Showing posts with label Feeding. Show all posts

Working Through your Toddler Behavior Issues - How to Combat Picky Eating

As I've mentioned a couple of times on this blog already, I have a bit of a food obsession.  I love cook, to go restaurants, to talk about food, to think about what I'm going to eat, and pretty much every other activity surrounding food. And like all parents who have a kind of intense hobby, I wanted to groom my children to be into it too from the time they were born.

I had read the studies about babies learning to like the flavor of the food mom ate because it was reflected in the amniotic fluid.  I knew that data showed that babies were most receptive to the taste of new foods between 4 and 8 months, and that items introduced at this time would feel like culinary home to them for the rest of their lives.  I had seen the papers describing the fact that children who grew up in homes where adults consumed a varied diet would be far more
likely to grow into adults who did the same. I had done my reading and I was ready to raise little gourmands.  

I ate a healthy, varied diet full of fruits and vegetables while pregnant and breastfeeding, I made all my own baby food, and we fearlessly fed our first born from our plates once she developed the pincer grip.  When my daughter was a year old, she ate everything. I remember bragging about this to my boss at the time and him saying 
"Oh yeah, my daughter ate everything too until the day she didn't."
"Obviously" I thought to myself, "this will not be MY precious snowflake of a child.  I have read the studies and perfectly executed the plan.  My child will continue to be an amazing eater forever!"
Have I done enough foreshadowing here? Do you see where this is going? I think you do... At roughly 15 months of age, my daughter started dropping foods she previously ate with gusto.  First it was a refusal to eat blueberries, then beans, then eggs, and so on.  Foods previously eaten with joy were taken off the list of acceptable foods one by one until she was only willing to eat a handful of foods.

Eating what's for dinner - quinoa and tofu!
This was a dark time filled with much gnashing of teeth and soul searching in my house. I mourned the loss of my voracious eater. I wondered what I did wrong.  Then, after I had decided that I had wallowed in self pity long enough, I started to look for a book with answers. That is how I came across Ellyn Satter.  All across the internet, grateful parents whispered her name. I got one of her books - How to Get Your Kids to Eat: But Not Too Much and I started reading.

Ms. Satter is a nutritionist and a compassionate writer. She talks at length about the separation of duties between parents and children.  Parents have a responsibility to present their children with appealing nutritious food.  Children have the responsibility to eat how ever much they would like to eat.  This is exceptionally wise advice but very difficult for parents to internalize.  It's hard to sit at the table, having rushed home from work and prioritized cooking above everything else, only to have your child whine at the mere sight of what you've produced.  It's almost impossible not to feel like a monster when the toddler eats nothing at dinner.  Though, of course, Ms. Satter is right that no child has ever starved in a house with a full refrigerator.

It took awhile for our family to go "full Satter."  Once we did, it took about a month for our child to accept that the food on the table was all that was on offer.  However, in the last month we've had a real breakthrough. My daughter is trying (AND EATING!!!) new foods right and left - mangoes! green beans! horseradish cheddar! quinoa! This is a child who refused white rice a year ago. This method has not only been incredibly successful in getting our daughter to eat, but it has also reduced much of the stress around food in our house.  I plan and cook meals without obsessing about whether they'll be eaten.  After all, that's not my job. If you're struggling with this, I very much recommend her books.  She is a kind-hearted lady that saved this Mom's sanity at dinner.

   

Using a baby feeder: Review of Munchkin vs. Kidsme

Using a Munchkin feeder to smear blueberries everywhere,
occasionally even in the mouth...
As a first time parent, introducing solid food to your baby is probably equal parts daunting and exciting. You may be thinking:

  • "My little tyke is becoming a person!"

  • "Am I qualified to be in charge of a person?! I just barely have the hang of this baby thing..." (Yes you're qualified - you'll do great!) 

Once you actually start feeding, you may be surprised at how much the baby loves food, or hates it, or is indifferent to it (because I think all parenting firsts are ultimately a surprise, or at least they were to me...). Regardless, before you know it, your baby may be ready to self feed at least a little. As early as 6 months, your child can certainly bring a toy to their mouth to gnaw on - a fact that has surely not escaped your notice.  And as such, even if they haven't developed that fine motor pincer grip yet, they can self feed with a little help from a feeder.


Baby says "Squash in a Kidsme feeder is fun!"
A feeder is a plastic handle that comfortably sits in your baby's hand and has a strainer of some sort attached. You put soft chunked food in this strainer (ex. baked yams, banana, avocados, blueberries, etc.) and the baby essentially turns that food into puree by chomping on it. We have had the opportunity to use two different brands of feeders - the Munchkin Fresh Food Feeder and the Kidsme Food Feeder.

