on in my household and is frequently requested for weekday packed lunches.
½ pound whole grain pasta of your choice (kids love corkscrews!)
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
½ pound lean ground beef
1 cup canned crushed tomatoes or tomato sauce
2 cups milk
½ tsp. Dijon mustard
2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
½ cup shredded aged cheddar cheese
2 tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
2 tbsp. chopped parsley
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Lightly coat a 9x13 casserole dish with cooking spray.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until tender, but still firm. Drain and place in the casserole dish.
To make the meat sauce, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and sauté for 4 minutes or until softened. Add the ground beef and cook, stirring to break up the meat, for 4 minutes or until no longer pink. Stir in the tomatoes, cover and cook for about 5 minutes. Set aside.
To make the cheese sauce, combine the milk and mustard in a medium saucepan. Slowly whisk in the flour. Place over medium heat and stir until the mixture begins to boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or until the sauce is slightly thickened. Stir in the cheddar cheese and half the Parmesan cheese and stir until melted. Remove from the heat.
Pour the meat sauce and cheese sauce over the cooked pasta and stir to combine. Sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan and bake in the preheated oven for 10 to 15 minutes or until completely heated through. Garnish with parsley.
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