In Case You Were Wondering …

30 09 2008

… Masher and his poop are getting along a whole lot better these days.  For the last week or so, the poop fairy has paid a visit nearly every day, sometimes even twice!  Although it may cost me more in wipes in the long run, it definitely makes me feel much better to know that things are moving along, so to speak. 

The frequency of the movements definitely seems to have something to do with the amount that Masher is eating.  He’s on three meals a day at this point (8 months old a week ago!), along with nursing four to five times a day.  I’ve generally been feeding him some combination of cereal and fruit (usually applesauce or pureed prunes) in the morning; a veggie cube or two for lunch, often accompanied by some pear or grapes in the mesh feeder; and up to three veggie cubes in the evening, usually with a bit of cereal or some pureed chicken mixed in.  New veggie combo?  Green beans, asparagus, and spinach cubes … Very delicious.  Masher actually seems to generally prefer veggies to fruit, and when I taste the plain steamed and pureed veggies, I think I can see why.  They taste sweet, to my great surprise, and they’re a little bit more bland and less acidic than most fruit. 

As a child, I myself hated all things green, gagged at the sight of most vegetables, and could actually make myself sick when forced to eat them.  My childhood list of acceptable vegetables was short:  carrots (raw only), corn (except when the sound of my parents chewing it off the cob drove me nuts), and potatoes (white, not sweet … no way!).  I picked crunchy onions out of ground beef dishes, licked the peanut butter off the celery on my “ants on a log,” even turned up my nose at ketchup.  My poor mother finally focused her efforts on the carrot, and throughout my school years I had a small pile of carrot sticks with every meal except breakfast.  It only gave me a slight orangey hue …

So, how did I eventually end up a veg-lover?  I attribute the metamorphosis to three epiphanies, which I could dub Peer Pressure, Boredom, and Love.  The first epiphany took place at nerd camp (Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth summer program) in junior high.  Even at nerd camp, apparently, the urge to be skinny and beautiful was strong, and when my hallmates all opted for salads, I couldn’t help myself to a big plate of meatloaf and mashed potatoes.  And the salads weren’t bad.  As long as they consisted of no other vegetables besides lettuce.  Accompanied by a lot of blue cheese dressing, croutons, those Asian crunchy things, and bacon bits.  Yeah, pretty good!  And it was a step forward.                       

The next epiphany occurred in Paris where I spent my junior year of college in a small room of an international women’s dormitory where the temperature never rose above 57 degrees Fahrenheit regardless of how high I cranked the old gas heater.  I was always cold and suffered through the winter from a general ennui acquired from the reading of far too much Baudelaire.  Apart from the long walk to the arrondissement in which that day’s class could be found (and the pastry from the local patisserie), the highlight of my day was lunch, served in the dorm cafeteria.  Vegetables were featured prominently and smelled and looked oddly delicious, mainly due to the warm buttery steam rising from them.  I tried and realized I liked one after another after another …  Broccoli, spinach, mushrooms, cabbage, brussel sprouts …  With loads of butter, a touch of garlic, and cooked to a mushy texture, delicieux!

France changed my outlook on veggies dramatically, but I was still finicky about the way in which my vegetables were cooked and served.  I liked one type of vegetable at a time and really needed a lot of oil or butter to enjoy it.  And then came Love.  My college boyfriend—who eventually became my husband—loved to cook … one thing.  I called it “Bachelor Food.”  The recipe for Bachelor Food is as follows:  Throw every vegetable in the grocery store in an enormous pan with olive oil, add beans, serve hot with tortilla chips and salsa.  To me, it was an abomination.  Every vegetable, all in the same pan?  Some of them still crunchy?  No butter???  But, I loved him.  So, I loved Bachelor Food.  And, as I continued to eat Bachelor Food the nights he cooked it, I realized I wasn’t just telling him I loved it any longer; I really did love it.

I think habituation really is key to developing a taste for certain foods, although peer pressure, boredom, and love can obviously also be contributing factors.  And I think I can really see where habituation comes in to play when Masher is eating, even within a single meal.  When he takes his first bite, he opens his eyes wide, purses up his lips, and gives the spoon-wielder a look that says, “I don’t know WHAT you just stuck in there, but I think you must be trying to poison me.”  He rolls the offending bite around his mouth with his tongue, averts his eyes to play with his spoon or watch the dogs play for a moment or two, and then looks back up eagerly ready to finish the entire helping.  Just takes him a second or two to figure out what he’s there to do. 