The Munchkin one came into our possession from a work baby shower. Our baby instantly loved it and it made family dinner so much easier since everyone - both parents and children simultaneously - was feeding themselves. Unfortunately, it was super hard to clean. Yes I soaked it in hot soapy water, yes I ran it through the dishwasher, yes I tried a soft brush... All per the instructions on the package. It was still really hard to clean. The mesh strainer doesn't detach from the plastic frame and has seams that are perfect for holding on to little bits of food. Bananas were the worst.

Then one day I was discussing this with another parent at our day care and she said she had just ordered a different brand of feeder that was silicone! I honestly went home that night and did the same. Yes the Kidsme feeder is more expensive but so worth it. The silicone piece comes right out and has no seams for things to get stuck on - woot!  That 20 minutes several times a week I used to spend cleaning the feeder gets you a lot of blogging time. (Kidding, I actually write a lot when I pump... But really I can find some use for the time.)

Put your toddler to work! (i.e. how to cook dinner with your toddler) - Guest Post

I am thrilled to introduce today’s guest blogger - Miranda. Recently, we’ve started cooking with our toddler and Miranda has given us some great tips on gear, safety, and of course fun! We thought we’d share her wisdom with you too.  Though she is not a city dweller, this blog welcomes good ideas from all sources. And with that, take it away, Miranda!

 ____________________________

First off, I want to thank Dina and Lee for letting me to contribute to their blog. I’m so excited to be able to share some thoughts on cooking with toddlers!  Although, to be fair, I have only ever cooked with one toddler, my 2.3-year-old daughter, Mabel.

Why cook with your toddler?

First, it must be said, she does not make cooking easier. I do not ask her to cut the mushrooms or beat the eggs so that I can simultaneously perform some other task. I
ask for her help and then guide her, sometimes more than others, as she takes 100 times longer than I would have.  Cooking with Mabel is messier, slower, and a lot more complicated than cooking alone.

So, if it’s such a hassle, why do I bother to include her? For one, she loves it! She’s at the age where she wants to help with anything - the more grown up, the better. Involving her in cooking dinner also lets me cook while she is awake and reserves precious nap time for other things. Including toddlers in cooking is also widely thought to help with picky eating.  I am, so far, blessed with a child who will eat most anything (fingers crossed, knock-on-wood), but it still pleases me to no end when she tastes each ingredient in a dish and declares “Mum!” (i.e., yum).

How to make cooking with your toddler pleasant

I try to strike a balance between including my child to the fullest extent possible, keeping her from harming herself, and producing an edible meal. Between her continually developing skill set and my recognition and accommodation of those skills, no two dinner preparations are the same and what works for us may very well not work for you. I do, however, hope that the following thoughts provide some direction or at least a jumping off point for your own adventures in cooking with your toddler.

Plan ahead

In order for the actual cooking to go smoothly, I usually have to do a little game-planning ahead of time. I might knock out a couple of tasks that she definitely can’t help with and I know will bore her. I might assemble needed ingredients and tools so I don’t have to leave her alone for significant periods of time. Mostly, I try to make sure I am confident in my grasp of whatever we’re making so I can be relaxed while we’re cooking together.  Stressing about getting a recipe right while engaging with a toddler is, for me, impossible.

Incorporate Safety

Another thing to keep in mind is safety. I am not an overly protective parent.  I know my child will, at some point, cut her finger, burn her hand, and drop something heavy on her foot. I know this because I have done all these things, and more, many times over.  To some extent, it is just part of cooking. I do try, however, to keep her from permanently damaging herself.

  • - She has been taught, and is continually reminded, never to touch the cutting board while I am chopping (yes, she is close enough to touch the cutting board while I chop).

  • - She needs to ask permission before she nibbles stray bits off the counter (lest she accidentally ingest something like jalapeno seeds).

  • - I never leave sharp knives or hot pans within reach (although the extent of her reach continues to surprise me).

  • - I have found that having an induction cooktop is very helpful to my peace of mind. There is no open flame and nothing gets hot except the pot and the glass directly beneath the pot leaving the rest of the cooktop cool.


Set the Scene

When I began including Mabel in kitchen activities I would lift her up and let her sit on the counter next to me.  This was better than nothing, but not by much. For one thing, we had to have a conversation about how she needed to not wiggle or grab things every time I needed to turn around. It also put her at an awkward height. She could watch while sitting on the counter, but she didn’t want to watch, she wanted to DO.

Next we tried putting her in a clip-on high chair that was clamped to the overhang of the island. (We have an Inglesina Fast Table Chair. The Inglesina is great because the cover comes off easily and is machine washable.) This was a much better solution. She was contained; I could put her in the chair and she couldn’t scoot over to where I’d left the knife. She was also at a good height for seeing and helping. It wasn’t perfect, though, largely because it meant I needed to work while standing next to her at the island. She would get very upset whenever I walked over to the stove to stir a pot.  This was clearly a problem.

