Once upon a time, a long time ago, when Delphine was still
a baby, some friends wondered how a person who can barely
manage to feed themselves without a takeout menu
can manage to feed a child. I used to think I would
be able to answer that question, but the fact is I
have become very domestic in the last few years; I
have a kitchen that is almost always clean enough
to cook in, I have multiple pans and knives, I have
a working dishwasher, I have enough staples on hand
to cook a dinner or bake a cake. I even have a
One day this could be you (well, maybe not the chest
The journey from urban restaurant forager to urban
chef has been one of many steps, and one of
them was having a child who needed good food, not
just leftover pizza (although they still get that
sometimes). So it may be that having to
feed your child properly is exactly the kick in the
pants you need to learn how to feed yourself properly too.
But that is neither here nor there -- what you need
to know right now, with your hungry six month old
on your knee, mouth agape, is how and what do I feed
Your first and best friend in this task is the boxed
baby cereal. The one I always get is Heinz -- look
for one with as few extraneous ingredients as possible,
especially without milk or added formula.
Lots of baby cereals have
milk in them; those cereals are for formula-fed babies
who have already been exposed to the
hard-to-digest foreign proteins in cow's milk -- if
your baby is exclusively breastfed there is no need
to expose her to those proteins until she is ready for
them, in a couple of months. So look for cereal that
just has grain, and probably a couple of vitamins,
in the ingredient list. Get used to reading ingredient
lists -- you will be doing it a lot.
Start with rice cereal -- rice is the easiest grain
to digest. If you're a champion pumper you can mix
it with breastmilk, otherwise use water. You're
supposed to use boiled, cooled water -- I just used
whatever's in the bottom of the kettle from my last
cup of tea, which was never very long ago. If you
trust your municipal water supply, after a while you
will just use tap water if you're lazy like me.
A little bit of cereal a couple of times a day is
fine to start off with. Remember, real food is just
recreational for now -- your baby gets all
her nutrition from breastmilk (or formula) at this
stage, and will until she is a year old.
Do rice for a week, then try barley and oatmeal --
these are also very easy to digest. If you are
brave enough to try them, you will find that the
tastiest of the cereals is barley, despite being
the unappetizing grey colour of papier mache.
You're supposed to wait four days or so between
introducing new foods -- Cordelia is almost eight
months old as I write this, and I am introducing
new foods at a manic pace of one a day or so.
You might be more conservative if you have any
concerns about allergies or if your baby is
sensitive to new tastes and takes a while to get
used to them, or if you're just nervous.
Whatever works for you.
After you have your baby nicely warmed up on
cereal, you can introduce fruits and veg. My
doctor suggested doing orange, then yellow,
then green, but I think this whole process is
complicated enough without bringing the rainbow
into it. Just introduce whatever you think would
be fun. (See the chart I posted for ideas.)
Jarred Food or Homemade?
Both. Jarred food is convenient, and you can get
good stuff. You can even get organic if it's
important to you. Just, again, read the labels
and don't buy anything with added sugar or starch.
If the jar says "Sweet Potato" the ingredient
list should say "sweet potato" and nothing else.
Use your good sense.
Two things to avoid: jarred banana tastes weird
because it's cooked, so it actually has that
fake banana taste, and also, how hard is it to
mash up a banana with a fork? Buying jarred banana
is just embarrassing. And jarred green beans
are sour and horrible -- homemade green beans
aren't nice either; they just don't puree well.
Green beans can wait until your baby has learned
how to chew.
But homemade baby food is nice, too -- there
are lots of fruits and vegetables that you
can't get jarred -- okra? asparagus? mango?
And there's a warm, fuzzy feeling to feeding
your baby something you have made with your
How to make homemade baby food? This is the
- open a bag of frozen peas
- dump some in the beaker that came with your
hand blender (You do have a hand blender, don't
you? How do you make milkshakes?)
- Pour in just enough water to cover the peas
- put a saucer over the top of the beaker
- stick it in the microwave for a few minutes,
until the water boils and the peas get
a little bit soft
- drain off the water
- blend the peas into mush
Put some in a bowl, wait until it cools, serve.
Put the rest into those little one-cup or half-cup
Gladware containers and freeze. (Everyone says to
use ice cube trays, but they are a pain in the
ass, and my kid easily eats a quarter-cup at a
sitting, which is way more than one ice cube.)
You can do the same with other frozen vegetables,
or frozen or canned fruit (you don't have to microwave
the fruit, obviously). If the resulting puree
is too runny, add some of the dry baby cereal to
If you have a clean knife and cutting board kicking
around, you can do much the same thing with any
fresh vegetable or fruit (with the exception of
berries and tomatoes, which can be allergenic).
If you prefer, cook it in a
pan on the stove, if you have a clean pan and your
Get someone else to clean up, you have done enough.