God Bless the Internet …

26 07 2008

… Because I don’t know how we lived without it.

See, I had been feeling pretty uncomfortable about this whole “solid foods” thing.  It’s something I hadn’t quite admitted to myself or on this blog, but it’s true.  I couldn’t put my finger on it, and I definitely felt as though it was something very personal, but I kept wondering to myself why everyone asked if we had tried the baby cereals yet.  I wondered why everyone asked automatically about the cereals, even the doctor.  I wondered whether babies started with rice cereal in Mexico, or Pakistan, or Zimbabwe, or Japan.  Looking at the cereal, which resembles fish food more than anything else, I wondered what magical properties it possessed that the brown rice or oatmeal in my cabinet didn’t have.  Okay, so I can read on the box that there’s an iron supplement, but what the heck?  If the babies NEED the iron, isn’t there some other way for them to get it besides adding some supplement, which more than likely can’t be absorbed by the body anyway?  And I especially wondered how Masher would transition to eating the food that we eat when he’s starting out eating food a world away …  and in a part of the grocery store I rarely visit, the aisles.  As a girl who shops around the outskirts for fresh vegetables, fruit, meat, and dairy, with monthly ventures into the aisles for whole grains and beans, I couldn’t understand what I was doing staring at a small shelf of canned strained chicken and peas and the like.  I eat at the farmers’ market.  Can’t my baby do the same?

So, like any good 21st century dweller, I Googled.  And I came across a really helpful web site that began to address many of my concerns … and led me to a book, which I ordered on (yay for the Internet, again!) and that was delivered to my house a day later:  Feeding the Whole Family:  Recipes for Babies, Young Children, and Their Parents.  And, after one read, I decided this would probably have to be my new bible.

A paragraph from the book that sums up the answer to my concerns:

When we give babies separate meals made of factory-created food that is bland and full of fillers, we do them a disservice.  This trains them to expect separate meals and prefer bland empty calories.  Do your children a favor and introduce them to food with flavor.  Let them recognize a variety of simply prepared whole foods as the familiar tastes that trigger “home” in their mind and bodies.  Feed them what you eat.  Make what you eat good enough to feed your baby.

             — Cynthia Lair

Look.  It would be one thing if I were still working 50+ hours a week.  And as the author of the book points out, there are organic processed baby foods out there these days, which is a huge step forward as far as processed baby food goes.  And it would be another thing if my husband and I didn’t already eat pretty conscientiously.  (I say “conscientiously” because we always cook organic and heavily local at home, but we are equally happy to stuff our faces with nachos and beef fajitas at Rio Grande from time to time.)  But I’m not working now, and – as family – we’ve already made huge strides toward eating primarily “whole foods” (Michael Pollan of The Omnivore’s Dilemma asks, “Would your grandmother recognize the substance as food?”).  I think we’re ready to go the whole way.

So, what does this Cynthia woman recommend as baby’s first food?  Apples, avocados, bananas, carrots, sweet potatoes, peas, and winter squash, any of which should be cooked, mashed, and mixed with breastmilk or water (if necessary) to the consistency of soup.  Sounds delicious.  Scratch everything that came before.  We start anew.


More Cereal

26 07 2008

Although I thought I’d be writing a blog on kids and food, it seems as though the focus is far more on the outputs as opposed to the inputs!  Oh, well.  Today, after four days of one tablespoon of rice cereal and two days of one tablespoon of oatmeal cereal–and the day after Masher’s 6-month anniversary of life–the baby passed what could officially be called A poop, not to be confused with poop in its softer form.  Congratulations, Masher!  Now if I could only find the spot where I’m supposed to write that “first” in the baby book …

He definitely seems to continue liking cereal, both the rice and the oatmeal versions, but the feeding also seems to be getting messier.  His latest favorite activity is blowing the contents of his mouth back out at me, not in a way that signifies disgust, more in triumph and delight!  So, I tossed aside those little drool bibs we’d been using and tried out a “big boy” bib, made of some kind of plasticky material, with a pocket at the bottom to catch those airborne glob-missiles.  Unfortunately, Masher was pretty sure the bib was for eating too, especially once it was well caked with the cementcereal, and that little pocket didn’t work quite as well turned upside-down.  All this for the consumption of a mere one tablespoon.  Now, I’m supposed to move him up to three-four tablespoons daily?  Yikes!