The solution was a step stool. You can absolutely use any old step stool but we had the luxury of it being the holidays and grandparents were looking for suitable gifts so we got the “The Growing Step Stool by Little Partners." (I have also heard wonderful things about the “Guidecraft Kitchen Helper” but it just looked too darn bulky for our space.) There are two key features that I love about our step stool. First, it has sides. During the brief period that we were using an ordinary step stool, Mabel nearly fell off the side repeatedly. She would step to the side to be closer to me and step off the edge or she would just lean farther and farther (again, to be closer to me and/or danger) and eventually lose her balance. With the Growing Step Stool, the sides keep her contained. Second, it is adjustable so as she grows we can change the steps to keep her at a comfortable working height. (Note from Dina: we use the strap we discussed in this post to secure our toddler to a bar stool we already had in our kitchen.)

Another thing to consider is clothing protection. I don’t always get out the aprons but I absolutely do when we’re working with something messy or staining. You could certainly use an art smock (I love these from Ikea). But Mabel and I have Mama and Me Aprons and, yes, we’re adorable.

Cooking Tasks Toddlers Can Help With

Here are some ideas of things your toddler might like to help with:

  • - Mixing, whisking, and stirring - You can take turns doing this because if your kiddo is anything like mine, she doesn’t do an adequate job.

  • - Pouring - Anything, all the time, my word she loves to pour!

  • - Scooping/measuring - Sometimes I level off scoops and let her dump them in the bowl. More fun, though, is to put the bowl on a kitchen scale and set her free to scoop until the desired weight is reached. Bonus: lesson in reading numbers with this method!

  • - Cutting - We got her the Curious Chef 3-Piece Nylon Knife Set. Note, toddler knives are not sharp (duh!) so they can only cut some things (ex. grapes, mushrooms, soft-ish cheeses, tofu) and they do not cut cleanly. 

  • - Peeling - Ex. garlic, sticks of butter, onions, hard-boiled eggs.

  • - Washing vegetables - She ADORES operating the salad spinner.

  • - Stripping greens - She can pull and pluck with the best of them, but we’ve also had good luck using a Greens and Herb Stripper.)

  • - Pushing buttons - On the food processor, blender, hand mixer, etc.

  • - Testing for doneness/taste testing (Mum!)

I am also trying to involve Mabel in cleaning up after cooking but that is very much still a work in progress around here. So far, I have found two ways to have Mabel help me clean up. First, I can ask her to put dishes and ingredients away.  Some things are safe for her to put straight into the dishwasher and some things, like baking powder, she can put back in the pantry. This can be a tricky one, though, because most cabinets at her height are toddler-proofed (imagine that!). Second, she loves to wipe down counters. I spray a little cleanser on the counter and then let her have at it with a sponge. She obviously has a limited range and is wildly ineffective at actually cleaning, but see above re: toddlers are not actually helpful.

The Payoff

After all this “helping” Mabel and I both find great satisfaction regaling the other members of our dinner party with all the ways she contributed. The foods we cook together are exactly the foods she will be eating at dinner. There are no special toddler meals in my house, so it’s a great way to remind her of the things she accomplished and of all the yummy foods we used to make dinner (Remember peeling the eggs? Tell Dad about how you cut the cucumbers with your knife. Did you like tasting the cucumbers? I see some more on your plate, have another bite!). Involving Mabel in cooking also helps her understand more deeply that preparing food takes time and effort and, I think, helps her be patient when food isn’t ready yet. And, hopefully, someday, will help her learn to love cooking as much as I do.


    


Miranda is a former librarian, current full time mom, and enthusiastic cook. She lives with her family outside of San Francisco.

Bibs for eating out (aka limiting the grossness in your diaper bag)

A couple months in your parenting gig you may feel like you've more or less gotten it together.  In fact you may get so cocky that you start venturing out to eat in places that are not your house.  You may even consider bringing your baby to these places... your baby who may be eating food him/herself by this point.  Woah!

You'll want to be prepared for this and bring along some things to make it easier for both of you -  such as a cup they're used to using at home, a small toy, and of course, a bib. We've covered our favorite bibs on this blog before, but we quickly noticed with our oldest the following sequence of events when eating out:
  1. 1. Bib goes on baby.

  2. 2. Baby smears food all over the bib.

