She Says… Baby Food

No, no, we’re not starting Owen on solid food just yet. He’s only 3 months old, people! BUT I did get to take part in an incredibly interesting discussion about babies and food led by Dr. Greene, a pediatrician and author of “Feeding Baby Green“.

It was all part of a pre-opening event generating buzz about the new Isis Parenting store opening on the South Shore. For those who are not local to the Boston area, Isis Parenting is the place where I’ve done both of my Mommy Groups, and the #1 reason I consider myself to be a sane, healthy, happy mom. It is, first and foremost, a community of the most knowledgeable and helpful early childhood development experts and new moms in the area. They have a retail store, classes, drop-ins, playgroups, support for breastfeeding and sleep issues, prenatal massage and yoga, postnatal workout classes and on and on. There are 4 centers around Boston, and now there’s a new center in town, on the South Shore. I got a sneak peek at the blueprints for the new store and it looks amazing! Anyway, Nancy, the lactation consultant who has been immensely helpful working through Owen’s issues with me, invited me to join her for this event with Dr. Greene.

Although we’re at least a month or two away from starting solid foods with Owen, Dr. Greene’s philosophy really inspired me to think about exactly what is going in his mouth. And my mouth. He explained that babies’ tastes and food preferences begin to be imprinted and established even before they enter this world. The foods that I ate while pregnant have a strong impact on Owen’s future eating behaviors. It’s a darn good thing I’m such a healthy eater! No, really. (Remember this post?) I firmly believe that my habits of eating mostly whole, natural foods, and cooking almost all of my food myself (rather than eating it out of a box) will set Owen up for a lifetime of eating well and being healthy. And even now, since he’s eating my breastmilk 99% of the time, he’s experiencing a variety of flavors and natural nutrients.

I have always heard that when you start babies on solid foods, you have to a) wait until 6 months due to possible allergies and b) starts with grains and then move to veggies and then to fruits, giving just one new food at a time so you can see if the baby has some reaction to it. Dr. Greene challenges both of these beliefs. First, he believes we are doing a great disservice to our children by offering them processed, bland, white rice cereal as their first food. He cited a study that was done generations ago that found that simply switching from white rice to brown rice cured many of the diseases/conditions that were killing people at the time. Apparently white rice, back then, was stripped of important B vitamins and simply adding those vitamins back into their diets completely reversed the damage that they had done to their bodies. Although nowadays those B vitamins are added back into white rice, it still stands to reason that we shouldn’t be giving our children something so processed and stripped down from its natural state as their first food.

In fact, he advises us to start solid foods with fruits and vegetables that babies and children can experience with all of their senses. Give them a banana that they can hold, see the color of, see you eat a piece of, and finally taste. This way, in addition to getting totally natural nutrients, they are also learning where food comes from and how we eat it, rather than learning that it is white, tasteless mush that comes from a box.

In a world that is scared silly of allergies, I tend to side with Dr. Greene on this one. Years ago, no one would have separated foods the way that we do, and jarred baby food didn’t even exist. People just mashed up whatever they were eating and gave it to their babies. Although I wouldn’t start Owen out on highly allergenic foods like peanuts, I feel strongly about starting him out on REAL food, and not mush from a box.

Dr. Greene’s talk was very timely for me, as I am struggling with the breastmilk vs. formula issue. He mentioned that formula fed babies are at a slight disadvantage in the world of eating because they are only tasting one taste for many months. Because of this, he would opt to start formula-fed babies on solids earlier than those fed exclusively breastmilk. He thinks that the more tastes you offer your baby, and the more times they are offered, the more likely they are to eat lots of different foods.

I will not stand for having a 2 year old eating only french fries and macaroni and cheese. In fact, I’m not even sure my 2 year old will know what french fries (except the kind I make at home from sweet potatoes!) will taste like. But it’s amazing how many parents say, “My kid will only eat X”. Granted, I have not been there yet, but I like to think I can win that battle before it’s ever fought by exposing Owen to as many whole, natural, healthy foods as possible, starting from the day I saw that little plus sign.

