A Baby Food Epiphany!

When our first child, Toby, was little, we didn’t know what to feed him. We didn’t love baby-food jars, but we felt exhausted and overwhelmed by the idea of pureeing everything…so we basically just fed him 1,000 spoonfuls of store-bought hummus. Poor guy!

But with our second child, Anton, we’re taking a different approach, and I feel so liberated! In her book Real Food for Mother and Baby, which I recently reread, Nina Planck talks about feeding her baby tons of foods—meat, poultry, fish, dairy, eggs, fruits and vegetables—right from the start. She gave him grated Parmesan mixed with olive oil. She stirred salsa into eggs. She added cinnamon to mashed banana. She gave him dark chocolate. She let him gnaw on lamb chops and chicken bones. She even gave him raw ground beef with olive oil and salt, and her favorite baby food was salmon roe! (“It’s fun, like a bright orange pea,” she wrote. “Your baby can pick it up, piece by sticky piece. When she bites down, it goes pop!”)

We aren’t nearly as ambitious—raw beef kind of freaks me out, and salmon roe is not cheap!—but I found her book very freeing. After seeing the laundry list of foods she was serving her son, I felt emboldened to give Anton at least some basic foods to try.

So, here’s what eight-month-old Anton loves these days: dried mango slices (he ADORES these), apple slices, bananas, strawberries, pear, orange wedges, avocado, peas, green pepper slices, broccoli with garlic and lemon (he sucked on spears at a restaurant and was in heaven), soft chunks of cheddar cheese, yogurt, brown rice, hummus, pieces of grilled salmon, crusty bread to chew on, and long pieces of steak to suck on. He even liked sucking on half a lemon the other day! (Confession: I originally gave it to him just to see his pucker face:)

Also, when Toby was little, I really worried about choking. I remember hanging out at my friend Leigh‘s house, when she handed Toby a crust of bread. I watched him put one end into his mouth to chew on and almost had a heart attack. I tried to be cool—but lasted only two seconds before yanking it out of his mouth. “He might choke!” I told Leigh. But she reassured me by pointing out that babies have incredibly strong gag reflexes. And since then I’ve read more: “They may occasionally gag a bit or cough and splutter,” the infant-feeding expert Gill Rapley, who co-authored The Baby-Led Weaning Cookbook, told the Guardian, “but that’s actually a baby’s way of triggering the anti-choking reflex, and it happens with purées too. The real risk comes if parents try to hurry…and put chunks of food in a baby’s mouth for him.” Does this ring true to you guys? Sometimes I still get a little nervous, but I’ve been trying to trust in Anton’s little system!
I’d love to hear: Which foods do or did you serve your baby? Anything they especially loved? I’d love to learn a few more delicious combinations—like adding butter, cheese or spices. What was your overall approach to starting solids? Did you ever try a baby-food maker? Thank you so much!! xoxo

P.S. French kids eat everything, and toddlers in the kitchen.

(Photo of Anton in his highchair, and illustration by Julia Rothman for Cup of Jo. Thanks, Julia!)

  1. jilly girl says...

    Interesting…I got bland jarred baby food as my first food and now as an adult I really prefer simple plain food! There must be a correlation!

  2. Margit Van Schaick says...

    My youngest had only breast milk (and water to drink out of “Tommy Tippee” cup) for one year,nthen ate whatever the rest of the family ate, made bite-sized or cooked soft. My two older daughters had breast milk and We started solids at 3 months. I made a purée out of all kinds of nutritious foods. Baby food in jars, though convenient, was usually the puréed meats. All three girls have been incredibly healthy, and none was a picky eater, ever. N

  3. Rachael Maccoy says...

    Thank you for writing this and bringing it to my attention. I’m currently weaning my child and this approach to food felt right, but its as though I need permission or reassurance to do it. I’m so glad you shared this insight.

  4. We feed our toddler everything we eat – just cut into appropriate sizes. He’s eaten like us since the beginning (6 months). Sometimes his food was what we were having, just pureed, when he was very small. He now loves fish and roasted Brussel Sprouts (like his parents!) but won’t touch carrots. Go figure! Guess he’s got an opinion now :) I believe babies should enjoy food, and white rice cereal just didn’t seem enjoyable (or nutritious). He snacks on store bought or homemade pouches, too.l because they’re easy during busy afternoons and a great way to get in extra veggies.

  5. Jenn says...

    We did blw with my oldest now 2.5 years old and plan to with my 2 month old. My oldest will eat everything but avacado. She loves guacamole but not sliced avacado on anything. It works for me since I get to eat it. We do not serve her mangos because I am allergic and she still breast feeds and I break out if I even touch a peeled mango with my fingers.

  6. I’m thinking about making my own baby food for my 6 month old…does anyone have any advice about this? What’s the easiest way to do it?
    I also heard that once you start feeding your baby homemade baby food, its really hard to get them to eat jar baby food- from your experience do you think this is true?
    Thanks for your help!
    baby cooking

  7. My boys loved gnawing on lamb chops with mostly their gums! I will have to check out the book, but now studies are showing that young tots should NOT be restricted to food that tend to create allergies. Happy healthy eating!

  8. I know this is late to the party, but I wanted to add a couple little things for our little ones! I have a three(almost four) year old, a two (almost three) year old and a seven month old and we do BLW/puree combo feeding. We add seasonings and spices to any purees (store or homemade) that have been given to any baby at any time. We feed “big people” food as soon as they can get it into their mouth on their own, as long as it is low salt and sugar. The two olders love to have some of the younger child’s “pudding” if she is having a puree.

    I wanted to make mention that a lot of people seem very, very concerned with choking, as they should be. The idea behind BLW is that the food should be too big to choke on if it cannot be chewed/mushed by baby. If baby gets too much in their mouth they will either spit/drool it out or will gag and then spit it out. Please, look into the logistics of it online or in a book. If you are giving lamb, make it a rib/chop with some meat to gnaw and suck on OR ground into meatballs or soft patties, etc. If you give raw carrot, give a piece too big to in any way, shape, or form get into baby’s mouth. Cooked carrot? Baby can mush with mouth or hands so biggish or littleish will work. Do you see how that circumnavigates the whole issue? If baby can get it too her mouth make it soft enough to “smush” or too big to swallow at all.

    Sorry this is so long, I hear the concern strongly in some of these comments about choking and wanted to give the tools to empower whomever would like to do BLW to go for it!

  9. My mother was completely against “baby food” (All food is baby food, smush it up sweetie (my mom).)All of my kids had the same first food: grits with butter, extra sharp cheddar and garlic. After that, they ate smashed up bits of whatever I cooked for dinner. Like my mother before me, I only cook once and don’t run a short-order kitchen, you eat or don’t. They all lived and will try anything, my oldest is a chef. I can actually only remember the first food child #2 had after the grits: crawfish etouffe (we’re from Louisiana). She inhaled that bowlful. She is still, by far, the best eater of all of them. Good memories.

  10. Awesome call on the mangos! We live in Ecuador and my American brain had to wrap around all of the beautiful fruit I could serve our now one year old!


  11. RG says...

    I am starting thus now. Reading the book and fed my kiddo egg at dinner and he devoured it. I’m still scared though! Just can’t think too hard, just like Nina says. :)