The Solid Food Journey: Make Your Own Baby Food (and other thoughts…)

maggie_avocado_first food

Feeding Maggie the first six months of her life was easy. Not easy as in “Breastfeeding is the easiest thing in the world! No problems at all!” I mean I-am-lazy-and-my-boobs-are-attached-to-my-body easy. When Maggie was hungry, all I had to do was pop my breast out of my bra or tank top, and there ya have it. I didn’t have to prepare anything, because — lucky for you Maggie! — my boobs are attached to my body for your convenience.

Then, things changed. I had to start thinking about solid foods. I’m telling you — once you think you’re in a good groove, literally the second you let your brain think “This sh*t is easy! I’m the best parent ever!”, something else comes into play and takes it all away. Solid food, teeth, sleep regression, separation anxiety, rolling over, crawling, walking, etc. etc. etc. YOU’RE NEVER IN THE CLEAR.

When to start solid foods? We decided to wait until six months. There are a lot of theories and philosophies around this, and my best recommendation for you would be to do your research and ask for opinions from people you trust. I read a bunch of things, and asked my parent friends. Then ultimately, we did what we felt best for Maggie. That’s basically been my approach to most of this “parenting stuff”.

In my research, I found that the World Health Organization recommends waiting until baby is six months before solids [read more from their website here]. Dr. Sears recommends to take things slow, and to also wait until six months [read more from this website here]. I wasn’t personally in a rush to get Maggie on solids. I was nervous to be honest. I was able to see the excitement of tasting new flavors and textures, but I also saw allergies and choking. So thankfully around six months not only did Maggie seem ready to go, but Colin and I were also ready.

From Dr. Sears website:

Gone are the days when pressured mothers stuffed globs of cereal into the tight mouths of reluctant six-week-olds. Nowadays parents feed their baby on the timetable that is developmentally and nutritionally correct — as determined by their baby. Don’t be in a rush when introducing solid foods.

Here are some reasons you might wait to offer baby solids [from Dr. Sears]:

1. Baby’s intestines need to mature

2. Young babies have a tongue-thrust reflex

3. Baby’s swallowing mechanism is immature

4. Baby needs to be able to sit up

5. Young infants are not equipped to chew [Maggie only just got her first two teeth at eight months]

6. Older babies like to imitate caregivers [around six months babies like to imitate; if they see you chewing/using a spoon/etc. they may want to try too].

A lot of doctors and people in general recommend starting baby with rice cereal. After a bit of reading and asking around, we decided to skip this with Maggie. Instead, Maggie’s first food was avocado. She liked that at first, didn’t for a while, now she’s back to liking it. Wacky!

A note on cereal from The Food Renegade:

What’s wrong with infant cereal? Babies can’t digest it. In order to digest grains, your body needs to make use of an enzyme called amylase. Amylase is the enzyme responsible for splitting starches. And, guess what? Babies don’t make amylase in large enough quantities to digest grains until after they are a year old at the earliest. Sometimes it can take up to two years. You see, newborns don’t produce amylase at all. Salivary amylase makes a small appearance at about 6 months old, but pancreatic amylase (what you need to actually digest grains) is not produced until molar teeth are fully developed! First molars usually don’t show up until 13-19 months old, on average. Undigested grains wreak havoc on your baby’s intestinal lining. It can throw off the balance of bacteria in their gut and lead to lots of complications as they age including: food allergies, behavioral problems, mood issues, and more.

Make Your Own Baby Food

Another thing I wanted to do to prepare for our solid food journey was to take the Make Your Own Baby Food class offered at Acelleron Maternal Health and Wellness in North Andover. The class is taught by Maria Nardella who was awesome — she is a personal chef, a health coach, and a mother. I wanted to take this class, because solid food intimidated me. It was overwhelming [as is each new step in the parenting journey I’m finding]. What should I feed Maggie? How do I properly and safely prepare it? How much should I feed her? When do I move on to new foods? What if she doesn’t like using a spoon? What if she doesn’t like the foods I’m giving her? etc. etc. etc.

MYOBF class from Acelleron Maternal Health and Wellness’ website:

Are you excited about making delicious and nutrition foods for your new baby?  Or does the prospect scare you but you really want to learn?  No matter how you answer the question, if you would like to learn how to make wholesome and nutritious baby food for your bundle of joy, without having to buy an expensive machine, come to the workshop! We will explore how and when to introduce solid foods, what foods to introduce first and when to add grains and proteins, how to prepare/store/serve the foods you make, fun ways to have your baby explore all these wonderful foods, demonstration on making your baby’s food using the equipment you have at home, and explore products that make creating and storing your foods easy.