Addendum and apology: I realize, after reading many of the comments below, that my words were not well chosen in the post above! I apologize if they were taken as condescending or judgmental of others’ decisions or experiences. I did not intend to make a statement about anyone else’s decisions or choices, only my own hopes for Owen’s future. I absolutely realize that, as with everything else parenting-related, I have a lot to learn! And, more importantly, it will never turn out as I planned. My passion for this topic came across as absolute and unyielding, and that’s not really how it is at all. I definitely eat french fries and macaroni and cheese once in awhile, and I still consider myself to be a healthy eater. I realize that once Owen starts solid foods, he will develop his own tastes and preferences (hey, he probably already has them now, although it’s harder for him to show it). And it will be beyond my control! I simply meant to say that I hope to give him the best foundation possible.

Again, apologies if anyone felt offended by my wording. I blame having to write the post as fast as possible so I could get a shower before naptime ended 🙂


31 responses to “She Says… Baby Food

  1. We just started Eli on solids because he felt he was ready (he is 4 1/2 months). He constantly tries to grab our food & our cups… there is no eating or drinking while holding him anymore! We did start him on rice cereal (mixed with breast milk), and I am going to give him oatmeal cereal today… but after that we are on to fruits & veggies! I think we are going to go with bananas first, then maybe some squash or zucchini or something. I plan on making all of his food myself and am really excited about raising a healthy eater. So far he is really happy with eating… he opens his little mouth SO big for that spoon and smiles with every bite!

  2. We’re not as healthy as you guys are (welcome to the south!) (I wish you could teach me!) but one thing I have done with our baby is to let him try EVERYTHING. I’ve never been one that said “No, he shouldn’t have that yet.” Now, that being said, I’ve steered clear of the highly allergenic foods as well (we’re still avoiding peanuts and strawberries) but if I’m eating something he could easily handle (and isn’t spicy), I’ve let him try it! He LOVES vegetables. He eats a ton of them! His favorite “real” food is lasagna! Ha! He can’t get enough! I think it’s a disservice to tell children that they aren’t old enough to eat something. I’m dreading when he’s old enough to eat at a restaurant because grilled cheese? and chicken fingers? Bleh.

  3. I give my baby the white rice cereal, but only to help her reflux. I’d do the brown rice option, but it’s not in the stores around here (I live in the podunk). She doesn’t really eat off a spoon yet, so I do spoon feeding once a day and in her bottle once a day. I wish I could find a rice cereal without iron added…if you feed formula, that already has 100% of their iron and you know what too much iron can do to a person!

    I plan on making my own baby food too, but we’re not there yet.

    If brown rice cereal is less sticky and messy than white, it might catch on 🙂

  4. If interested, I suggest you look into baby-led weaning (sort of skipping purees and going to whole foods). I made/make all of our food, but with our second child, sort of bypassed purees. Avocado is a great first food! And then we just continued with foods he could eat himself–banana, soft pear, stewed apples, cucumber slices (great for teething). We do make a few purees (pumpkin is our new favorite), but I like this approach. It would not have worked for our first son who was premature and really had some problems feeding himself and an exceptionally strong gag reflex, but it works brilliantly with our second.

    Although early to start introducing, it’s always good to think about and prepare for!

  5. Hi Kate,
    First I want to let you know that this is not at all meant as a snarky comment – I love your blog and think you are a great mom. BUT as the mom of a 15-month-old who is the world’s picky eater and has about 4 foods that he’ll eat regularly, I must remind you that your son is only 3 months old and – like your experience with breastfeeding – you have no idea what feeding solids will be like so you should not judge what other parents do.

    I was the same as you: my husband and I eat healthy, all-organic, blah blah blah. Started my son on only delicious organic fruits and veggies and from 5 months to about 9 months that’s all he ate. I did everything I was “supposed” to do, but once he got old enough to express his desires about food, though, he became the world’s pickiest eater – like many toddlers are.

    Admittedly, your comment “I will not stand for having a 2 year old eating only french fries and macaroni and cheese” stung a little. There are some days that the only thing my son will touch are American cheese (yeah, the nasty packaged stuff) and frozen waffles. It’s literally either feed him those things or let him starve. He’s a peanut, 15% weight 15% height. Mealtimes are a battle. For what it’s worth, both my brother and I were the same way (super picky) as toddlers/little kids and we both grew up to be healthy adults who love a variety of foods.

