It’s no surprise that Baby Lemonade loves to eat. Mom loves food and dad does too. She has always had a healthy appetite from before she was born. I would be forced to get food at the same time every day or she would kick me worse than Jackie Chan. When she was born I knew she would be one hungry little girl. But breastfeeding did work because the milk was too little and her hunger too big. So one day I made her a promise, that if I couldn’t breastfeed her, I would make sure that she would eat the best healthiest food for the rest of her life.
There are many guides out there on the internet about weaning babies but they sometimes lack common sense. Learning how to eat is important for your child’s development, health and growth, as it is for the rest of the family. Since I came from an Italian household, eating together was a major part of my upbringing. With Cooking in Manhattan I have tried to help hopeless homecooks. Hopefully my experience with Baby Lemonade can help you teach your child how to eat real food, too.
Listen to Your Baby
That is don’t give into the peer pressure or old and outdated traditions. Let me explain: in Italy babies are often weaned at 3 months. I was weaned at that age and so were some of my friends and family members. My mom gave me quite a ribbing for not having Baby Lemonade trying all the flavors we were eating when she was three months old. She was only partially right. Baby Lemonade was very happy to get a taste of the sauce of whatever we were eating. But when the time came to open her mouth and eat the same food pureed, she wasn’t ready. So I patiently stopped feeding her pureed food and tried again after a couple of weeks. I don’t have a patient bone in my body, but apparently I am growing some patience only for her. Between people telling me she should eat pureed food and her not wanting to open her mouth, it was really frustrating. But this strategy ultimately was successful, I am no longer covered in sweet potato puree… Now the food goes in her mouth, and she is very happy to eat whatever mom serves her!
Stop Freaking Out About Milestones
This tip is not just about weaning your child but more in general about incoming pressure from other moms. When you have multiple children and you already have experienced it, you don’t get caught in these things. But if, like me, you are a first time mom you probably get a little concerned when you see some kids doing things your child doesn’t do yet. Manhattan is a very competitive place and many moms love nothing more than shoving their kids’ achievements down your throat. Even if said achievements consist of normal developmental milestones. So dear new mom, don’t get stressed, because there will always be somebody willing to tell you that their kid in the second coming of Einstein. When in doubt you can ask your pediatrician, but your kid is going to get there eventually. So if your little one doesn’t want to eat quite yet, relax… it will come for your baby when he/she is ready.
Lead by example
Dinnertime is as important in my house today as it was when Dr. Lemonade (my dad) was around. Growing up in Italy was instrumental in teaching me the importance of sitting around the table with family every day, not just on Thanksgiving. It doesn’t matter have to be 2 hour long meal. We usually have one course and so it doesn’t take more than 15 minutes to eat and chat, but it is the gesture that counts. It’s a ritual that we observe and makes us feel like a family. You know who love dinnertime rituals? Babies! When Baby Lemonade was too little to sit in a high chair we would sit her on our lap and have our dinner with her looking at us eating our food. Now she sits at the table and plays with her plastic flatware while we eat. I don’t always feed her at the same time because sometimes her routine doesn’t coincide with ours but she sees her parents at the table enjoying a meal. Hopefully she will learn that sitting down to eat with loved ones at least once a day instead of chowing down your food while working, is important for the body and the soul. We have noticed that in the beginning she wanted to go back to play right away, now she observes us and seems to enjoy the family moment. Something tells me that this will be super helpful when we bring her to a restaurant!
Eating a social experience
Baby Lemonade’s daycare encourages weaning as a social experience. She is always fed at the same time as another baby so that she can see the other’s reaction to being fed in real time. It’s a bit of monkey see monkey do, but it actually worked for us. Initally when we were feeding her at home she didn’t understand why she could not be playing at that time but she had to focus on mommy sticking food in her mouth. She wasn’t really happy about it. Thanks to this approach, Baby Lemonade now understands that people are enjoying their food and predictably wants to imitate them. She now eats all her food with no problem and she even tries to reach out for the food in our plate: we always save a couple of spoonfuls of whatever we are eating so she can experience it, too.
Homecooked is Best
You knew this was coming, didn’t you? You will probably think that I have become some crunchy granola yoga crazed mom, but that is not the case. I am not trying to be annoying or judgmental if you decide to use jarred food to wean your baby. If you think that I am on a high horse because I have lots of help, you are mistaken, too. I don’t have multiple nannies/cleaning ladies/personal assistants either. If you plan on using jarred food, more power to you: you’ll have more time to play with baby and less to clean. But I just want you to know that making homemade baby food is possible and doable. I have made a conscious choice to feed my child with the best possible food I can afford. I have taste tested lots of organic brands of baby food, and don’t get me wrong, they taste good and I am sure are prepared well too. But nothing compares the flavor and health of something that comes from my kitchen. In the upcoming weeks I will be posting some of my baby food creations and you will see that they actually really easy to make and freeze really well too. Ultimately the choice is yours: do you want to give your baby healthy and safe food? There is nothing healthier and safer than what you make with your own hands.