We get a lot of recurring questions on our Rebel Mama community (cause you know, we only talk about sleep regressions, eating habits, and stool consistency) – and the one hot topic that always come up is SOLIDS. As in “What the f*ck do I start with, and where the hell do I get ideas when my child is ready to try some grub??”
Well, I took it upon myself to put together a comprehensive Rebel Guide to get you going (and so I could have a url to paste every time the question repeats itself… )!
First and foremost – CONGRATS! You’ve made it through the first 4-6 months, also known as “the total blur that felt like you were in a dark tunnel” and now your precious babe is ready to test out those gourmet cooking skills of yours. Excited? You should be. It’s fun to try shit out on them and watch their little mouths squirm around in anticipation / confusion / disgust.
*NOTE: This is for beginners aka 6-12 mths. After that you’ll be a pro at making shit happen on the fly and hopefully adventurous enough to dig into all kinds of food together. My personal goal (and one you may embrace it as well) is to approach food prep in a loving and thoughtful way, in hopes your spawn will one day follow your lead and you can reap the rewards over scallops and insalata verde in some charming coastal town in Italy.
But for now, MUSH.
– Rest assured, the shelves at Indigo (and e-shelves on Amazon) are STACKED with awesome baby food recipe books that will make you feel like Chrissy Tiegen in the kitchen. If books are your thing, and you ACTUALLY use them – go to it!
Some to check out: The Wholesome Baby Food Guide, Sprout Right, First Meals, The Best Homemade Baby Food on the Planet.
– If you overbuy recipe books and don’t ever crack them open (ME) there’s a shit ton of awesome ideas and info online.. literally too many to list, but REJOICE IN THE INTERNET! What worked for us was buying whatever was in season (and trying our very best to buy Ontario produce whenever possible) and then Googling ideas with said ingredients. We started with sweet potato mash, avocado and banana mash, and letting him try out entertaining things like lemons and limes (at which point you want the video rolling – although it backfired for us. Apparently he was into chasers early).
– A good way to gauge if your child is ready for real food (besides Baby Centre) is if they can hold their head up on their own. May also be a good time to get into the highchair game. After MUCH research (mostly aesthetic) we found our happy place with a stylin’ seat from IKEA that didn’t break the bank and still looked cool in the kitchen. You can also go the booster / hook-on seat way – totally a personal choice.
– Expect a mess. Common sense but, move the kid off your uber cool white shag carpet, and onto the hardwood floor to avoid paying a hefty cleaning bill and exposing your little to curse words you didn’t even know were in the memory bank.
– Supplement with breast milk or formula. Although it’s great and all that baby is now diving into the world of human food, their nutrition for the first year will still mostly rely on those boobie and bottle feedings and the beginnings of solids are merely a taste test and introduction.
– Before baby turns one, there are things you should avoid according to the docs: eggs, honey, peanut butter…. although, rules often change so check in with your medical pros for updates. We introduced egg yolks and scrambled eggs, as well as peanut butter around 8 months, as my own school of thought was: get their system used to it early and they won’t be allergic later. Overly worried? Test it out on their skin first and see if there’s any reaction.
– Quick tip: start with veggies before going into fruit. We all know if we got dessert first, we’d say the hell with dinner, right? Get the greens happening and the rest is easy.
– Don’t be afraid of adding a little spice like cinnamon, oregano, dill, basil, rosemary, curry, and yes, even a little salt. You’ll be surprised what baby may like. Mine was digging a slew of them at a very early age, which perfectly prepped him for all the time he would spend inside Toronto’s diverse food culture (pass the tahini, babe).
– Get them into YOUR food. Whatever your ethnic background, nothing tastes as good as home cooking and why not honour the tradition by passing it onto the lil’ one.
– Make a shake! An awesome way to get your babe to try, well, pretty much everything you can blend – including super foods like kale, blueberries, acai, cacao, lentils, broccoli, avocados, prunes, dates … the possibilities are endless. Sweeten things up with dates, coconut sugar, or bananas.
– Don’t make your child’s mind up for them. You know what I’m talking about; “oh he probably won’t like broccoli” because that’s what TV taught you. Well I am here to tell you, YOU NEVER KNOW. Offer it all. You’ll be blown away by what they like and it will just prep them for better eating habits later. Take it from a mama who watched her 1.5 year old smash pan fried smelts. Heads and all.
You’re basically starting your child’s journey into food and want to keep it a positive one, so don’t get frustrated. There will be days they eat sweet potatoes gladly, and days where they’ll whip them across the kitchen and make a face of utter disgust that you would offer such a horrifying dish. It goes back and forth forever. #itsaphase
As the weeks pass, and your baby grows more confident in their food game, create more texture my mashing and blending less and leaving things chunky. Also a good time to start baby pasta (as the Italians say, pastina) since it’s so tiny, and bake things they can chew with their gums like banana bread and muffins.
From there – the possibilities are endless. As your babe acquires a taste and confidence (and some more teeth) you can pretty much dive into any territory and try it all.
TIP: When something works, jot it down and start making your own list of breakfast, lunch and dinner ideas that you can refer to because it’s easy to get into a cycle of making the same stuff over and over.
NOTE: There will most definitely be days they won’t eat at all. Days where you will truly wonder how in the hell they survived 12 hours on half a croissant and 2 spoons of yogurt. Let it go. Don’t stress. Tomorrow is another day. You will know (insert screeching sound here) when they are hungry. THEY WILL NOT STARVE THEMSELVES AT THIS AGE.
So mama – don’t be afraid to Anthony Bourdain that shit! You may just raise a mini world class chef.. Or a carb-loading pizza-hogging monster (ok, and more likely).
NOW, SOME IDEAS TO GET YOU STARTED!
Things you will need:
A fork (for mashing)
A blender (Magic Bullet works just fine)
A steam / cook / blend system like the Beaba
Lots of bibs
Lots of paper towels
The patience of a saint
A distraction if needed (aka tele-sitter)
Clothes you don’t care about (for baby and you)
ON THE BEGINNERS MUSH MENU
Avocado and Banana / Mashed
Sweet potatoes with butter, garlic and dill / Cooked and mashed
Lentils with lime / Cooked and pureed
Carrot and apple / Steamed and pureed
Warm cereal (rice, oatmeal, barley) with mashed or blended fruit
Slow cooked apricots and plums / Pureed
Peach and zucchini / Cooked and pureed
Pear, parsnip and kale / Steamed and pureed
Steamed apples with cinnamon / Pureed
Pureed meats and fish (Low on the Mercury scale)
Yogurt with homemade unsweetened jam
Featured Photo: Betty Draper, Mad Men 2007