    Again, just wanted to kindly recommend that you please keep an open mind. 🙂

  6. Alison, You’re absolutely right! It’s easy for me to think this way when I haven’t been there yet 🙂 As with breastfeeding, I am certain there are a lot more challenges than one could ever realize before trying it out themselves. I’m sure I’ll have a post a few months from now lamenting having to feed my baby food I wouldn’t touch if it’s the only thing he’ll eat. Excellent point.

  7. For what it’s worth I took a bite of the rice cereal we tried with him at 5 months and it tasted like wallpaper paste. So we just skipped the cereal and started with peas & carrots. I then made a habit of tasting everything, even jarred baby food, before I put it in his mouth b/c there was no way I was feeding him somthing disgusting. 🙂 But it is amazing how those little guys make their likes and dislikes known!

  8. This is such an interesting topic to me. I’m not a parent yet, but I have a 9 month old nephew. He was exclusively formula fed until about 4.5 months. He HATED rice cereal, but has loved all purees. My Brother in law nervous parent and refuses to give the baby anything he could choke on, so he has still only had baby purees. My SIL made food for the first couple of months, until they went on vacation, and then when forced to use store bought food, she decided it was just easier.
    When are you supposed to transition from purees to “real food?”

  9. I agree with Alison and, from the perspective of a Mum whose kids are all grown . . .
    When I was pregnant with my daughter (middle child) I had an absurd craving for fish, potatoes and greens (we live by the ocean in a province renowned for its potatoes) ate them frequently – and guess who was born loving fish, potatoes and greens!
    I nursed all 3 kids f-o-r-e-v-e-r but when said child would finally eat solids, all she wanted were Cheerios, mac & cheese and fishcakes. At one year of age she only weighed 16 lbs. and only 18 lbs. by age two (and my boys were only 18 lb. and 20 lbs. at a year, despite being of a good birthweight) so I fed her whatever she would eat since the doctor was always on my case about her tininess (even though she was very healthy. Just a wee girl.)
    One boy grew up to become a chef and always and only eats healthy – no sweets. I never fed him a sweet until he was six and only very few then because he was allergic to everything. The other boy was, and still is, the pickiest of eaters although has always loved veggies. They all eat quite healthy although my daughter is a little too fond of junk food for my tastes.. She is married now so there is nothing I can do about it.
    We have all sorts of hopes and expectations for our first baby but, by the time #2, 3, etc. come along, we relax more.
    BTW – my doctor recommended starting with pureed veggies such as squash, rather than fruit, because fruit tends to encourage a taste for sweet. Maybe that’s why my boys don’t have a sweet tooth (but then, the daughter does, *sigh*.) They are who they are.

  10. slowmiles, I’m not actually sure about that. I’ll have lots of Googling to do once we DO start solids.

  11. I don’t want to offend you, Kate, so please take this as gently as I mean it. I’m on the same page as Alison. I find what you said to be fairly judgmental and condescending. I usually feel like you seem like someone I could easily share a glass of wine and stories with, but this last paragraph just rubs me the wrong way. As background, I have three children (and am a pediatrician, but that’s less important than the mom for this discussion) so have been through this a few times.

    Some children just are picky eaters in my experience. To say that you’ll prevent that because you were a healthy eater during your pregnancy and plan to feed him carefully as an infant in toddler places blame on women who do have picky eaters, as if they had somehow done something wrong. Like Alison, I think it’s also a mistake to say you “will not stand” for something that you really won’t have power to change. As a parent, I will not stand for my child running into the street and getting hit by a car. I will not stand for then playing with knives or climbing cabinets–those are things you actually can control. Short of holding down a child and forcibly feeding them, you’re rather limited in your options for managing this issue.

    My oldest is a reforming picky eater. I ate well and varied my diet during my pregnancy and fed him a variety of healthy, mostly organic foods as an infant. As soon as he could control what he ate, he started to express his opinion about what he wanted and ended up having strong preferences for tastes and textures. It was frustrating, but I didn’t want to make food into a battleground–I’m afraid that could create lifelong eating issues and destroy the family experience of eating together. It took until age 4, but he now loves broccoli and asparagus and eats almost every fruit. He does like chicken nuggets and pizza, but we do them sparingly these days. He didn’t starve in the meantime, nor did his health suffer. My second child took longer to become a picky eater, but at age 2, she has definite favorites and it’s nearly impossible to give her something new most days. I just have to keep offering and it will get better. The 8 month old eats everything in sight–I did baby led weaning and couldn’t be happier with where we currently are. We had done a modified version of this with my 2nd child and like the different tastes and textures it offers infants.

