Blender-Free Baby Food

I know every baby’s different, but I’m coming to think that pureeing baby food in a blender is a waste of time. If we had to do it again, I think I’d start with fork-mashed egg yolks, sweet potato, squash, banana, avocado, and yogurt, well-mixed with water or milk to make it sufficiently runny at first. Coupled with Baby-Led Weaning and allowing the baby to handle sticklike objects herself (toast, citrus wedges, spinach and lettuce leaves, cooked carrots), that’s plenty of variety in the beginning. We’d also add the occasional adult meals that call for a blender, such as hummus, leek-and-potato soup, and homemade applesauce. And we’d mash some nut butter into the mix, now that allergy research says it’s better to introduce allergens early.

Once the baby’s mastered the naturally mushy foods, we could steam spinach and chop it into any of the above items. Same with fish and well-cooked meat from chicken, beef, or lamb stew. These are all nice and soft and can be well-minced, even though they’re not liquids. Adult porridges such as oatmeal could come next.

My 23snaps.com record says that at seven and a half months, Nora was feeding herself quartered strawberries and being spoon-fed steel-cut oatmeal, fork-mashed black cod, and fork-mashed and minced chicken and matzo ball soup. Granted, we were focused on ramping up the textures as quickly as Nora could handle, but the timeline is not as aggressive as it appears. Ellyn Satter, a mainstream nutritional authority, recommends feeding gradually thickened cereal until the baby can handle fork-mashed vegetables, thus skipping the baby food purees entirely. Starting cereal at six months and introducing fork-mashed vegetables at seven months would not be remotely out of the ordinary in her book, though she emphasizes repeated that it’s important to watch for signs of developmental readiness in individual babies rather than watching the calendar.

Avoiding the blender solves several problems:

  1. It saves a lot of hassle.
  2. It allows the parent to make very small quantities of baby food, in order to see if the baby will actually eat it before going through the trouble of freezing extra.
  3. Creating baby-sized portions of family meals rather than cooking food just for the baby makes it easier to avoid getting precious about the food the baby rejects. The adult can just eat the leftovers and clean up what’s thrown onto the floor.
  4. The baby never gets stuck on purees to the point of refusing to eat anything that’s not pureed.

Both Ellyn Satter and the Baby-Led Weaning books say that purees are remnants of the days when babies were routinely given solids at two or three months old. I can easily believe this. There are a lot more options for a six-month old who can sit up and grab things.

In the end, I guess I’m firmly in the Baby-Led Weaning camp even though we mostly spoon-feed Nora these days. Life is just so much easier when the baby eats what the family eats. We do put special effort into making sure the kitchen is stocked with staples Nora can eat every day (eggs, yogurt, avocado, fresh fruit), and we do rely on freezer balls a lot for days when we don’t cook or the family meal isn’t appropriate for a baby (like salad), but there is nothing Nora eats that we wouldn’t happily eat ourselves.

Also, our pediatrician greenlit serving family meals that contain salt right from the get-go. I think the notion that babies shouldn’t eat salt, while well-intentioned, throws yet another unnecessary hurdle in front of home cooking. We are not salt fiends, but we do cook with salt, and Nora has been none the worse for wear.

For a family that cooks real food at least once or twice a week, has a freezer, and is willing to adapt recipes a little to make sure there are some baby-friendly options in the rotation, baby food in jars is a complete waste of money and baby food recipe books are a complete waste of time.

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