Steps to preparing food for baby [for example, cauliflower]:

1.Wash cauliflower

2. Steam cauliflower for five to ten minutes [can test with a fork to see if it’s still not soft enough]

3. Add the steamed cauliflower into your blender, Vitamix, etc. as well as some of the steaming water you just used. That water has nutrients in it from the process of steaming and helps make the cauliflower the proper consistency for baby.

4. Blend that together, and let cool down a bit before serving to baby.

5. You can also add a bit of breast milk to the prepared food in order to thin it out more if needed.

6. Storing excess food — fill up an ice-cube tray with the rest of the food you made, put a piece of parchment paper on top and throw it in the freezer. That helps prepare you for a while! Just be sure to use the food up in time — this food should last up to three months.

*A note about storing foods — Be sure to label frozen foods with what it is, and the date. And don’t add breast milk into the food before freezing! Wait until you thaw it, and then add it in. Microwaving frozen food is not recommended. Instead, fill a bowl with hot water and add a smaller bowl [or my favorite — a Wean Green container — which they sell at Maternal Health and Wellness!] and let it defrost that way.

Some other takeaways from the class were:

  • Cauliflower is a great staple — it’s high in vitamin C and folic acid, it can also easily be mixed into other foods.
  • A child may need to be exposed to a food up to fifteen times before they like it [adults too!]
  • Be gentle and slow when introducing foods to baby — start with one food per week, or at least 4-5 days [so as to not overwhelm them, but also to watch out for allergies].
  • Sometimes it takes a while for an allergic reaction to show up. Don’t stress yourself out about this, but just be aware — diarrhea, constipation, mucus in poop, a rash — all can be signs of allergic reaction.
  • Steam the food you are giving to baby and save the steaming water to add into the blender with the steamed food for extra nutrients.
  • Can also add chicken stock for additional nutrients.
  • Can add organic coconut oil, butter, sea salt, etc. to foods in order to add a little extra flavor for baby.
  • You want baby’s first foods to be super smooth, no chunks. The reason for this is you want their food to already be broken down for them since this is a whole new ballgame.
  • Avocados, bananas, sweet potatoes = all great first foods.
  • Keep track of how much baby is eating; for example if you put two tablespoons of food in each ice-cube slot, you know how much you’re giving your baby for those first few weeks or months.
  • Remember, at this point your baby probably hasn’t had a spoon in his or her mouth regularly. Serving baby his or her food off of a spoon may create anxiety for either baby or mom and dad at first. Keep in mind that it is fine to start with your finger to get baby comfortable with this new process.
  • Egg yolk is the safe part of an egg to give baby — the egg white is the allergenic, not the yolk — so the yolk mixed with some butter and sea salt is a great first food for baby. Plus, we tried it in class — it is delicious prepared this way!
  • Don’t stop breastfeeding or formula feeding just because baby is now getting solids. Continue breastfeeding as long as mom and baby want.
  • The dirty dozen — what to buy organicThe Dirty Dozen

Maggie is just about nine months old and our solid food journey has been a lot of fun! Maggie LOVES sweet potatoes, butternut squash, blueberries, apples/applesauce, egg yolk. She is usually pretty open-minded about trying new things, especially things like her cousin Brian’s doughnut [oops!]. She doesn’t really like green beans or peas, although I do keep trying them out on her. Maybe one day…

I try to make food for her for dinner every night [as best I can — usually the vegetable Colin and I are also having for dinner], but we definitely have been using Happy Family food pouches quite a bit too, and they are great. Maggie also loves their puffs and yogurt bites which are actually quite delicious, and they are a perfect way for her to practice her motor skills.

Something that really stuck with me from the Make Your Own Baby Food workshop is a phrase Maria used, “food for fun, until age one”. Remember, this is a fun and exploratory phase for both baby and parents. Enjoy it, and don’t put too much pressure on yourselves!

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The Make Your Own Baby Food workshop is $40 per family.

The next available openings are Monday, November 17th from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. or Saturday, January 10th from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Click here to sign up!