    In short, kids will tell you who and what they are instead of you telling them. If you keep an open mind and stay flexible, you’ll enjoy parenting a lot more and Owen will grow up happy, healthy, and flexible too. You’ve already shown a lot of flexibility in your breastfeeding battle (congrats on making it through those very tough 13 weeks!), just continue it through your future feeding and behavior battles and you’ll come out sane on the other side.

  12. So interesting Kate! And very interesting to hear everyone’s take on the issue. (I’ve never posted on here, but as a friend of B&K’s, I read the blog often! ) I have a personal interest in this one as my almost 10 month old has slowly become a said “picky” eater. In the beginning she loved her pureed veg and fruit (I am making all of her food from scratch). But then all of a sudden she stopped eating her green vegetables. How is this possible? How does she know? Is it that perhaps I started giving her sweeter and more tasty food and the peas no longer tasted so good? I have no idea. And now in the last few days, she has thrown full blown tantrums whenever I try to spoon feed her. The only way I can get a bite in is to sneak it in when she opens her mouth to put in a piece of shredded cheese that I have put on her tray. Perhaps it is the spoon she’s rebelling against and is ready for more finger foods, but how can she get the nutrition of a chicken and veg dinner with finger foods? She’s certainly not able to gum pieces of chicken or even steamed veg yet. And so the battle continues…

    With our first, we gave her organic (Earth’s Best) jarred baby food. She was never a good eater and now is one of the picky 2 year olds you talk about and yup, you guessed it, her favorite food is Mac and Cheese. (At least I make it from scratch and try to add some non detectable veg to it, like Cauliflower:) She was always under weight though, so we were just happy when she ate ANYTHING. I have never been able to let my children miss a meal if they refuse to eat it, I can’t seem to let them go to bed hungry. Maybe they’d be better eaters if I could stand my ground, but being a picky eater myself I understand what it’s like too much. (I ate next to nothing as a child.) My pediatrician says it’s genetic. Ugh!

    But with our second, I decided to make her food myself, hoping that we might do better the second time around when it came to picky children. At first I thought we were…but now I’m not so sure…

    The bottom line is: Feeding your children, whether it’s breastfeeding (or not:), introducing solids, and beyond, is unbelievably stressful. And while I get the gist of what this doctor was saying, I’m not sure that tactic would work for us. If handed a whole banana, my 2 year old still takes too big a bite and chokes on it, I can’t even imagine what the baby would do;) I know that’s not exactly what he was saying, but my point is, while a healthy attitude towards food is fantastic, one has to take into consideration the reality as well–which might not turn out the way one imagined. But Kate–you ARE a much better cook than me, so perhaps you’ll have more luck:) Oh–and by the way, I am very proud of you for even making it this far with the nursing. It sounds like you definitely made the right decision and I’m delighted that Owen is already thriving with the new arrangement! Keep up the amazing work!

  13. I have a coworker who is a vegetarian and the healthiest eater I know. She fed her son all the healthy stuff. Where is he now? 30 years old and refuses to eat anything green. Drives her bananas!! We can lead the cows to the water but can’t force them to drink (or what is that exression? LOL). All we can do as mothers is try! And then not get offended / hurt / feel like failures when our kids turn out not exactly as we intended them to!

  14. This has been an interesting thread to read. I was *just* like you, determined to have my kid eat only the good stuff. He is now just over two, and is, I believe a GREAT eater – he’ll chow down on broccoli and brussel sprouts – and doesn’t eat french fries or (boxed – he gets homemade) mac n cheese because they has never been offered to him. In this vein, I disagree with the parents above that state that their children will only eat “XX not-so-healthy food” – children have to be offered that food in the first place for it to be something they demand! But…we still have our food battles, as he goes to daycare and sees the “goodies” that the other kids get in their lunches. He’ll often ask for cookies and candy that we just don’t keep around, but he sees it in the stores and at other’s houses. And they certainly cause embarrassing tantrums and fits, which I occasionally give in to because I don’t want food to be a battleground for our family.
    Anyhow, it will be interesting to follow you as Owen begins to form his own food preferences. I’ve just started feeding my 6 month-old squash in the past week, and he’s chowing it down like a champ. Next up – avocado, oats, brown rice, bananas, zucchini, and sweet potatoes…sounds good to me!