  3. 3. Bib gets folded yucky side in and placed in the diaper bag.
Eons of time pass
  1. 4. Bib gets discovered in the diaper bag after a geologic age has passed.  It is now super gross and has fostered new life.
Having gone through the experience described above several times we hit upon a solution one day when out for breakfast at a local diner. We noticed another family was eating with their toddler but the child had on a disposable bib. I don't know why we'd never seen such a thing, but we immediately accosted the family and interrogated them to soak in their wisdom. Since then we've been keeping a couple of Disposable Bibs by Mighty Clean Baby in our bag (in the interim, Munchkin Disposable Bibs has come out with their own version that we haven't tried yet, but has great reviews).

And we've never again had to reach into our diaper bag only to realize we are touching week old banana that's been smashed into a bib... and we've all lived happily ever after!

Not quite baby led weaning... or real people food your baby can eat!

So you may not be feeling up to making your own baby food. That's cool! But just because you'll be visiting the baby food aisle at the grocery store, doesn't mean all the food that's smeared on those chubby cheeks needs to come from there.  A fun and less expensive way to feed your baby is to find foods that are geared towards the general public that your little one can enjoy too.  So without further ado here are some ideas of foods that fall into that category.

  1. 1. Applesauce (and its friends).  These days you can find applesauce mixed with strawberries, peaches, pears, and probably other fruits.  That can be a great way to introduce your those items into the rotation with minimal effort and a smaller price tag.  Just make sure you select applesauce that has no sugar added.

  2. 2. Canned pumpkin. Sometimes this can be a seasonal item (especially at stores like Trader Joe's), only appearing in the fall. However, frequently you can find single ingredient pumpkin in the baking aisle year round. (Note: do not confuse with pumpkin pie filling.)

  3. 3. Naturally soft fruits like bananas, avocados, and watermelon can be mashed with a fork or cut into cubes and handed straight to a slightly older baby with minimal effort.

  4. 4. Jam that's not really jam.  A mainstream version of this is something like Polaner all Fruit.  These are, in essence, fruit compotes and the like that often don't contain any added sugar. They look like jam but are less sweet.  These can be a fun way to introduce your baby to more "exotic" fruits like mango, if you're going the bought baby food route, or fruits that are out of season if you're going the home made baby food route.

  5. 5. Yogurt. I'm sure you've thought of this one yourself already but there are lots of fun varieties out there if you're willing to be adventurous, including goat and sheep milk yogurt.  No need to stick to baby versions (ex. yobaby).  Just pickup any plain, "no sugar" added version.  You can dress it up with applesauce, soft fresh fruit, all fruit "jam", or baby food.

  6. 6. Grains (cook slightly longer).  It's super convenient to buy a box or two of "baby cereal" such as oatmeal or rice.  A Ziploc bag of these can be stored in case of emergency in your diaper bag/at day care, used to thicken purees that got too thin, or fed directly to your child. However, if your family consumes a wide variety of grains on a regular basis such us quinoa, buckwheat, bulgur, etc. there is no reason to buy a "baby cereal" version of each of these.  Just cook the grain in question slightly longer with a bit more water (set aside a portion of what you were making anyway on a given night). Once you've done that you can even mix it up with a more traditional puree for a smoother flavor.
And remember, if your child is eating "adult" foods, that means you can all start eating as a family.  Why not serve everyone yogurt and "jam" for breakfast or oatmeal and banana for lunch or feed your baby some avocado for dinner while the rest of the family enjoys taco night with guacamole?
Note: If you've never heard of "baby led weaning" here is a helpful link.  To me this all sounds delightful on paper (metaphorically) but I don't have the patience to watch a baby attempt to aim a piece of food at his mouth for days on end.  I also don't have the stomach to clean up the food disaster I imagine will grace my floor as a result of such an experiment.  Yes I am a control freak.  Hopefully my children will forgive me.

Bibs

How you feel about bibs in part depends on what your baby is like.  When my daughter was a baby and the avalanche of clothing gifts descended on our house, many of the outfits included bibs. Since my daughter hardly ever spat up more than a tiny amount, all those bibs sat in a drawer taking up space and being useless.   Then we started solids, the bibs came out, and we realized that most of them were even more useless on the baby than in the drawer. Most novelty bibs that come with outfits are small and not at all waterproof, which means they hardly offer any protection. So, after having to change her clothes every time she ate, I went out and bought some Green Sprouts Waterproof Absorbent Terry Bibs.

These are great for a number of reasons. They have cloth on the outside (both sides, they are reversible) so they feel nice to touch and can be used to wipe the baby's face. But, they have a waterproof lining in the center which means that even if your kid dumps an entire spoonful of soup on herself, her shirt will remain intact.  And, unlike their plastic counterparts, these are machine washable. This means cleaning the bibs is no extra work (you do laundry every other day anyway, right?). The absorptive fabric/waterproof combo also comes in handy for that charming month or two in your baby's life when rivers of drool are constantly coming out of their mouths.