Mommy & Me Yoga

I can’t believe the summer is [basically] over! We got to do a lot of fun and interesting things, and I must say — our first summer with Maggie was a success. From hanging out at the beach on Plum Island, to vacationing with family in Myrtle Beach and on the Cape, to play group meetings and trips to Long Island and Vermont — we tried to give Maggie a taste of fun summer “musts”, and we fit in as much as possible. So that’s why we’ve been kind of MIA lately. Too much summer fun to be had. ;)

I hope you all also had a fabulous, safe summer!

Now as fall is knocking on our door, I’m finding myself slip slowly back into a more scheduled daily routine — and I must say, I don’t hate it. Yes I will soon miss the warm weather and my flip flops, but even without going back to school myself (or having a child go back to school) there is just something about September that makes you want to go on a shopping spree at Staples, and be productive (or just write a bunch of things on post-its). So here’s hoping September allows me to write more on here while balancing the other pieces of my life puzzle.

One fall activity I hope to keep on our schedule is Mommy and Me Yoga at Maternal Health and Wellness in North Andover.

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We went on Monday for the first time and loved it! We ended up seeing two of my friends from our play group and their babies, and then there was one other mama and her baby in the class. It was a small, intimate group which was great — the instructor (who was friendly, easy to listen to/take direction from, and knew her stuff) was able to keep an eye on our little ones as we got into our poses or at times when we had our eyes shut.

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Maggie seemed to really enjoy it! She was chatting and growling (her new favorite thing) the whole time.  Mags isn’t crawling yet, but she definitely doesn’t want to sit still, so she wasn’t necessarily doing all the yoga moves — and neither were all of the other babies — which is totally acceptable in this class. I’d sit Maggie down and give her a toy to play with, or face her towards the mirror so she can admire herself (another one of her favorite things to do — “you’re so vain…you probably think this post is about you…”), or she would just be looking from one person to the next watching our movements. It was a forty-five minute class and I felt it was the perfect amount of time for both babies and mamas.

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Here is a bit more from Maternal Health and Wellness’ website:

“This class is designed for moms with babies 6 weeks through 9 months.  Inspired by yoga flow, this class incorporates movement and breath designed to increase flexibility, regain strength and encourage overall physical and mental balance during the postnatal period. Postures target both mom and baby, individually and together.  We provide a flexible class structure for the feeding and comfort of both you and your baby.”

This class is every Monday from 11:15 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. at 16 High Street, Suite 201 North Andover. Hope to see you soon!

*FIRST CLASS IS FREE*

Bunyons, fungus, athlete’s foot, hammer toes? SEXY.

Tonight Meg and I attended an event hosted by Merrimack College (on campus) along with Fitness Magazine as well as Saints Women’s Medical Center for Health and Wellness. It was great! Upon entering, they had some delicious food set up – some spinach and ricotta flat breads, a penne dish and coconut crusted chicken as well as red or white wine. There were tables set up from local health based businesses such as Calhoun Chiropractic – Family Wellness/Peak Athletic Performance (451 Andover Street, Suite 100, Andover – (978) 681-4500), The Nova Spa (595 Chickering Road, Route 125 North Andover – (978) 685-9723), First Health of Andover which specializes in Acupuncture (1 Dundee Park, Suites 1 & 2, Andover – (978) 474-9994), among others.

Everyone was really friendly, it was a relaxing atmosphere. Meg and I were definitely the youngest women there, but it was good – change of scenery. We walked around and chatted for a bit before sitting down. Once we took our seats, we were introduced to the new wellness center through a quick video. Made to mirror spa-like facilities, this place looks amazing. From the bathrobes you change into, to the waterfall in the waiting room (along with WiFi, soothing music and coffee/tea) you are pretty much guaranteed a comfortable, anxiety-free environment.

This place was designed in order to please women, to make them feel at ease. The level of expertise that comes along with the aesthetically pleasing surroundings is top notch. If you live in the Andover area, you would have had to travel to Boston before this new facility was established, however now it’s right in your backyard. They have a partnership with the Radiologist at MGH’s Imaging Department, and once Tomosynthesis is approved (a digital mammography) Saints Women’s Center will be one of the only places in New England with this equipment.

The first speaker was Dr. Julie Jones (Director), a graduate of Boston’s Partner’s Breast Surgery Fellowship Program. She spoke of how serious breast cancer is. Did you know that one in eight women will get breast cancer in their lifetime? I have at least 7 or 8 friends (I think?…) It’s so scary to think that one of us might eventually get breast cancer. This is one of those things where you figure, ‘that’ll never happen to me,’ but you can never be sure. All women (and even men) need to keep on top of checking for lumps and bumps on a regular basis.