  15. Kate, I also feel like Alison. As with breastfeeding you just never know. I have 3 kids and they have all been so different. My 5 yr old eats everything, I mean the kid eats anything you put in front of him including sushi. My 3 yr old is super picky, he is one of those kids that has 5-6 foods that he eats regularly, one of them being chicken soup, so what I do is ALWAYS have chicken soup available and I just put the vegetables in there and he will eat them no problem if he doesn’t realized that they are in the soup. I hope my baby (8 wks) will be like the oldest in the eating department.

    I have tried everything to make my middle child eat, but he is just picky; for the record he is very healthy, and completely above the chart for height and his weight is in the 95%.

    We are very healthy eaters, we don’t even have a microwave at home because we prepare everything homemade, but sometimes you just get a picky eater. All we can do as mothers is try to offer the best for them.

    Something funny: For years my kids thought McDonalds was where the man from “old McDonald had a farm…” lives when he is not at the farm.

  16. I’m going to step in also and say that, while we are quite controlling of our daughter’s diet (we make her food from “real” ingredients, expect her to eat what we eat, etc.), I also found this entry to be incredibly judgmental and condescending. Has my daughter had a french fry? Yes. Has she tried a cupcake? Yes. As a person who has struggled with my own relationship with food, I don’t want her to grow up feeling like certain foods will kill her if eaten in moderation. These are my choices, and they are well-researched, yet they are different from yours. We ALL want to do what’s best for our children, and your implications incriminate well-meaning parents. All of us mothers are members of a community of parents; I have withheld my own comments when I have disagreed with your choices for Owen on more than one occasion because I’m not in your position and I respect you as his mother. This entry did not feel like it offered the same respect to other parents.

  17. Thank you, everyone, for your comments on this subject and my post. I absolutely respect all of your opinions and am happy to hear what you have to say! I’m going to add an addendum on to the post because clearly it came across quite differently than I had intended. Apologies if I seemed to pass judgment on others’ decisions; I did not mean for it to sound like that. I meant to state my hopes and dreams for Owen’s future eating, and not to diminish the challenge of raising a healthy, happy eater.

  18. If you(meaning anyone) don’t give your kids chicken nuggets/fast food/crap they will not have a preference for it. They won’t even know what they are missing. I have to say that I’m with you 100 percent on the real food diet. I did not think your post was judgmental. It is your blog, and your opinions.
    I don’t care if I sound holier than thou, why are kids eating fast food and pop!! Breaks my heart!! Okay, time to jump off the soapbox now.
    Reader beware! 🙂

  19. I think every parent should make the best effort to feed their children the best healthiest foods possible. That said, sometimes a kid sees or smells something and wants it, you won’t be able to avoid that. I was strictly breastfed for 6 mos. And my mom was very healthy (aerobics instructor -it was the 80’s), but as a toddler all I wanted was pbnj and pretzels, that was it, so there is nothing you can do, but you can try like my mom did, it just might not work. Side note: I ended up being a bodybuilder, moms influence on fitness took more precedent than nutrition for me.

  20. Pingback: Top Infant Formula Feeding my daughter baby food at 4 months? Buy Best Formula

  21. I think it’s fantastic that you have wonderful goals and intentions when it comes to feeding your son! I would agree with the other commenters though and suggest that until you reach/go through a stage, you really just don’t know how it’s going to work and what’s going to be the best choice for your baby. Your breastfeeding experience is a great example of that. So while it is your blog, perhaps a better approach would be to pepper your words with understanding and flexibility.

