Feeding Solids

Baby will be eight months old next week which means he’ll have been eating solid foods for half his life. Below is some advice I feel I can give based on our experience. Per the recommendation of his pediatrician, we started introducing purees when he was four months old. This will differ for every child, so please trust the advice of your doctor instead of a random person on the Internet.

We made the decision to start him at four months because baby was getting very interested in what we were eating, was able to sit up with assistance, and just generally thought he was a way older baby so wanted to eat solids NOW, dammit! He’s been a champion eater since he came out of the womb, and his journey with solid foods has been no different. If it were up to him, he’d be bellying up to the table with us at every meal and have kissed bottles good-bye already. We have yet to find a food that he won’t eat (seriously) including fish, mushrooms, beets, corn on the cob, tikka masala… he’s a goat. A really cute, messy goat.

  • The Internet can be a scary place when it comes to information about introducing solids. Some people get absolutely militant about baby led weaning (BLW), some people are terrified of their kids choking and only feed purees for the first year, some people read about all the metals found recently in baby foods and put off introducing solids as long as possible. Protect your mental health when sourcing info! Make sure it’s coming from a reputable source, make sure you’re truthful with your doctor and aren’t afraid to ask questions, and be prepared to unfollow the trendy baby food Instagram accounts, if needed.
  • I wish we had registered for those silicone bibs with the built in food-catching trough. I figured “meh, a bib’s a bib” but WRONG-O, new mom self. The journey from spoon or hand to actual digestion is a chasm greater than the Grand Canyon. The more comfortable baby gets with non-purees, the more food will end up in their lap, on the floor, and under the cushions of their high chair. The more you can catch in their bib, the less you’ll be scraping off the floor after baby has gone to bed. Still pregnant Natalies, add these to your registries!
  • Incorporate baby’s food into how you already eat. If you loathe cooking, don’t put the pressure on yourself to make all of your kid’s food homemade. If Friday night is sacred pizza delivery time for you and your partner, start letting baby suck on the crusts or pick off a few olives and squish them up for baby to try. If it’s daunting to think of new foods to puree, or you don’t have a food processor, think of already soft foods you don’t have to transform after you get home. Items like avocado, ricotta cheese (lower in sodium than other cheeses!) canned pumpkin, yogurt, etc. are baby friendly right out of the package & you can eat them, too.
  • I won’t be giving any advice on introducing allergens because that’s medical grade info I’m unqualified to preach to you about!
  • Start with a little, then add more if they eat it. If you scramble a whole egg for baby, only put a bite or two on their high chair tray. If they eat it, give them some more. Until you know they’ll eat the whole thing, you end up wasting a bunch of food because it’s not that appetizing to eat the remainder after a baby has glommed all over it. Similarly, I’ll plan my breakfast and baby’s together. If I know he’s good for half an egg, I’ll set aside the other half- not covered in baby drool- to eat with my toast. If your baby is like mine, they’ll be more interested in eating if they see you eating along with them.
  • Pack snacks in your diaper bag when you’re going on outings. Even if you read Bringing Up Bebe and don’t believe in giving kids snacks between meals, as they get more active, they’re harder to keep entertained at a restaurant booth or in the car. Have some rice teethers, one of those puree pouches, or even pickles (our kid loves sucking on pickles on road trips) packed with you to give them something to work on. They’ll develop hand-to-mouth skills and keep quiet for longer!
  • Your dining area will get messy. Your kid will get messy. There will be food waste as your child learns to not open their hand over open air and let food fall. You’re gonna need to breathe and try to accept these things. You can look at this as a fun opportunity to teach baby the lifelong skill and enjoyment of eating! You’re both learning together. There will be times when baby grabs the spoon and really wants to feed themselves, but ends up with peanut butter yogurt in their hair, or rubs their sleepy eyes with a hand covered in applesauce. Accept that there are a lot more baths in your future, and keep some baby washcloths near the sink so you can do a post-meal wipe down.

Product Recs for Not Baby

I don’t have any insightful recommendations for an almost-mobile baby except a wing and a prayer. However, I have recently discovered a few things I’ve been loving for myself that I’ll pass along to you!