Poop and More …

18 07 2008

My long absence from these pages might lead a reader to believe that Masher’s digestive life has been relatively uneventful of late, but–au contraire–we have had a series of new experiences and no time to post anything at all about any of them …  until now.  

The most important thing that happened this week was that Masher pooped.  He pooped, you ask?  What’s so special about that?  A-ha, you, my friend, have evidently not waited around watching your infant son’s stomach slowly expand over the course of 10 days of no solid waste.  To be honest, I wasn’t too worried.  I read on various web sites that 7-10 days could easily pass between poops for babies who were being exclusively breastfed and hadn’t started solid food yet; some sites said even 2 weeks was fine.  But it was everyone else’s reactions to the situation that began to make me slightly concerned:  “OMIGOD, HE HASN’T POOPED YET?!?!?”  What do you say?  

And the nurse I called on day 7 had the same reaction as most of our friends and family.  “Maybe I just have super-efficient breastmilk?” I posited hopefully, breaking out some of that online MD I’d earned researching the poop situation on the Internet.  “Yeah, that’s it,” she replied, exhibiting considerably more sarcasm than I generally like to see in my caregivers.  “Here’s what you need to do …  ” and she gave us a list of activities (a) make Masher poop or (b) keep us occupied until he pooped (one or the other, you be the judge) that included warm baths, apple juice, and rectal manipulation.  Mmmmm, rectal manipulation.

On the other hand, we took advantage of the situation to blame any bit of fussiness on the extra weight in his belly.  “Oh, it’s not you,” I said when he mysteriously burst into tears when a cute, old lady smiled at him in his stroller, “He hasn’t pooped for DAYS.”

And then, at the 10-day mark, almost exactly to the hour, sitting on my lap after a short walk around the neighborhood, he pulled up his legs, broke into a happy grin, and let it fly.  Yay for poop!

But back to the nurse’s instructions …  Apple juice, you say?  So, did Masher drink apple juice?  Has something other than breastmilk at last touched his virgin lips?  Yes, yes, and yes.  Here’s how it all went down:  The day I called the nurse was also the day we drove back from the Eastern Shore, and I really wasn’t about to head back out to the store for apple juice when the kid needed a nap.  So, I called around to the neighbors, and–to my great surprise–it turns out I live in a no-apple-juice cul-de-sac.  Not being a juice person myself, I’m okay with this, but it did surprise me.  “I guess we live in an anti-juice world these days,” I said to the third neighbor I called.  “Yeah, it is pretty anti-juice,” she answered, “But do you have any prunes?  I always used prunes with my son when he was a baby.”

I DID have prunes!  But I couldn’t very well just hand Masher the prunes and let him go for it.  How could I distill the essential prune parts for his consumption?  I threw a handful in couple ounces of boiling water and let them steep while I held another in my hand for him to suck, which he seemed to enjoy quite a bit.  Then I mixed the prune water in with some milk, and he swigged the whole thing down.

As he sucked the last few drops from the bottle, I suddenly had a vision of prune-driven poop shooting out his tush with the force of a nuclear bomb.  Dear Masher, I thought, please don’t let this have been a mistake.  Who gives their baby prunes for his first food???  

Luckily, however, the prunes seemed to have no effect.

The next day, I took Masher to go see Emeril Lagasse, who is taping a new show at the Whole Foods in Fairfax, and I bought some apple juice.  When we returned home, I mixed an ounce of apple juice with an ounce of water, per the nurse’s instructions, and I gave him the mixture in a bottle of breastmilk.  Again, he ate ravenously and then fell into a deep sleep.  This is it, I thought, but no, no poop until the following day.

So, what made him poop?  Who knows.  Probably his own body finally just said it was time.  But I’m keeping that apple juice on hand just in case!

Then, having had such success with the prune and apple juices, we decided to debut some Nature’s Own organic brown rice cereal just yesterday.  Not wanting to waste my liquid gold, I used water to rehydrate the mush and settled down with a bowl and spoon–and daddy with the camera–in front of the little boy in the high chair.  “So, did he like it?” you ask.

The photos speak for themselves …


Playing with rice cereal is fun!

Playing with rice cereal is fun!


Trying out a spoonful ...

Trying out a spoonful ...

Mmmmmm, that was good!

Mmmmmm, that was good!

Gimme, gimme, gimme, gimme!!!

Gimme, gimme, gimme, gimme!!!