    I too, had similar plans for my little guy when it comes to food choices. I’ve learned that I was a little naiive and that it’s A LOT harder than I ever thought! He is 2 and is definitely in a picky eating stage. I think there are still solutions and compromises though. Personally, I don’t want food to be a battle nor do I want to limit his food experiences to a degree that he ends up being preoccupied with wanting certain foods. That being said, I think you can still do that while offering only healthy choices. Although we don’t eat fast food, he’s had chicken nuggets and fries before- road trip…no other place to stop for lunch! So a compromise is that I bread chicken breasts and bake sweet potato fries. So to him, that’s what “nuggets” and “fwies” are! Or “chips” to him mean the veggie sticks that we get at Whole Foods. He loves waffles so I make a big batch of whole grain waffles with bananas and freeze those. So for me, what I’ve learned is that it’s all about coming up with healthy alternatives that gives him the nutrition he needs, all while being realistic that he is a 2 year old. You’ll find what’s best for Owen! Just remember that you can have the best of intentions and sometimes plans need to be modified a little for real life situations!

  22. I had the best intentions like you when my kids were babies, and for a while they did great. I breastfed them for 15 months each. They ate all organic, wholesome food and a variety of fruits and veggies. As I slowly transitioned them from baby food to table food, they started refusing things and continued to refuse them. Even things they had eaten and loved for weeks and months. I now have 2 very picky eaters (ages 3.5 and 1.5). There are about 10 things they’ll eat regularly, and many times they’ll refuse the things I am so sure they will eat. Meal times are the most stressful part of my day, and I often feel like a failure when time after time my kids reject what I’ve prepared for them and I’ve lowered my standards to get them to eat just a few bites of something. Anything.
    The bottom line is that once babies start asserting their independence, all we can do is keep offering them healthy choices and hope for the best. Sometimes they won’t cooperate. Your determination and optimism will help you to take a step in the right direction. Good luck!

  23. Pingback: Dr. Greene Spoke, and We Listened | Parenting Starts Here Blog

  24. I love Dr. Greene’s book! I agree, his philosophy made so much sense to me. You definitely will see Owen’s tastes evolve as he grows, but one thing I have noticed with my 18 month old is that her tastes vary from day to day it seems. Just because she won’t eat peas today doesn’t mean she won’t next week, and just because she loved blueberries yesterday doesn’t mean she’ll touch them tomorrow. We haven’t been perfect (who is?) but I’m happy with where she is with her eating, much more so than some of my friends’ kids. Just be patient and keep offering everything to him! I think you have tremendous goals.

  25. I reccomend waiting to feed eggs to him until later. I fed my son eggs and now (even at 3 yrs old) he has a very severe allergy. He probably would have still had it, but I just wonder if I hadn’t fed him eggs at 8 months would it be this bad?? Just fyi… he doesn’t have any other food allergies.

  26. I share this saying which seems to ring true for some families:
    First baby gets home-made organic baby food.
    Second baby gets jars.
    Third baby scavenges pizza crusts off floor.

    (I suppose if it’s whole wheat pizza, the third child might be making out best of all… hygiene hypothesis too).

  27. Nancy, Ha! So true! I was a third baby 🙂

  28. I don’t think you were condescending at all. Obviously, you know that if Owen decides he hates everything, you will need to reassess the situation. My sister in law ONLY fed her kids organic and whole foods and they did fine. I don’t think they ever had a French fry until they were around 3-4. They are fanatical about foods and never touch fast food and both of their kids survived infancy and toddlerhood. In fact the Annie’s organic Mac ‘n cheese tastes like feet and the kids still eat it.

  29. Pingback: Vitamins and solids? « Our Journey in Life, Love, and Happiness

  30. Are you still happy with your decision to start with vegetables vs grains? Im trying to decide what to do now and wanted to find out your opinion of it after trying it out. Thanks!

  31. @Jessica, Yes! I think that my approach of starting with whole foods and mixing things together from the very beginning has helped to create one awesome eater! I did not susbscribe to the “do all veggies before fruits” philosophy, I just went slowly and added foods little by little, mixing everything together with foods that he had already tried instead of separating each food. I think that the nutrition he was getting early on from fruits and veggies far exceeds grains, and the flavors and colors and textures were a fabulous way to introduce him to what he would be eating when he got bigger. I did use grains to thicken his food, and sometimes did plain oatmeal once in awhile, but generally it was used as a thickener. I will definitely do the same with baby #2 if and when that time comes.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s