Mmmmm, Sweet Potatoes!

31 07 2008

Yes, that’s right.  Masher loves sweet potatoes … well diluted with breastmilk anyway.  We started ’em a few days ago, just put a few sweet potatoes in the oven to bake and mashed them up when they were done.  Since they were still pretty lumpy, I put a couple of scoops in the food processor and then pushed them through a sieve.  Half of the strained mixture went into the fridge for immediate consumption, and the other half into the freezer for later.  I still need to get some ice cube trays for freezing small individual amounts of whatever I make, but I just put it all in one container for now.

And then, since I totally overestimated and baked three giant yams when Masher probably eats the equivalent of 1/20 a sweet potato at one sitting, I made some very tasty sweet potato banana bread using the leftover potatoes and chunkier bits and a few overripe bananas on my counter.  I modified the recipe slightly, using less sugar and more banana and potato than it called for and made two loaves.  Yum!

Speaking of overripe fruit, yesterday I had a mushy plum and another banana wasting away on the kitchen counter, so I played with a recipe from this week’s Post food section to make a tasty frozen dessert.  My version was easier and probably healthier–just processed the banana and plum (skin, too, for the plum, not the banana!), added some yogurt and honey, and stuck it in a bowl in the freezer for a few hours.  Even my yogurt-averse husband thought it tasted pretty good!  And it was especially refreshing after the fire-breathing chicken stew we had for dinner.  (Note to self:  One family doesn’t need more than one-two jalapeno plants in their garden.  Seven is way too many.)

Unfortunately, Baby Masher wasn’t ready for any this exciting food, although we do plan to debut the all-mighty avocado with him tomorrow.


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.


How About a Cup of Milk?

8 07 2008

I’ve read in a couple of books that babies can drink straight out of a cup–not a sippy cup, mind you–starting at two months.  And it seems like a good idea to start giving a baby a cup, making it customary, in the same way that starting food in the first year is important, regardless of the fact that the baby is still getting almost all of its nutrition from breastmilk or formula.  And it sounded like fun.  Since Masher already holds his own bottle when Josh feeds him expressed milk now and then, I figured a cup wouldn’t be a big stretch, right?

Wrong.  Apparently, a cup is a HUGE stretch.  Okay, okay, maybe it was more due to Masher’s second tooth erupting through his gum yesterday than it was to the cup itself, but something about trying to drink from a cup sure put Baby Masher into a foul mood!  And he got milk (a.k.a., liquid gold) all over him, much to my dismay.  Maybe we’ll wait and try this again when he’s drinking water.

Okay, I can play this hold-the-yellow-plastic-thing game ...

Okay, I can play this hold-the-yellow-plastic-thing game ...


What the h___ was that???

What the h___ was that???

Pushing for Six

2 06 2008

Baby Masher checked out A-OK at his four-month checkup Friday before last (19 lbs, 2 oz, and 27 inches tall!), and the doctor assured us that waiting for the six-month mark before starting Masher on “solids” was indeed a good idea, especially in light of our family history of allergies.  So, that’s great.  And at the same time, not.  Because I’m under the impression that the reason (or a large part of the reason) why Masher’s not sleeping through the night any longer is due to an empty belly.  Breastmilk just gets digested too quickly, so — after going to sleep between 7 and 8 p.m. — he wakes up hungry at least three times — usually around 2, 4, and 6 a.m. — before he gets up for the day between 7 and 9 a.m.  Ugh.

“Oh, that’s normal,” you’re probably telling me, “My baby still doesn’t sleep through the night at 8 months!”  But here’s the difference:  Masher DID.  From about six or seven weeks to about a month ago, Baby Masher was a better sleeper than my lazy old golden retriever, sometimes going as long as 13 hours without waking once.  And then, suddenly, he just changed.  So, I figure it’s gotta be an empty belly that’s waking him up.  And that will continue waking him up for the next eight weeks or so, if we do indeed manage to wait that long before opening the box of rice cereal I purchased at Whole Foods last week on a bleary-eyed, early-morning grocery trip.

I’m doing a bit of whining here, but I know I don’t have too much to whine about.  Knock on wood, Masher’s never not been interested in sleeping at the appropriate sleeping times, and I’ve definitely heard horror stories about babies crying all night or just wanting to play.  Masher’s paternal grandmother babysat last Friday night and said she was a bit disappointed when he woke around 10:30 for a bottle and wasn’t interested in any songs and games …  Thank God for that, I say!  Usually when I’m feeding him during the night, at least half of my brain is still deeply engaged in sleep.

About Breastfeeding

18 05 2008

First of all, it hurts.  At least at the beginning.  

