If you are new to the Pretty/Hungry Blog, catch Parts 1 & 2 of this “Feeding Your Baby” series here and here!
Oh the 10-14 months stage! This fun time of life happens to be the stage Elsa and I are in right now. And truly it is a fun time. For her. (For her neat-freak, control-freak mommy… it is an exercise in holding back so that she can spread her wings. But I think it’s all a part of God’s plan to mature us both. Funny how that works.)
At your baby’s 9-month doctor appointment, you will likely be told that it is time for your baby to begin eating small bites of soft foods instead of just purees. And also that it is time for them to practice picking up their food with their fingers. I will wholeheartedly agree with that advice! What I do recommend, however, is that you get a little more creative about the “pick-up” foods you offer.
Fruits are (naturally) the first thing many moms turn to, because they’re already so handy and bite-sized… not to mention most babies gobble them up like candy. Oh wait, they ARE candy! Yep, that’s right. Ever the party-pooper, I am still recommending that you steer clear of offering fruit at every meal. Again, my reason for this is that you are trying to instill in your baby a taste for all flavors: savory, sour, spicy, and sweet alike. And if history has taught us anything, it is that with young children… sweet (once introduced) is the flavor that quickly trumps all others.
So what DO I offer my baby?
-All of the 7-9 month foods are still great! (Cottage cheese & yogurt, avocado, veggies cooked in broth, keep em coming! And you can start offering these in chunks instead of in pureed form. However, I do not recommend trying them as “pick-up” foods. Watching a baby trying to chase slippery avocado chunks around her tray is downright maddening!)
-Whole eggs can be offered at this time. And if you scramble them and cut them into bite-sized chunks, they make a very appropriate “pick-up” food.
-Breakfast sausage- Always a hit with our girl, this morning staple is perfect for picking up, and contains the all-important two nutrients: fat & protein.
-Meatloaf- This has turned out to be surprisingly successful baby food in our house! I feel good offering it because I know it contains plenty of good protein and fat… and Elsa gobbles it up with ease because it tastes good and is nice and soft. Win win! Another meat I like to offer is chicken. I find it is a little easier for her to eat than, say, steak. Ha!
-Occasional fruits- Be sure that you cut fruits into manageable bites. Whole grapes are not appropriate because they are a choking hazard… quartered grapes are great! As your baby progresses and improves in his/her ability to eat food in chunks, you can offer larger pieces. Always make sure baby is supervised in case he/she does choke… but generally you’ll notice that babies have a very strong gag reflex. This is by design. They often gag up bites that are too large long before they are in danger of choking on them.
-Occasional plain Cheerios- I try not to rely on these too heavily… and to make sure to pair them with a serving of yogurt. But grain-status aside, they are a simple, low-sugar snack for baby to munch on in small quantities while you get the other food prepared. Sometimes you just need a little time-filler, know what I’m sayin?
-Water- A sippy cup of water offered between meals will help keep your baby well-hydrated, which is important for helping him/her digest all these solid foods you are introducing. Good hydration will make for much easier bowel movements as your baby’s intake of solids increases.
-After Age 1… Whole Milk, Honey, and Peanut Butter. These three foods get to enter the scene after age one, what fun! Peanut butter is a great thing to add, considering it perfectly pairs your baby’s two most important nutrients! And now that your baby is old enough to get an EpiPen if needed, go for it! Honey is ok now too. Just be sure you are not using “raw” honey. And whole milk can be offered now too (although breastmilk is still awesome, and if you’re still making it, keep up the good work and keep filling that baby with the good stuff!) Do not switch to low-fat milk or dairy until well after your child’s 2nd birthday.
Foods I don’t recommend at this age:
-Cheese in large doses- You don’t want to deal with a constipated baby.
-Grains in large doses- Wait until your baby develops the enzymes they need to process carbohydrates effectively. Most agree this happens around the 18-24 month mark. And if you do offer grains, pair them with a probiotic like yogurt or Kefir.
-Added sugar- Added sugar is not a helpful nutrient. Your baby does not benefit from junk food. Baby’s tummies are tiny, so why fill them up with cookies, candy, ice cream, and other nonsense that won’t nourish them? Some people think that makes me a huge stick-in-the-mud, but I say it makes me a healthy mommy who’s trying to raise a healthy family. I’m certainly not going to use obese and dying-of-heart-disease America as my standard for what is best for my children.
This full-fat, plain (un-sweetened) yogurt is mixed with a touch of applesauce and cinnamon, and my baby loves it!
-Lunchmeat- While it is a convenient protein to turn to, lunchmeat often contains sulfates, additives, preservatives, and sometimes even bacteria due to extended shelf-time. If you can prepare your own meats for your baby, do. If lunchmeat is all you have, by all means feed it to him/her in moderation. (Heating it til steaming in the microwave first is a good idea. But make sure you let it cool!) But do I recommend it as your baby’s main source of meat? No.
A Note about Portions, Autonomy, and Messiness:
I believe in letting a baby eat until he/she is full. I can usually tell that my own daughter is full when she starts playing more than eating. (Also, we have learned the sign for “All done,” which is very useful.)
Around 11 months of age, I began letting my daughter experiment with holding her own spoon. She LOVES feeding herself “pick-up” foods and the spoon was no different… she loves it too! At times it is a real exercise for me in holding back. I want to take the spoon from her and keep this meal train moving! But babies need freedom to learn, experiment, play, and yes, even get messy. This will be a recurring theme throughout her life, I know. ”Don’t do the math problems for her… let her figure it out.” ”Don’t set the table for her. Let her do it, even if it’s not the way you would.” It is very important for children to be given responsibilities that align with their developmental abilities. Give them chores, give them tasks, and between 10-14 months of age, let them feed themselves! If you’re anything like me, it may require you to duct tape your hands behind your back… but you are giving your baby the gift of independence.
That said, if it’s been 30 minutes and your baby has eaten all of two bites, feel free to say, “Ok, lesson dismissed for today,” and shovel the rest of the food in her mouth. Enough is enough. :)
And lastly, on the topic of messiness: I have a good friend to thank for this helpful info. At first, I was guilty of standing next to my baby with a wet washcloth… ready to wipe away any stray drip the moment it happened. I didn’t dare let her handle bananas, or attempt to eat her yogurt without my help. I didn’t want to deal with the clean-up! But my friend Abby, who is a registered Speech Pathologist, explained to me that with babies, “Messier is Better.” Babies need exposure to different food textures in order to understand and accept what they are eating. Allowing them to feel, smell, and experience their food before placing it in their mouth is extremely helpful to them! In fact, classically “picky” children who struggle with extreme dislike for most common foods are often responding adversely to the food’s texture. Abby tells me that the #1 solution to the “picky-eater” problem is to let a child play and get messy with their food before ever pressuring them to eat it. And if you can bypass the picky-ness problem early by allowing your kid to get a little messy from the get-go, so much the better. Thanks for the advice, Abby! You’ve converted me (and hopefully others) to embrace the mess. Developmentally speaking, food-play is totally normal and they WILL grow out of it as you teach and train them over the next few years.
I’d love to hear some of your favorite baby feeding ideas and tips in the comments! And if these posts have been helpful, then please let me know! I can continue to share my findings on the topic of “Kid-Food” as my girl grows. It is a topic that endlessly interests me, but I want to make sure it interests you as well before I write future posts.