Showing posts with label Introducing Solids. Show all posts

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.)

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.


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.