All of the pro-breastfeeding lit I read prior to Masher’s birth said:  If you feel pain, you’re doing something wrong.  So, in the hospital, when I felt like he must have tiny knives on his tongue that were slicing me to shreds, the breastfeeding consultant couldn’t come to my room soon enough.  “Help!” I told her, “I must be doing something wrong!”  She checked out my positioning, Masher’s positioning, what his little Adam’s apple was up to as he fed, and what his excretions looked like.  “Nope,” she said, “You’re doing it right.  It hurts at first.”  Well, at least she was honest, unlike most of the breastfeeding advocates I’d encountered up to that point.  And it hurt, especially on one side, for at least a good three weeks after his birth.    

One of the pros to natural (or “intervention-free”) childbirth per the doulas we used is that you feel more confident and able to face small hurdles like the pain associated with breastfeeding if you’ve successfully weathered the pain of childbirth.  I can see some truth to this; each time I’d wince with pain when Masher latched on to feed, I was definitely reminded that the little twinges were NOTHING in comparison to what I’d experienced a few days prior.

In addition, watching Masher grow and thrive on a product that my body was manufacturing just for him provided enough motivation to push through the pain.  That’s the real miracle of breastfeeding.  

For the first month or three, breastfeeding seemed to provide the answer to every cry, much to my chagrin as I didn’t really love having to whip it out every hour or so.  It was a relatively recent revelation that Masher sometimes cries for reasons other than being hungry.  “A-ha!  He likes to sleep in his crib, and he actually hopes I stop trying to entertain him!”  It’s these small but important truths that make the world a livable place. 

As Masher approaches four months, the question now is when to start him on “real food,” or rice cereal, oatmeal, and mushed-up fruits and veggies, as the case may be.  Friends and family seem to advise that four months is the time to begin.  “He’s so big …  He needs more food!”  But I wonder …  After all, didn’t he get so big on breastmilk alone?  Why the rush?  From what I read, it sounds as though the decision is really up to the parents.  The American Academy of Pediatrics is somewhat split on the issue:  one section recommends breastfeeding exclusively for six months while another supports starting “real food” anywhere between four and six months.  

We’ll see what our pediatrician has to say on the issue at next week’s check-up, but I’m leaning toward waiting the full six months.  I’ve read that breastfeeding exclusively for six months (some even say 12!) can help prevent food allergies, and Masher can use all the help he can get in that arena since both his dad and I have allergies, his dad to several foods.  And the World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months for a number of reasons, including reduced gastrointestinal infections.  So, as long as I can dissuade the well-meaning relatives who can’t wait to see his cute little face covered in green peas …

Back to Work …

10 05 2008

A new day, a new dollar.  Or a new activity, as the case may be.  Inspired by my blog-like burblings from Norway a few years ago, I thought I’d start something new.  Something to keep me writing, something creative, why not?  But then, a realization:  I don’t know what to write about!  I don’t want to write anything too personal.  For one thing, who would want to read day-to-day dribble about my life?  For another thing, there probably are people out there who would, and that’s scarier.  So, something not too personal.  Something that’s actually about something real, so that it’s almost worth reading …  The less it resembles this first posting, the better.  Something that might even be useful …  

Lightbulb!  This blog will be about food.  Not about eating out around the DC metropolitan area; there are already plenty of blogs and web sites about that.  Not about cooking in a general sense, with recipes and advice on how long to boil a hardboiled egg, because that info is already easy to find, and I’m certainly no expert.  This blog will be about food and kids, or more specifically food and one cute kid (we’ll call him Masher), age 15 1/2 weeks (Aquarius in the cusp of Capricorn, should you be curious).

So, food and kids it is.  Yes, this is a topic I should be able to write plenty about, primarily because I know next to nothing now, but I’m about to have to learn.  I know a bit about food:  I love to eat and I love to cook.  I make a veggie chili that has won a couple of friendly contests.  I prefer organic ingredients and cooking locally and seasonally whenever possible (can’t wait for our farm share to start this summer!).  I recently finished reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma, and I buy most of what it says about what’s wrong with the American diet.  I also know a bit about kids …  basically whatever most moms know after almost 16 weeks of having one, plus whatever I picked up babysitting in high school.  What I know about food and kids is limited to the following facts:  (1) My child really likes milk.  (2) You can eat no vegetables except carrot sticks until you’re 20 and still grow up to be 6’2″.

My husband Josh and I have had several discussions over the years on this and related topics, and we hope to raise children who eat well and enjoy healthy foods, but we don’t want to obsess over the occasional indulgences that make this life worth living, i.e., that second piece of flourless chocolate cake or a baguette consumed with an entire stick of butter.  So, is this possible?  For baby to have his cake but eat his carrots too?  In sh’Allah …