Now I have a second baby who, wonder of wonders, is a totally different child. We haven't started feeding him solids yet. However, we've already had to break out the bibs due to the massive quantity of spit up he produces. And let me tell you, despite the number of novelty bibs in my drawer growing with the number of children, I pretty much always still reach for the green sprouts.


Milk bags! (the kind that go in your freezer)

As we've discussed elsewhere on this site, if you're exclusively breastfeeding and have sufficient supply then it's a great idea to build up a stash in your freezer.  The best way to do that is by storing your milk in freezer bags.  (Here are some other good tips from around the web).

There's definitely good articles out on the Web comparing various brands of bags, and they are certainly worth a read. However, since this is my blog, here are my 2 cents on the topic.

What makes a good bag for freezing milk?

Having fed and pumped for one baby for a year, and currently being in the process of doing the same for another, I can certainly describe what my perfect milk storage bag would look like.  The perfect bag would

  • - Let me pump directly into it.  I've expressed (ha! there's some milk makin' humor for you) elsewhere on this blog that I like to have many back up plans for pumping at work that don't rely on perfect memory from yours truly.  Being able to pump directly into bags if you forget your bottles is definitely a great fall back option

  • - Have accurate volume markings.  This one is so obvious it seems like you wouldn't even have to mention it, and yet, so many bags fail on this criteria based on my own experience and also many Amazon reviews.

  • - Stand up on its own.  This is a great feature for when you're just finished and don't have an extra hand to detach and seal, etc.

  • - Have reasonable fields for you to mark, specifically: name, date, and volume. (The reason you need to write down the volume on the bags is that the volume frozen will seem bigger than the actual liquid volume... see: water expands when frozen, etc.)

  • - Never burst or leak.  Once again, being obvious here but it bears repeating.

  • - Store 6 ozs of milk.  You may ask why 6 and not any other number.  Many babies never eat more than 5 oz a meal at any point (which is why many bottles and bags top out at that number).  My babies are all gluttons.  My daughter definitely spent months downing 8 ozs a meal.  My son is still young but if he follows the trajectory he's been on he'll definitely match his sister.  So the more a single bag can store, the longer I can go using only one bag per meal.  I haven't seen bags that store more than 6 ozs and sadly they probably wouldn't fit in my freezer organizer.

  • - Dad/Non-Pumping Partner Note: My wife usually only fills, but does not empty, the bags.  Thus she left out another important criteria... ease of emptying the bag into a bottle, especially while holding a crying baby WHO WANTS TO EAT NOW. This may be the EXACT situation that created "crying over spilled milk" as an expression.

So which one do I use?

I have personally tried 3 brands:
  1. 1. Ameda Store'N Pour Milk Storage Bags.  These bags were supplied by my insurance company last time around, but I've bought a set for this time as well.  They kind of fail on most of the above criteria (don't stand up, have very inaccurate markings, only fit 5 ozs, and occasionally leak).  I have a set because the adapters that come with these guys screw on to any pump that takes Medela Bottles and let you pump directly into them.  I keep the bags and the adapters at work for emergencies.  I've also now used them enough that I can interpret their markings into much more accurate guesses at the volume. Oh and the fields to fill out on them are great. 
  2. Dad/Non-Pumping Partner Note: These are the best for pouring. The tear-off section makes for a great spout and it's pretty easy to predict where the milk will go. On the downside, the tear section is below the seal, so once you open the bag, you're pouring all of it.

  3. 2. NUK Seal 'N Go Milk Storage Bags.  These guys are pretty much the inverse of the Amedas.  They stand up, are accurate, fit 6 ozs, and are super sturdy and leak free.  They do not however, allow one to pump directly into them.  Also, the fields they have you fill out are name, date, and time.  Time? What?  What possible purpose does that serve?  So this is the field I write the volume in.  These are the bags I use 90% of the time, which is to say, all the time that I'm not pumping directly into bags.
  4. Dad/Non-Pumping Partner Note: I spilled about half an ounce of milk using these bags no less than 30 minutes before being asked to read through this post before publication. The zip-style seal provides an obstacle for the milk just before the top and frequently causes a double-steam, which is not good for a narrow-mouthed bottle.