  • Vital Proteins Collagen. I’d heard of people taking collagen, but never much thought about it for myself until I saw it at Aldi (the holy grail of grocery stores; if you haven’t been- GET THEE TO ALDI.) I asked in my Instagram stories if people had good experiences to share & a ton of people said, “yes, girl– collagen is the sh*t.” I can now report, after getting through my first container and buying more, that I am also fully in the collagen cult. My postpartum hair loss seems to have subsided, and I can tell when shaving my legs that all hairs are now growing at quite a quick rate! My nails are growing faster and stronger. Some people say collagen helps with their joints, but I permanently feel like I’ve been hit by a truck from lifting my child all day, so I don’t have any anecdotal evidence to pass along there. The unflavored kind isn’t completely hidden in just water, but many respondents said they mix it in coffee & can’t taste it. My second flavor has been strawberry lemonade since all the other flavors sound like barf, and it’s decent enough to sip on a whole glass without issue.
  • Australian Gold BB Cream Sunscreen. I used to be pretty good at putting sunscreen on my face in the mornings, but something about pandemic weariness + pregnancy laziness got me out of the habit. I’m spending more time outdoors than ever before now that baby likes to constantly be in motion, but have very sensitive skin so can’t go throwing on any old sunblock that’s been in the back of a drawer since 2018. This product was recommended to me on a skincare forum and I LOVE it, mostly because it’s an SPF + BB Cream in one. I got the lightest shade- “Fair to Light”- and it matches my Casper-like skin tone well enough that I could wear only this for the day if I’m not doing a full beat. It’s not greasy- you definitely need to moisturize beforehand since it’s pretty matte- but I don’t think twice about “ugh, sticky sunscreen” because it’s more like fun makeup than a skincare obligation.
  • Poke Cake. Ok, this isn’t really a product, but my birthday is in two days, and I’m making myself a poke cake. If you have any backyard gatherings planned this summer, or just want a stupidly easy, cooling dessert to have on hand around the house (and you do want that because you deserve that) Jello-O Poke Cake is! the! answer! You can make it with any flavor of Jell-O! And technically any flavor of cake! I’m doing white cake + cherry, but my old favorite is white cake + strawberry. My step-grandma makes it with yellow cake + orange Jell-O, and I give that combo all the thumbs up as well. Probably don’t make it with chocolate cake because that flavor would overpower your choice of Jell-O? You could do lemon cake + lime Jell-O if you’re a fake citrus-loving weirdo, but that’s more tang than I prefer in my treats.

Freezer Meals + Gifting Food

Natalie is due next month (!!!) which means she’s in prime freezer meal time. Prepping food to eat in the weeks after birth was top priority since I’m the only cook in our house, and I’m cheap as hell when it comes to spending too much on takeout. I’ll outline how I tackled it below, but know that how you eat food now is how you’re gonna eat food after baby comes. This is the time to be realistic, not aspirational (maybe that sentence should just be sewn onto pillows and sold as the catch-all phrase for life postpartum?) If you’ve never used a Crock Pot, now is not the time to research Pinterest’s top 100 slow cooker recipes and assume you’re going to start using it once you become a parent.

