The first rule of baby food

The first rule of baby food is: don’t buy baby food. The corollary to the first rule of baby food is: don’t make baby food, “super” or otherwise.

A baby who is sitting up and starting to be weaned is ready to eat almost anything you eat. Baby books are full of advice to the contrary, cautioning you to introduce one new food per week, or avoid adding salt. They’ll tell you to start with rice cereal, or fruit, or sometimes meat. They’ll advise you to start with bland foods, even though babies will naturally gravitate toward garishly-colored beeping toys and other non-bland entertainment.

Little of this advice has any scientific basis. If you don’t have a history of food allergies in your family, the only foods you really need to avoid are choking hazards. Once Iris became interested in food, she wanted to eat our food, not a jar of sludge. The exception was Gerber fruit purees, which are excellent mixed with whole-milk yogurt.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breast milk exclusively until the baby six months. So does Iris, who subsisted entirely on breast milk until she was seven months old, and wasn’t particularly interested in solids for about another month after that. I think even people who are strong proponents of breastfeeding often look at a chubby four-month-old and think, “Wow, that kid looks solid. He probably needs some extra calories, not just this milk.” Unless your doctor says otherwise, he certainly doesn’t.

My advice, which is sure to be misinterpreted, is that if you’re having a baby, make sure you have a sharp chef’s knife, because you will be doing a lot of chopping. This is still much easier and cheaper than keeping jarred food on hand. Two of Iris’s first favorite foods, when she was eight or nine months old, were chopped chicken with mushrooms and creamed spinach. The first time she tried chicken enchiladas she went crazy and devoured two whole enchiladas, and they were spicy. This was long before she could crawl.

Kids are different, and your mileage may vary. But most babies are extremely unpicky eaters before they turn one, and it’s amazing what they can chew with few or no teeth. If you’re having something crunchy for dinner, mince it. If you’re having something tender, cut small bites.

There’s a good reason to feed your baby this way that goes beyond convenience, nutrition, or saving money. Eating is one of the first activities you can share with your baby and enjoy in the same way. Tickling and making faces and pretending to eat baby’s toes are irreplaceable, of course, but when you’re sitting and sharing enchiladas, suddenly it’s clear that you have a little person on your hands.

Soon enough, the little person will start spitting peas at you, but that’s another story.

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