  5. 3. Evenflo Feeding Advanced Milk Storage.  These are frankly the worst bags I've tried.  Originally I was optimistic because they advertised that they were made out of a thin plastic that heats quickly (this appealed to my husband for obvious reasons).  They also fit the Ameda adapters for pumping directly into bag so I thought I'd give them a try despite the fact that they only fit 5 ozs.  Well, it turns out that they are also leaky and difficult to use.  They don't stand up well at all, the markings are inaccurate, and the labels on top are upside down for some reason?
  6. Dad/Non-Pumping Partner Note: The overall shape of this bag is reasonably conducive to pouring. The zip seal is further away from the spout so it's more predictable. although the flimsiness of the bag material does not make it a particularly rigid spout. While I didn't do any head-to-head tests, I did not feel that this bag heats more quickly than others, which would have excused the flimsy material if it had.
So in conclusion... I haven't found the perfect bags.  I wish the Nuks could be pumped into directly.  As it is, however, I use a combination of them and the Amedas and that works out ok for me.
Dad/Non-Pumping Partner Note: If you have enough of a backup in the fridge and/or at daycare and can cope with about one leaking bag a month (and want to simplify life for your spouse/non-pumping partner), add some extra credit to the Ameda.



  

Freemie pump adapters - because every mom can use an extra hand (or 3)

Eating and making food at the same time!
The first time you pump milk you may be shocked to find out that you have to hold the cones to yourself.  As you sit there for 20 minutes, bored, unable to even play tetris on your phone, your mind runs through all the things you need to do but are instead tethered to a machine making donkey noises (to clarify, the donkey noises are coming from the machine, not you). This combination of boredom and wasted time may inspire you to look for solutions advertising themselves as facilitating hands free pumping (things like the Simple Wishes Hands-Free Breastpump Bra are a popular choice in this category).  I tried to make this bra work for me, I really did.  But after somewhere around 5 attempts I gave up and it stayed at the bottom of my pump bag for the rest of the year.  The bra was then lent to a friend who I also believe used it pretty much never. It was just too hard to get in to it in a way that it was tight enough to hold the cones, and even then, the cones never felt secure.

By the time it came to equipping myself for another year of pumping for my son, some very smart people had come out with with Freemie Collection Cups. (Note: they also make the Freemie Freedom Double Electric Hands Free Breast Pump, but by now I am too loyal to my Medela Pump in Style Advanced Breast Pump to give it a try).

So now, after using these guys for about a month here are my thoughts.  These are a bit tricky to assemble, but once you get the hang of it they really and truly allow for hands-free pumping.  I think these are awesome for occasional use.  I don't think I would use them for every pumping session because one's ability to massage and pump is quite limited with them, and I would worry about my supply dropping.  That said, here are the two scenarios I've used them in and been very glad indeed.
  1. 1.  On the weekend my husband fed the baby a bottle at 6am, allowing me to sleep in.  Then once I got up, I was able to eat breakfast with the family (pictured) while also pumping to make up for the missed feeding - technology for the win!

  2. 2.  Many weekday mornings when we are in a hurry to get everyone out the door on their way to day care and work, I am able to feed the baby from one side while simultaneously pumping from the other.  This allows me to make it until approximately noon for my next pumping session.  
Other than the potentially unfounded fear about supply drop, the only other downside to these guys is that not all the parts are rated for steam cleaning.  As this is my preferred method of cleaning my equipment at work, I am mostly using them at home.  That said, I think every mom can use an extra hand at work or at home, so I give these a hearty thumbs up!

Out and about when you don't lactate (or choose not to)

So one of the harder things for partners of breastfeeding moms (and to a similar degree, parents of formula fed children, see below for why I make the distinction) is the logistics of taking the kid out to the park, library, music class, etc.

You may have developed a routine for heating and prepping milk at home, but how the heck do you do this without a kettle, making a mess, or trying to explain why you want a cup of hot water but no teabag at whatever sandwich shop you stopped at when the crying begins, especially if you don't want a sandwich right now (see: crying)?



Ok, so what do we need?
  • - bottle, preferably with milk already in it
  • - milk, if not in bottle already
  • - heat
  • - contained place to apply heat to bottle

Bottle

By now, you probably have a pretty good mental accounting of how long it takes your bottles to heat (and doubly so if you own multiple models). Our daycare only takes plastic bottles, but we have a small collection of glass ones for use at home for exactly this reason. Glass bottles heat much faster and as every non-lactating parent knows, every extra second listening to your kid scream is no fun. As they get bigger and recognize that "THIS IS A BOTTLE RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME, I WILL GRAB FOR THE BOTTLE BECAUSE I AM HUNGRY AND DON'T UNDERSTAND THE CONCEPT OF BOILING WATER," this gets only worse. For those of you out-and-about with your first kid, this is exacerbated when out in public (I cringed at every cry in a cafe, on the train, and even in the park. Especially when "well-meaning" old ladies started with their "advice.") I'm getting better with the second, though.  I figure if he hasn't puked on anyone else, we're good.

Anyway, we'll eventually write a post on bottle recommendations (we use the Evenflo Feeding Classic Glass Twist Bottles) but really just go with what works with your pump and baby's disposition.

