Baby J is 7 months! And she's alive and crawling.
That's right. She's crawling. She's doing the "commando crawl" (tummy on the floor) now, but is starting to get on all fours and standing with support.
We've recently childproofed the house and now Josephine is happily commando crawling around the house. Being able to crawl around has dramatically improved her mood. She is much happier in the carseat as well and only fusses if she's been in there too long. The nanny now takes her out to the park in the stroller every day.
She went through her first serious cold at the end of 6 mo. She developed productive coughs that lasted a week, a fever over 100F in two of the days, and snotting that lasted almost two weeks. She got me infected with the cough and snot as well. To me this signifies that she is starting to build her immunity --- and that at the same time, the breast milk is losing its protective properties.
So overall, Josephine is slowly becoming more of a person. And we are slowly becoming more like parents.
Solids, solids, solids
With all the fanfare that went into breastfeeding, Josephine started her solids very unceremoniously.
One day after she turned 5 months, I made a batch of rice porridge, blended it to a paste, and fed it to her. I did a terrible job feeding, she did a terrible job eating. We made a giant mess. And that was the beginning :)
I did do my homework, though. I attended my pediatric clinic's solids food class. The class was not that much more than what I already knew from reading online articles and the PTT BabyMother forum. The few high-level messages I got were:
- You can start solids as early as 4 months and as late as 6 months
- Until 9 months, solids is more for practice; no pressure to make them eat a lot
- No raw honey in the first year due to risk of infant botulism
- There's a fad called Baby Led Weaning that I have decided to completely ignore
- We know zip about allergies but here's a list of foods from low to high allergies for you over-worrying first-time white WholeFoods-buying parents anyway
Well, not in those exact words, but that's the impression I got.
There was a nice print out from the class that listed introductory foods at each month, from month 4 to 12. Unfortunately I lost the print out after a recent housecleaning, but I know it's more or less similar to this chart from wholesomebabyfood.com.
I later joined a Taiwanese Facebook group that had an amazing PDF compiled with a detailed list of foods you can introduce from 4 month onwards. Importantly, it lists many Chinese/Taiwanese fruits and veggies that are off the radar for Western folks. Since all Chinese vegetables are consumed cooked, they can be introduced very early on. That is....if you think mashing veggies are tasty (they're not, haha).
Unlike breastfeeding, which at the beginning was a major source of stress, introducing solids to Josephine is a great source of fun for me.
I think it's because I love cooking, eating, and making others eat. I'm Taiwanese, and Taiwanese people are foodies!
I just don't worry about her not eating. After all, there are so many foods in this world. If she doesn't like one thing, there's always another!
Starting it the Chinese way
Ian wanted to start her at 4 months. Our pediatrician wanted to start her at 6 months. So I took the middle and we started at 5 months.
Her first three foods were simple: bananas, avocados, and diluted rice porridge.
Bananas and avocados are so simple to feed. We don't even mash them up. Just scrap them off the fruit with a feeding spoon and pop it in the baby's mouth.
I hate avocados --- I know I'm probably the only person in the world who hates it --- but Josephine seems to like it like the rest of the world population. She also took to bananas easily.
Now rice porridge is a very Chinese thing. Taiwanese moms start with what they call the "10X porridge" --- a 10:1 ratio of water to rice. At that point, it's more water than rice. The point is to make it easy for them to swallow and not so much about nutrition. Then they recommend slowly making it more concentrated, to 7X, 3X and probably stay around 2X (which is the adult porridge water ratio) until babies show an interest in normal rice (1:1, not porridge).
During the solids class, the pediatric nurse suggested making intro foods "as thin as possible". I think her idea was also to make it easy to swallow. But I quickly disagreed with it. 10X porridge is just water and a baby feeding spoon is TINY. Most of that thin liquid just drools down the baby's chin and she also gets no nutrients. Nope. I quickly abandoned 10X and switched to around 3X-5X rice porridge. I can taste the rice's fragrance so much better and it doesn't drip off the spoon easily.
The nice thing about the rice porridge is it's a good vehicle for adding in other foods. I ad pureed carrots, broccoli, sweet potatoes, asparagus (this was a FAIL, it tasted disgusting!!!)
Veggies & Fruits
It's winter, so there's really not much variety in the fruits I can give her. I've mostly stuck to bananas, apples, pears, and prunes. When summer comes around, there should be a lot more for her to eat. I love adding prunes. I steam them in a steamer until they become plump with moisture, then blend it with the other fruits (see below for tools). It also guarantees a nice poop!
On the starchy vegetables side, you can't really go wrong with sweet potatoes. Specifically I like the garnet yam variety (though called yam, it is actually sweet potatoes).
Meats & Dairy
I started giving Josephine a bit of meat since she passed 7 months. Mashed egg yolks, chicken, fish, tofu...a little bit of food scraps here and there. She doesn't have teeth yet, so her meat intake is minimal. For dairy, I give her whole fat baby yogurt which is a huge hit --- she opens her mouth super wide for each bite!
Misc & Prepackaged Foods
I also buy prepackaged baby foods. I like them for their convenience, and they taste decent, but sometimes they really come up with some straaaange flavors. Like:
- apple raisin quinoa --- sorry but this was gross. Both baby and I hated it.
- zucchini banana amaranth --- I don't even know what amaranth is, but this was surprisingly tasty. Josephine ate almost an entire packet!
- raspberry spinach greek yogurt --- another odd one. I could taste the spinach in the yogurt...yuck. But Josephine liked it more than I did. Oh well.
- spinach peas and prunes --- Josephine managed to eat more of this than I could. I'm impressed. It looks and tastes very unappetizing.
I also buy her yogurt snacks that are super yummy and great for teaching her to chew a little. She's also starting to grab rice cereal puffs and rice cakes. I consider these snacks as more as vehicle for learning how to grab, chew, and swallow, and less about nutrition.
Tools! Steam, puree, serve, store
There was surprisingly little extra cost to making and storing baby food. This is my list:
- Hand blender --- I cannot live without this blender! I purchased it for Josephine's solids but now I regret not having known about it sooner. Damn this thing is super convenient. Blend 5-10 sec and I have super fine mashes. So easy to wash and clean too.
- Pressure Cooker --- I already had this cooker which can cook, steam, and stew. It makes my life 100X easier. If I'm making pureed veggies or rice porridge, I use the cooker cuz the pressure makes the veggies super soft.
- Bamboo Steamer --- I use this on the stove for fruit steaming since I don't like to steam fruits for too long. Mostly I use it to plump up the dried prunes or soften the apples & pears.
I got these 4 oz freezer cubes. The size is perfect for a single meal. When I make a puree batch, I split them into these cubes and stack them in the fridge.
If I make too much puree, I store them in freezer trays. The ice cube sizes make it easy to estimate how much to thaw.
I also got these glass containers for storing bigger batches. This is useful if I want to do porridge mixes. I have one container of porridge, one container of carrots, one container of broccoli. Come meal time, I use the 4 oz cube to make a carrot+broccoli+rice mix and heat up the mix.
For serving: Just some baby spoons and a waterproof bib. Simple!
The conclusion is: feeding a baby is not as hard as I had thought. And the fact that she is eating well takes load off breastfeeding too. I have to give credit to the nanny --- while she couldn't help with breastfeeding or a bottle-rejecting baby, she is a true expert at feeding. She helped establish Josephine's good eating habits and now her post-morning-nap meal is almost entirely consisting of solids and not breastmilk. Everytime I feed Josephine the chair is mess afterwards, and somehow the nanny does not....guess that's where the difference between having fed many kids comes in, eh?
So that's it for the solids!