  1. People will give you food. This is very nice of them! Many will ask in advance what you like, and honey, this is not the time to be coy. “Oh, we’ll eat anything!” is not helpful to you, a person who does indeed have food preferences, but especially not helpful to the person offering. Outline a few things you don’t like– no mushrooms or coconut in this house, thank you!– and point them towards a region or a few dishes you know you’ll appreciate having around (“we love any kind of Mexican food” or “breakfast items I can eat with one hand!”)
  2. If you want vegetables around, you’re gonna have to get ’em yourself. There are always exceptions, but people tend to gift comfort foods in times of life upheaval. Be prepared to get a lot of cream-based casseroles, pastas, and beige-colored foods. Refer back to the above advice and get direct with your mother, “Before you come over on Thursday, can you pick up some dip-able veggies? A bag of apples? Anything resembling a nutrient?” You’re so out of it hormonally the first week or two that you likely won’t care or really taste what food is around, but your body will thank you.
  3. If you’re the one gifting new parents a meal, make sure it’s a complete one. Don’t make a pan of meatballs and sauce just assuming they have a box of pasta in the cupboard. I’m not saying it needs to be four courses plus tableware, but logically think through how you can make this meal + leftovers as easy as possible. This includes using reusable or recyclable containers– the absolute last thing a new parent wants to do is put “return Pyrex to friend across town” on their to-do list.
  4. You can gift food well after the baby arrives. We are so in love with every single person who poured their generous hearts into nourishing us that first week or two, but the most memorable food gift came about six weeks after we were home from the hospital. My former boss brought over a pan of STILL WARM apple crisp and a GALLON OF ICE CREAM. Was it indulgent as hell? Absolutely. But it was unexpected in that society assumes you’ve got some sort of grip on the grocery game again after the first month. I’m three months postpartum now and would fall to my knees weeping if someone brought by a sandwich tray and said “lunch is taken care of for the week.”
  5. Alrighty, how I did it. I’m not a huge recipe person, rather I usually prep some protein early in week, then have veggies on hand and various items to mix and match with pantry staples to create decent meals. Basically I took my weekly strategy and bulked it up thanks to a trip to Costco (aka hell. Why do I hate going to Costco so much.) I prepped like 10 pounds of chicken breasts, then shredded the meat and froze in containers that held enough for a couple meals. I cooked up 5 pounds of ground turkey and did the same. (If you do this, just season the meat with salt, pepper & garlic powder so it can go with anything.) I got bags of frozen veggies and made sure we had multiple bags of rice, cans of beans and salsa, jars of pasta sauce and Indian simmer sauces, burrito shells, pasta, tortilla chips, etc. We’d then take one thing of meat out of the freezer and build from there out the pantry– did we want tacos, stir fry, pasta, salad?
  6. Don’t forget breakfast. I blended green smoothies ahead of time and froze them individually in plastic cups, as well as baked oatmeal squares and eggs with veggies you make in muffin tins (the Internet is your friend for any of these recipes.) You will be holding a baby and most of your eating will be done with one hand, so plan accordingly!

Fed is Best

Natalie texted me a question this morning about breastfeeding. Instead of keeping this very personal and sometimes sensitive topic between friends, I decided to post the answer on the Internet where people are known for being totally reasonable and respectful, especially when it comes to stuff that is absolutely no one’s business like how you keep your child alive!

When I was pregnant, the plan was to 100% breastfeed my son for a couple reasons. 1- I am cheap and formula costs more cash money than breastmilk. (I’ve read you’re not supposed to say “it’s free!” because, as I learned, you’re paying a LOT in time, mental energy, did I mention time, oh yeah it takes up so much time, time time time. But we’ll get to that.) 2- I fully believe in the health benefits of breastfeeding for both mom and baby. It’s super cool that your body knows what specific antibodies your baby needs based on their saliva. That’s science!! 3- Bottles, formula, foreign stuff in my kid’s body- no thanks. Just whip out the boob for me, easy peasy!

I did a ton of reading, I got a breast pump, I got a hakaa, I got milk storage bags, I got nursing friendly clothes… you get it. Thankfully I wasn’t completely naive, and when people asked if I was planning to breastfeed (can we talk about THAT, by the way?? I know they’re just trying to be… I don’t know, helpful? But it’s weird. Don’t ask people that.) I would say, “If we’re able! That’s the plan, but I’ll do whatever we need to get him fed.”

After he was born, we did the golden hour of skin to skin and he did what so many newborns have biologically done before him & he wriggled his little brand new self down and latched like a champ. Success! I felt super lucky that it came so easy for us– he was a great eater in the hospital and we were on our way to my dream of exclusively breastfeeding for at least six, if not 12, months. What follows are a few things I’ve looked back on since and wondered if they contributed to the fact that I’m writing this next to a kid who’s been exclusively formula fed for over a month now, but I’ve had to accept that it doesn’t really matter. I can’t go back and change the past. I can learn from it if we have a second child and I want to try again, but in all the ways the fourth trimester have handed me my own ass, I choose to not let this be the thing that breaks me.

When the hospital lactation consultant came to visit, our son wasn’t in the room with us. I was a little concerned that she wasn’t actually able to assess him eating, but the nurses all reported things were going great, and the LC encouraged me to do follow up after we got home if we needed. He wasn’t in the room because he was getting circumcised (there! I said it! If you comment anything about our decision that doesn’t affect you AT. ALL. I will <insert empty threat here.>) This is important info, though, because after this procedure, babies are VERY TIRED. A newborn that is very tired will choose sleep over eating.

