When it’s time to start your baby on his or her first foods, it’s an exciting but sometimes nerve-wracking time. Parents are naturally anxious about all of the new responsibilities that solid (or semi-solid) foods bring – choking hazards, allergies, and unwanted ingredients to name a few.
Many of us choose to make our own baby food, which is a fantastic idea for so many reasons! Here are just some of the benefits of creating your own personalized infant cuisine.
#1. It’s cost-effective. You can save a lot of money by purchasing and pureeing your own foods for your baby. As your very own chef, you have the ability to buy your produce in bulk and then batch your baby food. Store safely and freeze, so you have a personal supply of food that you can always count on at home. Instead of doing a jar-heavy grocery store trip, your baby food shopping will consist of trips to the market to buy plenty of fresh ingredients!
#2. It’s green. Buying your own baby food is an eco-friendly commitment on many levels. You can choose to only purchase ingredients that have been cultivated with green practices by buying pesticide-free, organic, local produce. Making your own baby food is also another way to cut down on trips to the store, consumer packaging, shopping bags and receipts. You can re-use all of your containers, or make small batches for at-home meals! Fewer packages, fewer ingredients and fewer risks make for some clean, green baby meals.
#3. It’s nutritious. You can exercise control over every single ingredient that goes into your baby food –and the simpler the better. Some baby foods contain fillers that you likely don’t want to waste time or money on feeding your infant –whether water, tapioca or other manufactured starches. This way you can ensure nothing but whole ingredients find their way into your recipes. Plus as your baby gets a little bit older, making your own purees can help you combine different ingredients and mask some of the nutrients that your picky eater might not like. Hide the taste of carrots by pureeing them with fruit, or sneak a little bit of ginger into your apple sauce. You can get creative while maintaining total nutritional integrity.
If you’re starting the transition to solids soon, make sure to stay tuned four our next Introducing Solids workshop! There’s lots you can learn about your baby’s nutritional needs and digestive system before you start this next step. Experts Aviva Allen, Registered Nutritionis, and Kristin Heins, ND, are a great pair at hosting these friendly, jam-packed sessions! Bring your little foodies, your questions, and get ready to learn.
Deciding when it’s time to start weaning is certainly a subjective and personal decision. Some of the factors that help you choose when the time is right include:
> your lifestyle
> your child’s needs
> the demands of breastfeeding on your body
> indications that your baby is ready to wean
> the emotional connection you have to breastfeeding
Remember that weaning is a gradual process and one that should be undertaken with confidence and patience. Some mothers find that when it’s time to begin weaning, the resistance from their babies is an early and significant obstacle to the process. Here’s some general advice that you might find helpful if you’re struggling to start this transition.
Your baby may not be ready. If you believe in child-led weaning, then your cues for the right time to stop breastfeeding will come from your baby. Carefully assess the situation as you try to wean. Is your baby simply used to feedings and fussing out of habit? There is an expected transitional phase where you’ll need to introduce your baby to whatever new feeding routine you’re moving towards in the early stages of weaning. Since this will be an adjustment, some confusion, fussing or resistance is normal. If, after an initial attempt, your baby truly doesn’t seem ready to skip a feeding at the breast however, you might consider waiting.
Find new ways of nurturing. Breastfeeding is an emotionally rich experience for mothers, and an opportunity to bond with your child in a unique way. This is an experience that is difficult to let go of. But the special relationship you share with your baby doesn’t have to diminish at all when you stop breastfeeding. During the process of weaning, find new ways to nurture your child, whether it’s by rocking, napping together, singing, soothing or reading.
Timing is important. Since weaning is an emotional and physical transition that takes some adjusting, avoid beginning the process during other major changes in your family’s life. If you’ve just returned to work, for example, your child may still be getting used to new structures and routines. Adding in weaning may overwhelm both of you, and might be met with more resistance if too much else is changing simultaneously. You will also want to time weaning based on your own health. Your nutritional needs and metabolic rate will be changing, so begin weaning at a time when you’re ready to adjust your habits, exercise and diet accordingly.
Make your own schedule. Figure out a weaning process that works for you. Are there certain feedings that feel more intuitive to cut out? That’s the place to start. Consider the duration, convenience and time of day of each feeding. Check out this insightful and personal blog post from breastfeeding consultant Taya Griffin as an example. She shares her experience with night-weaning. She knew that she could benefit from more sleep, and that eliminating nighttime feedings was a good place to start the weaning process. We appreciate her reminder that her successful experience with night-weaning doesn’t mean that she’s ready to eliminate breastfeeding altogether. Remember, as she does, that starting your own weaning process doesn’t have to put you on a fast track to solely solids. Go at your own pace.
Talk to someone! As with many aspects of mothering and baby care, talking about your feelings, experiences and struggles can be enormously helpful. Talk to another mother, a breastfeeding consultant or keep an eye out for workshops and support groups. We host many! You can also chat with Dr. Heins about how to ensure you meet your growing toddler’s nutritional needs. Whatever path you choose, knowledge, patience and support will make this an exciting transition in your baby’s life.