Milk

The easiest thing is, of course, to store the milk in the bottle before you leave the house, but sometimes you gotta go with a bag (for example, from your freezer stash). You can read about our freezer bag preferences here.

Heat

So now we're at the crux of this all. Boiling water in a kettle and pouring it into a large cup or bowl is how we do this at home.  But, reliable access to boiling water was not something I wanted to count on in the park.

We tried some open-and-they-heat-up pad things, but found them to be garbage. (They advertised they wouldn't burn you because they only go to body temperature.  However, something at body temp takes a LONG time to warm up something that's cold or frozen.  Plus it was very slow to get TO body temp. My wife is the scientist here, but even I know enough thermodynamics to know this won't work). 

So if hot water is what we want, how about a thermos? That brings us to...

Place to Heat the Bottle

While any old thermos would surely work to transport hot water, we found the Tommee Tippee Travel Bottle and Food Warmer to be really useful because the lid over the main thermos part a) helps keep the whole thing relatively cool inside the diaper bag, b) contains spills if you have some leakage, which you shouldn't, and c) serves as a cup you can pour the water into to immerse your bottle and heat it! So for the size/weight of a normal thermos, you get all the stuff you need.


The only complaint is that you have to PAY ATTENTION to the open/close positions on the lid. It's the opposite of what is intuitive and I have poured scalding hot water on myself (or into the lid) a few times. Being a "safety culture" kind of guy, I now verify I have it in the closed position by turning it to a pouring position over the sink before I pack it in the diaper bag.

Could you just use a normal thermos and a cup? Yeah. Is it slightly expensive for a thermos and lid? Yeah. But it's extremely convenient and $20 is pretty cheap for the sanity it enables.

You said something about formula

We've not formula-fed, so I have no specific suggestions, but I do add the following thoughts:
  1. 1. There is a ton of formula-specific gear out there that looks pretty cool when I've seen other parents use it.

  2. 2. My understanding is that heating to body temperature is not necessary for exclusively formula-fed babies.  This is because breastfed babies are used to receiving milk at body temperature for obvious reasons.  If you introduce formula early enough, most babies can and do get used to drinking it at room temperature.  This certainly simplifies the feeding process.
That said, if you do find yourself in need of a way to heat things, this has been our go-to solution.

High chair for the grandparent's house

In the five years since my parents first became grandparents with the birth of my niece, they have used and owned 3 different high chairs (hmm, perhaps I get this need to optimize things from them).  I don't know which 2 brands of highchairs they've rejected, but I can tell you the about the one they go on and on about and that is the Evenflo Compact Fold High Chair.

At first they were reluctant to get it because of its lack of wheels. However, they were won over by the fact that it's light enough that picking it up to move it is not a big deal (even with my mom's bad back).  They also love the fact that it's really easy to fold and that when folded it's no bigger than a regular folding chair.  Finally the tray is simple to attach and detach, something that has been confounding my father on the other 2 chairs that they own.

Since our high chair is always out, we've opted for something prettier that looks more like real
furniture.  However, they love it so much that they recommend it to anyone looking for an inexpensive chair that's easy to put away.


Do I need a baby food maker to make baby food?

No!  There... shortest post evah!!  Just kidding, obviously I'm going to ramble on for a lot more words than that.

Confession: we never bought baby food because I am a freak who is a little (ok A LOT) obsessed with food.  I was SO EXCITED to introduce solids to our baby because I was totally psyched to let her in on all the fun things she'd be enjoying for the rest of her life (joke was on me because now she is a really picky eater as a toddler... sigh).  And so, when she was around 5 months old I started majorly lusting after all the adorable baby food making systems.  I'm sure you've seen them all too... the BEABA Classic, the BEABA Pro, the Magic Bullet Baby System, the Baby Brezza, the Nutribaby Zen food processor, and I'm sure a dozen others.

Then, my husband talked me down to earth.  All of these things consisted of 2 parts - a way to steam veggies and a way to blend them - that's all.  "But! But!" I protested, "the easy cleaning! we can keep using it post baby!"  Then, after just a minute of thinking, we realized that we could simply upgrade our steaming/blending abilities and not be restricted to the small volumes afforded by the baby food makers.  Now, having fed a child all the way through to toddler-hood, I'm here to tell you that babies also just don't eat purees for that long. Not only that, but there are lots of "real people" foods you can feed them. All the more reasons that investing in a system is a total waste of money and space.

That said, we did buy a little bit of new kitchen gear to satisfy my lust.  And so, without further ado, here is the fully complete set of things you need to make your own baby food.
  1. 1. A way to steam things, though frankly you possibly don't even need this.  Many "baby" foods (sweet potatoes, squash, carrots, pears, etc.) can also be baked in the oven you already surely own.  However, it is the most convenient way to prepare spinach, peas, and zucchini.  So if you're looking to upgrade your game here, I recommend the OXO Good Grips Silicone Steamer.  It stores small and works great.  And if you don't have some already, you may want to grab some Silicone Gripper Tongs while you're at it.