I was already pretty distraught that day because they told us the procedure would be happening that morning, then they said maybe not til the afternoon, then they came and got him for it just before 11 a.m. He was due for another feeding around 11:30 and I said, “Uhhhh isn’t he supposed to eat?” and long story short, he missed this feeding and wouldn’t wake up for his next one so he ended up going for like six hours without food. Six hours without food for a teeny tiny one day old baby is too many hours without food. He ended up finally waking up just enough to eat, but that night when they weighed him, the nurse said he was “close” to having lost 10% of his body weight and asked if were ok with them supplementing him with formula.

I knew from all my reading that this was a possibility, and I didn’t want to say, “No, please don’t feed my son if he needs it” so I agreed. They supplemented him with a couple mL of formula and no one died. He was just fine in the morning so he didn’t need any more supplementing. I found out later that the nurse was just being preemptive and that the hospital pediatrician never had a problem with his weight. A lesson for everyone doing this for the first time, ask questions! “Close” to 10% weight lost is not actually 10%. Turns out it was closer to 9 and while that doesn’t sound like that big of a difference, apparently it is when you’re only seven pounds.

ANYWAY– we get home, things are fine, then it’s nighttime on his third night of life. Around 10:30 p.m. it becomes apparent that our happy breastfeeding situation has come off the rails. Kid is HUNGRY and I don’t have enough of what he wants. I’d heard tales of women waking up nearly needing a new mattress after their milk came in, but mine just… never did. There was no, “Ta da! I’m here! We’ve officially switched from colostrum!” It did change to regular ol’ breastmilk, but in paltry amounts. Like, if we were on the prairie in the 1800s and I was his only source of food, this kid would have died. (Am I being dramatic? I don’t know!! I’m sure in the 1800s my body would have done what it needed to and hopefully ramped up production? But it didn’t in 2020!)

Thankfully before we had left the hospital, we had three little Similac sample bottles in our bassinet drawer from when they had supplemented him, so I just threw ’em in the diaper bag (Natalie, take everything in that hospital room that’s not nailed down. Seriously.) As I’m trying to comfort a screaming, hungry baby that first night home, my husband asked if he should go get one of those bottles. Every “Breast is best!” and formula-feeding horror (shame) story I’d read flooded my brain, but I was too tired to be proud in vain. I said yes, we popped that bottle in the kid’s mouth, and I promise you that was the most content I’d yet to see him.

I don’t want to make this long story longer, so we did combo feeding for two months. We would still breastfeed and I would pump, but he also got formula. I’d say about 20% of his consumption was breastmilk. Some breastfeeding zealots reading this are probably thinking, “Well duh, your body never made more milk because it never needed to.” i understand that if we had done a 24-hour lie in where I did nothing but offer the baby my boob for a full damn day, my body likely would have responded by ramping up production. But reader– I didn’t want to. Ooh it feels so spicy saying that aloud! Do you know how much time of your life is spent breastfeeding if that’s how your exclusively feeding your kid? A LOT. I’m not saying this to discourage anyone– I have so many friends who are doing it and they deserve a million dollars and a year’s vacation. I’m just telling you because I didn’t know. You can hear the statistic that you spend 40 hours a week breastfeeding your newborn, but until you’re living those 40 hours, you can’t yet feel them in your exhausted bones and soul.

Finally, a note on pumping. Again, it’s not evil, just want you to know that it’s not always the breezy set up the breast pump companies want you to believe it will be. It took me a few tries to find the right sized flanges for my pump, and I had a real not-loving relationship with it. I learned about myself that if it’s 3 a.m. and I’ve been up twice already since going to bed, I’m going to choose sleep over pumping every time. If I had a 40 minute window when baby was napping, pumping didn’t win out over feeding myself and showering. Of course I had a ton of guilt around this, and I felt shame when people (family… it’s always family) would ask how breastfeeding was going or offer tips to increase my supply.

I had to consciously work to reframe the narrative and think, “I’m giving my son what I can, and that’s enough. I’m proud of what I’m able to produce for him. No one’s story looks like anyone else’s story.” I’m thankful to have a very supportive partner who never pressured me either way. If anything, he felt thrilled he could contribute when we added bottles of pumped milk and formula so he could bond with the baby while feeding him. The overachieving part of my brain reads through this and sees the places where I “failed” or made choices that maybe could have produced a different outcome for our feeding tale, but I’ll never know. I had to let go of the dream of having a freezer stash of breastmilk, and instead be grateful for the reality of the (now very chunky) baby sitting in front of me. He’s happy and healthy, no matter how he came to grow that way.