The Health and Wellness Center will offer Breast Imaging – mammograms (Dr. Jones said at the age of 40 you should be getting a mammogram regularly), ultrasounds, MRI’s, etc. One woman spoke up about how stressful waiting for the results of a mammogram can be. She explained how results usually take about two weeks, which adds about twenty years to her life. Then they call and say they didn’t get the whole picture and that she would have to come back. Then it takes about three weeks to get those results, which adds another ten years. Dr. Jones said that the wait for results will decrease with calling patients instead of sending letters containing their results.

Another woman bravely stood up to tell us her story. She had found a lump in May (a few years ago), wasn’t diagnosed until October. She explained how she had to travel to MGH in Boston and that the women of this area are now lucky to have all of this expertise, knowledge and technology right at their fingertips. She encouraged everyone to go to the Health and Wellness Center.

They  offer genetic testing as well – BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 mutations. 10% of all breast cancer cases are hereditary. When there are three or more people in your family affected by breast cancer, you might want to think about genetic testing. It’s now a wash and spit test, no longer a blood test.

The next speaker was Dr. Bill Chun who was hilarious (he practices GYN at the Health and Wellness Center, not the OB part FYI.) Dr. Chun explained how he likes to give each patient a personal experience – he likes to chat and get to know everybody. First topic was menopause – Chun told us that in 1899 people believed that if you ground up dried cow ovaries, that this should be helpful for women experiencing menopause (anyone willing to try?)

Bioidentical Hormones have been prescribed to Dr. Chun’s patients for menopause side effects, including night sweats, hot flashes, mood swings, etc. Let’s get one thing straight – hot flashes scare the shit out of me. I already turn red reeeally easy – I don’t need any help getting nervous, turning red and sweating – nothankyou – I can do that on my own. Apparently for 70% of women who experience hot flashes will experience them for two years (in some cases they go with you all the way to your sixties! That’s outrageous Mother Nature!)

Lastly, Dr. Kathleen O’Keefe (Podiatrist) spoke. Dr. O’Keefe explained how she continuously saw patients come in with infections from salon pedicures. They now offer a medical pedicure at this facility (however, no polish! bummer.) With a medical pedicure, everything they use is sterile, they don’t use jets (so no bacteria), they are able to use sharp instruments unlike salons, they do a medical exam while giving the pedicure so they can address common issues such as fungus and athletes foot (sexy.)

They offer a bio-mechanical exam in order to identify bunyons as well as hammer toes (yum.)  They offer a chemical peel for those big, gross, annoying calluses we all get (even if we’re ashamed of them.) Also, two different injections are used: 1 – Sculpture is inserted into the bottom of the foot to give it more cushion and 2 – Botox is used in order to address excess sweating (feet are so much fun to talk about.)

Overall this new Center seems like a wonderful addition to the Merrimack Valley. A doctor’s office with a spa-like feel seems like it would be enticing to any woman. Maybe the Bostonians will be shuttling out to the suburbs for treatment instead of vice-versa?

Check out their website – http://www.saintswomenscenter.com/

While browsing through some of their literature that was handed out Meg found this class – Sexual Violence, First Responders Training. Saints offers it free of charge on April 13th with three different sessions: 9-10am, 3-4pm and 7-8pm. ‘This educational program will assist clinical and non-clinical workers in responding to family, friends, patients or co-workers who disclose that they have been a victim of sexual abuse.’ For anyone who knows someone or who is interested in volunteering somewhere where this could be useful, please inquire more -

http://www.saintsmedicalcenter.com/

On another note… Today Nicole and I decided to go get our (probably last, unfortunately) free burritos from the Boloco in Harvard Square. We only had a short amount of time to get to the Boloco, order and get back to work. We rushed to the T, ran down the stairs, and just missed the train! Oh wait, oops, we’re on the wrong side. Duh! We heard the announcement, ‘the next red line train to Alewife is now approaching…’ We looked at each other, mutual thoughts being, CRAP – WE NEED TO GET OVER THERE! We ran like we’ve never run before, up the steps, across the street, down the steps, through the ticket thing and onto the train – just made it. Thank you sweet baby Jesus! That burrito is worth everything and anything. SO SO delicious.

Ok, it’s way too late for me to be up. I’m really enjoying the whole blogging thing, I hope you are too. Goodnight! :)