Before I was even pregnant, I used to dream about being a mom. In these dreams, I would imagine two specific things: planning birthday parties and making my kids snacks. These were two aspects of motherhood that I was so excited about. I am literally living my dreams right now! I am making food for my baby and I am beginning to plan his first birthday party. Why does it not feel as exciting as I had dreamed about a few years ago? Why has my excitement turned to stress and anxiety and control? Don’t get me wrong, I am super excited to plan Hudson’s birthday, but the whole making him homemade, organic baby food is getting old and tiresome. I had this vision of what it would be like. I would create these nutritious and tasty meals for my kids and they would neatly gobble it up and praise me for being such a caring and loving mother. They would eat every crumb. They would thank me for all the time I spent in the kitchen. They would ask for seconds. They would tell all their friends about the amazing meals and snacks their mom makes. I know this all sounds crazy but if I’m honest this is the picture I had playing in my head. I am just a few months in to the food making process and I already know how false this picture is. Most days Nala ends up eating more of the food I make for Hudson. Most days he spits it out and throws his spoon in my face. Most days he gobbles up the sweet store bought applesauce but turns his nose to the chia pudding or kale sweet potato purée I freshly blended up in the Baby Bullet. By the end of the day I am left overwhelmed and frustrated with a dirty kitchen and one very messy baby.
I am learning a lot in the kitchen right now. I am learning my efforts will not always be returned. I am learning that part of feeding a baby is learning to let go of control. And let me tell you, that is a hard one for me. I truly did not realize how controlling I was until I had a baby. What a sin of mine! I am slowly, emphasis on slowly, beginning to let go and be okay with smeared beets all over his high chair and crumbs completely covered on the floors. I am letting go of my ever-so tight grip on that spoon and learning to offer it to him, to allow him to try on his own, to give him more freedom and be okay with the mess that comes with that. This is easier said than done. This is especially hard when I spend so much time looking up recipes, boiling fruits and veggies, grinding up quinoa, and lots of blending. It makes my whole body tense when I see the chicken coconut curry recipe I made thrown on the floor. It drives me slightly crazy when I bake pumpkin flax biscuits and he turns his nose to them. I have said “I give up” countless times to Lance at the dinner table. But, for some reason I find myself in the kitchen the next morning trying something new. It usually ends in the same way, messy floor, messy baby, food mostly eaten by the dog, but I am learning the importance of consistency and trying again and again. There are lots of disaster meals, but there are little victories that keep me returning back to the kitchen, back to the baby cookbook, back to the blender.
I am absolutely no expert when it comes to baby food making. Just a mama that desperately wants a happy, healthy and well-fed little one. So from one mama to the next, here are a few ways to help you not go crazy when it comes to making food for baby:
1. Allow Room for Grace
Like the whole title of my blog, this mama needs grace when it comes to baby food. There seems to be a lot of pressure in the arena of feeding baby. I see other blogs and flip through cookbooks and wonder how anyone has the time or patience? It feels overwhelming. It feels unachievable. Allow room for grace. Realistically, you’re not going to be able to make a new, gourmet recipe every meal. Use leftovers. Dig into that freezer stash. Keep it simple. You don’t need to be a top chef to feed your baby well. Just good ingredients and lots of patience.
2. Be Well-Stocked
The fact of the matter is I just don’t have the time or energy to make fresh, homemade food for every meal. Don’t be afraid of the occasional pouch bought at the store or teething crackers from the package. Hudson loves Happy Baby Organic teething crackers and literally did not even want a bite of the made with love pumpkin teething biscuits that came hot out of the oven for him. Some battles are just not worth fighting. We both are happier when I just buy the packaged crackers. Also, when I am pinched for time it is super helpful to just pull a veggie or fruit pouch from the cabinet. I also think it is a great idea to make baby food ahead of time and get a freezer stash going. I wish I did a better job at this, but I always have at least a few servings of pears or peas in the freezer. On those crazy nights, I can just pop it out and it will be ready in just a few. Also I love to have at least one leftover serving from the dinner meal that I can use as a lunch for him the next day. I also found myself on days where the freezer and cabinet were empty and I did not want to go through the tedious process of chopping, boiling, and blending; that I gravitated towards easy foods like avocados and bananas. It is nice to always have a bowl of these easy to mash foods. Final thing that helped in terms of being well-stocked is to have a big container of applesauce on hand. Apples blend great with all sorts of other fruits, veggies, and cereal. I tried making homemade applesauce at the beginning, but it honestly is just easier to buy it. I found myself putting the time in to make it and it barely made much at all. I just get the organic jar at Trader Joe’s and this saves time and allows me to quickly add it to his oatmeal in the morning.
3. Be Adventurous at Home
Restaurants with a baby or kid are already stressful, there is no need to add to it by brining foods they don’t already eat well. Introducing new flavors and textures and even spices early on is super important, but there is a time and a place. A nice restaurant might not be the best place to bring beets. And I am saying that from lived experience. It happened and let’s just say there was red everywhere. Now, when we go out, I try to plan accordingly. I’ll try and give him a veggie or some type of food he doesn’t eat as easily before we leave and then when we are out, I’ll feed him something I am confident he will eat well. For example, I might order a side of avocado or bring a pouch that he has shown to already really enjoy. Be adventurous with your little one. Try new foods. Throw in chia seeds. Add the garlic. But maybe try these more out of the box foods at home.
4. Make Meals for Whole Family
This is a big one! You can’t really do this for the first couple months they are eating, but once they are around 8-9 months they can really eat what you are eating as long as it is blended or chopped tiny. Finding recipes that worked well for the whole family has been the best thing for us. I checked out this book from the library, Growing Up Gourmet. I think I’ll need to eventually just purchase a copy because I use it basically every day. There is a whole section of the book dedicated to meals for the whole family. Most of the recipes are relatively healthy, delicious, and easy to keep dairy-free. It makes my life so much easier to just have one dinner to make. The only thing I need to do differently is blend up Hudson’s portion. Hearty soups are great because they have lots of veggies, flavor and are easy to blend.
5. Don’t Give Up
“I give up!” is my go-to phrase at the dinner table. Making homemade meals for baby is no joke. It’s hard work and it’s even harder when your baby throws it everywhere and cries every time the spoon is near. You are going to be tempted to just buy the purées packed with sugar and close up the kitchen. I know I have. But there is something really fun about making your own meals for baby and trying new flavors. Keep trying. Stay consistent. Keep offering lots of vegetables. Don’t give up. Also make it fun. Hudson’s pediatrician reminded me at our last appointment that feeding baby should be fun. At this point, most of their nutrition primarily comes from milk. This is really just for practice and starting healthy habits. As much as you can, keep it light and fun. I definitely fail in this area a lot of time, but I am trying.
No matter how you choose to feed baby: homemade, store bought, purées, baby led weaning, formula, breastmilk; what really matters is the heart behind it and a growing baby. Each family is different. What works for you, might just not be possible for the next. As long as baby is given the nutrients and love he or she needs, then you are doing a great job! It is easy to let the stress get in the way of it all, but I am daily learning to let go and enjoy the messy and unpredictable process of feeding baby.