  2. 2.  A way to blend things.  Here I cannot recommend the Breville Control Grip Immersion Blender enough.  I've always loved making blended soups and this thing has changed my life (I previously owned a $30 Cuisinart, it was fine, but not true love).  You don't need a fancy blender to make baby food.  Frankly a fork will probably do, but sometimes mama deserves something nice, right?  

  3. 3. A way to preserve the food.  Lots of people simply use ice cube trays, but getting the food out of them can be a pain. Here I really recommend the Mumi&Bubi Baby Food Freezer Storage Trays.  The food really does slide right out of these guys.  The set comes with 2 trays so you fill 1 tray with the puree (or purees) of your choice and freeze.  The next day you can pop all the cubes of baby food out and into a quart sized Ziploc bag (don't forget to label and date the bag so you're not guessing as to its content a month later).  Then just throw the tray into your dishwasher.  This way you can rotate one tray in the freezer and one in the wash.

  4. 4. A way to know what the hell it is you're doing.  Ok so this one you really REALLY don't need.  However, if you're like me and want someone to spell out for you how to introduce solids to your baby, how to prepare and preserve food for maximal freshness and appealingness (it's totally a word, shut up), and assuage your neurosis, you can buy a baby cook book.  I really enjoyed The Wholesome Baby Food Guide: Over 150 Easy, Delicious, and Healthy Recipes from Purees to Solids.  If you're less neurotic than me, then the solid foods chapter in Baby 411 will almost certainly do the trick.  (Hint: you don't need to start with boring rice cereal - that's really old advice.  You can pretty much start with whatever you want.  We started with sweet potatoes.)
And now you are fully prepared to go off on your own culinary adventure, whether it be in your kitchen, the grocery store baby food aisle, or some combination of the two. 

        

Baby is ready to drink from a cup but you're not ready for a milk flood...

Suddenly you look at your baby and realize that they've become a toddler.  Suddenly the kid is walking (maybe independently).  Suddenly they're grabbing food off your plate to shove in their little mouth.  Suddenly, everything is different.  With all these changes going on you may be unprepared for the fact that day care and/or your pediatrician suddenly wants them to drink out of a cup.  You look at your wee babe and think "my whole house will be covered in milk, won't it?".  This is the point in time where in years past, parents were simply handed a sippy cup and all problems were solved.  But you may have heard the recent recommendations against them.

And so begins the search for a straw cup that won't spill, won't mold (yes this is a real problem with these things), and that your child can actually drink out of.  On this topic we have 2 recommendations.

1 year old, carrying Avent Straw Cup.

Best spill-proof cup

Our favorite is the Avent Straw Cup.  It cleans easily (including in the dishwasher) and absolutely won't spill even if turned upside down.  Also, I can say that after fully more than a year of use, the cups are still in good shape and for the inexpensive price that is quite something.  You can also buy extra straws if you lose some or your toddler likes to chew on them a bit too much.

For full disclosure, there are a couple of things to watch out for.  First of all, because they are spill proof, they require the child to suck pretty hard to get anything out.  Once they get the hang of it, it's not a problem but it can require a bit of parental miming to get them to do it (don't expect them to drink lots the first couple of times).  Second of all, if you take these guys on an airplane and then open them once you're in the air, you should open the lid first to equalize the pressure (otherwise all the liquid will come squirting out of the straw).  Sometimes this pressure differential can also occur in every day life if you put, say, cold milk into the cup on a hot day and let it sit out.

Straw cup is on the right, ignore the wine

Second best but still good cup

The other cup we've enjoyed using is the THERMOS FOOGO Straw Bottle.  These cups are certainly prettier and just as easy to clean as the Avents.  However, they do drip slowly if you turn them upside down and thus are not completely spill proof.  In our house we pretty much only put water in them for this reason. On the plus side, they don't require quite as much suction to drink and thus may be a better starter cup.  They are also basically twice the price of the cups above (especially if you pick any of their "cute" designs).

Additional care tips

You can certainly use the drying rack you already own after you wash your newly acquired cups.  However, we have found that the baby bottle dishwasher caddies just don't do well with the straws.  For this we recommend getting the OXO Tot Mini Silicone Dishwasher Basket (this has technically been discontinued but is still occasionally available on Amazon).  Also, to properly clean out the straws by hand you're going to need some Munchkin Cleaning Brushes.

Welcome to the next stage of your life - your little babe in arms is becoming a little person!